Gen. Stanley McChrystal has ordered a major shift in US troop deployment in Afghanistan, telling his commanders to pull out of the sparsely populated, Taliban-controlled areas and focus instead on protecting population centers, the Washington Post reports. US officials say they’ve realized that they’re not going to wrest control of the hinterlands from the Taliban anytime soon, and want to concentrate their forces.
But Afghan officials worry that retreating in those regions will make the government look weak. The disagreement is especially sharp over Nurestan province, which borders Pakistan. US commanders have had plans to leave the area since last year, but government pressure has had them building forces instead, in one case using 100 soldiers to protect a village of 500. “I don’t think anyone in the US military wanted to be up there,” says one official.