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Afghan strategy requires new mindset

July 24, 2009 at 12:13 PM

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 24 (UPI) -- The counterinsurgency doctrine employed in Afghanistan requires a new mindset that considers the civilian population as much as enemy forces, strategists say.

U.S. military strategists have adopted new counterinsurgency tactics for the latest push into Afghanistan, noting that gaining the trust of the Afghan population is as important as defeating the insurgency.

"Counterinsurgency is population-focused," said Army Col. John Agoglia, director of the counterinsurgency training center in Afghanistan. "How we operate in and amongst the population will determine the outcome more than traditional measures, like capture of terrain or attrition of the enemy."

The counterinsurgency efforts must focus on the prevention of civilian casualties in order to avoid disenfranchising the local population, the U.S. Defense Department reports.

American forces faced a backlash of criticism following a May 4 strike in Farah province that killed scores of civilians. U.S. military officials acknowledged violations of the rules of engagement in that operation, prompting top strategists to develop new plans to avoid civilian casualties.

"It's getting people to understand that sometimes it is better to back away from a fight than risk killing civilians and alienating those who you are supposed to be protecting," said Agoglia.

The revamped strategy in Afghanistan, however, has brought criticisms as July proves to be the deadliest month for coalition forces. Agoglia acknowledged there may be some lag time in overcoming some of the military setbacks.

"It'll take some time, but I think we're going in the right direction, definitely," he said.

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