US Forces Increase in Prelude to Kandahar
US Special Forces have increased their activity in Kandahar, the spiritual capital of the Taliban, in advance of what will be a larger push to take the city and implement a local, democratic government. Kandahar is the largest city in southern Afghanistan, and the battle for the city is rapidly becoming the benchmark for the Obama Administration’s strategy in Afghanistan. The success of the Obama Administration in the region will turn on whether US military force can aid local resistance efforts in winning over the populace while overcoming a distrust of foreign forces and lack of cooperation among local tribes.
The push for Kandahar has already been set in motion, and it will continue over a period of time with a gradual increase in military activity. The offensive began in the area of Marja but will face continued obstacles in Kandahar, as it is a much larger and more complex urban area. In response to the military activity in Marja, the Taliban have increased their attacks on moderate city officials and local spiritual leaders as a warning to tribal leaders for cooperating with the US offensive. Indeed, US forces are dependent on the willful cooperation of these local tribal leaders to be the face of the offensive on the ground. In fact, the majority of US involvement within Kandahar will be limited to covert Special Forces teams. Conventional troops have begun operations outside of Kandahar in order to shape the offensive in a series of provinces that surround the city; however, the driving force within the city is designed to come from a local resistance.
As outlined, the Kandahar offensive is strikingly similar to the 2007 troop surge in Iraq which aimed to secure Baghdad and the Anbar province. Not only has there been an increase in allied forces, but there has been heavy focus in gaining the trust of and allying together the local tribes in return for economic incentives to assist local development. Concurrent with the increased military involvement, the strategy also includes Afghan-styled town hall meetings between government officials and local tribal leaders. The aim of these meetings is to show the local tribal leaders how they would be better off without the Taliban Administration. To read more on the strategy and its developments, click here.