The Surge Is Working in Afghanistan

Article excerpt

Byline: Craig Charney

Even as the battle for Marja grabs headlines, it's diverting attention from a bigger story. Though the Taliban is entrenched in Helmand province, where Marja is situated, its grip is slipping in the rest of Afghanistan as President Obama's 30,000-troop surge unfolds. In fact, Oba-ma's counterinsurgency strategy, which aims to win over Afghans by protecting them and speeding up development, is already starting to work.

To understand why, it's necessary to dispel a few myths. First, while it's true that most Taliban come from the fiercely independent Pashtun tribe, most Pashtuns do not like the Taliban. Only one in four favors the insurgents, and most actually desire closer ties with the West because they, like other Afghans, mainly want jobs and infrastructure--things the Taliban can't offer. Second, despite some well-publicized tragedies, civilian casualties are actually down. The counterinsurgency strategy devised by Gen. Stanley McChrystal emphasizes the security of Afghan civilians as a way to win their support. So far McChrystal is succeeding: civilian deaths due to U.S. and NATO action are down by 30 percent, to 596 last year. The Taliban, on the other hand, has grown more indiscriminate, killing 1,630 civilians last year, a 60 percent jump from 2008. …