US Redeploys to Afghan Cities, Leaves Rural Areas to Taliban

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2009 8:27 AM CDT
US Gen. Stanley McChrystal is welcomed by German Brigadier General Joerg Vollmer, regional commander North, after arriving to the German base in Kunduz, Sept. 5, 2009.   (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
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(Newser) – 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.