THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 22, 2009
This is the sort of thing that's awfully hard to explain to the American people:
In early July, Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked senior U.S. officials to dispatch a company of about 100 U.S. soldiers to Barge Matal, a village in the northern half of the province that is home to fewer than 500 people. Taliban insurgents had overrun the community and Karzai was insistent that that U.S. and Afghan forces wrest it back from the enemy. "I don't think anyone in the U.S. military wanted to be up there," said a senior military official who oversees troops fighting in the village.
Senior military officials had hoped to be out of Barge Matal in about a week, but the deployment has stretched on for more than two months as U.S. and Afghan forces have battled Taliban insurgents. Some insurgents seemed to be moving into the area from neighboring Pakistan solely to fight the U.S. troops there, said military officials. At least one U.S. soldier has been killed and several have been wounded.
The Post says McChrystal is moving U.S. troops from such remote areas and relocating them to population centers where they can be put to better use. This makes sense. In particular, it would be quite helpful if those troops can provide security for reconstruction projects--roads, generators, water pumps--which show Afghans what the U.S. and the central government can do for them. And perhaps if people in these now-unpatrolled remote areas see the good things happening elsewhere, they will be less hospitable to the Taliban. Regardless, I certainly wouldn't be keen to die for a tiny town simply because Karzai--whose motives can't be trusted--insisted on its defense.