The new U.S. commander in Afghanistan is making noises that he will shift the emphasis away from looking for Taliban/Al Qaeda types in the eastern mountains of the country, and towards protecting the population. This would, of course, be consistent with the Army's newish counterinsurgency doctrine. He even suggested that there are not enough troops to do everything, and that securing population centers is the more important task, and that the metrics for success would internal commerce and how secure local leaders felt in their hometowns, rather than body counts or the number of insurgent attacks.
This sounds like good stuff, especially from an officer who made his reputation killing and capturing insurgents and terrorists. I wonder, though, if even this will produce enough troops on the ground to provide sufficient security for the population across a large country with poor transpration networks? And are the troops trained to take on this sort of task?
More important, though, is how the insurgents would respond to such a move. The shift in emphasis is premised on the "ink blot" logic which suggests improving things in some population centers, and this happiness will then spread to neighboring areas while the insurgent sit in the mountains waiting to shoot at Americans. But they might not wait. Their goals are not to control the mountains, so that will not satify them. Instead, they may resort to more terrorist attacks and bombings in the same population centers that the Americans are trying to secure, with the objectives of staying politically relevant and showing that the Americans are not really in control. So this strategy might lead to more, not less, terrorism. The hope, I guess, is that this would be a short run response, and that over the longer run the locals would turn on the insurgents as they see how well the Americans are securing them.