LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan
U.S. forces are testing a modified strategy dubbed “ink spots” in which coalition forces pick certain districts to flood with reconstruction projects and permanently defend from Taliban insurgents.
In Logar province, 50 miles south of Kabul, a newly arrived contingent of U.S. and Czech troops is putting the ink-spot idea into practice.
“I don’t have enough troops to cover every square inch,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Gukeisen, commander of roughly 1,000 soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, deployed to Logar early this year alongside a Czech army reconstruction team.
The concept, in part, reflects anticipation that the Obama administration is leaning toward deployments of fewer than the 40,000 extra troops reportedly sought by top commander Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.
The modified strategy represents a shift in degree from a more ambitious “population-centric” effort that would require large numbers of occupying troops to simultaneously protect most of a country’s civilians from attack and infiltration, thus isolating and “starving” the insurgents, military officials say.
The ink-spot approach, by contrast, initially concentrates on just a handful of population centers and slowly expands outward.
Col. Gukeisen said he had to prioritize the three districts under his purview. His troops conducted intelligence surveys of Baraki Barak, Charkh and Kherwar districts and concluded that Baraki Barak was the most ready for a sustained coalition presence. From his “beachhead” in Baraki Barak this summer, Col. Gukeisen launched a campaign he calls “Extreme Makeover, Afghanistan Edition.”
Col. Gukeisen invested nearly $1 million in Army reconstruction funds to refurbish schools and mosques along with other projects in the Baraki Barak district.
At an outpost in the heart of the district, 3rd Squadron’s Able Company, led by Capt. Paul Shepard, gave out free veterinary care and agricultural assistance.
Col. Gukeisen’s aim was to create what he called “dislocated envy” in neighboring districts — envy he could use as leverage in drawing Afghans into the coalition fold.
A foot patrol last month to the fringes of Baraki Barak demonstrated this envy. Elders in the village of Yahaya asked for assistance improving their mosque, just as Capt. Shepard’s troops have helped dozens of mosques in other villages.
But Yahaya was known to harbor insurgents. “I don’t think we should help them until they figure out their Taliban problem,” Capt. Shepard said. He left his phone number with the elders. Turn in the local insurgents, the captain said, and the Army would provide funds to refurbish the mosque.
Col. Gukeisen said the strategy has been effective. Attacks on coalition troops are down by more than half in Baraki Barak since the summer, he said, and thousands of refugees have returned to the district as security improves.
Col. Gukheisen’s tactics align with research coming out of the military’s academic establishment.View Entire Story
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