By Moreau, Ron; Yousafzai, Sami
Newsweek , Vol. 157, No. 01
Byline: Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai
If Gen. David Petraeus gets his wish, this will be the year of the snake. America's top officer in Afghanistan recently explained his war plan as the "anaconda strategy," designed to "squeeze the life" out of the Taliban insurgency. And according to the Pentagon, it's working already. In Helmand and the Taliban's home province, Kandahar, the military says, the insurgents' momentum has been slowed or even reversed by thousands of U.S. reinforcements using get-tough tactics. In fact, another year or two of such victories might conceivably reduce the insurgency in the south to a worrisome but tolerable nuisance.
The trouble is, no one is sure how much longer U.S. troops can keep constricting. At some point President Hamid Karzai's security forces and civilian administrators will have to take over--and so far they scarcely seem up to the job. The Taliban, who have always insisted they will win by outlasting the Americans, say Afghan civilians are getting the message. "Common people are increasingly supportive," says Mullah Ahmed Khan, the leader of a small unit in Helmand. …