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The still untamed east

And what about the valleys such as Korengal?

“They are using strike forces and basically planned operations on occasion to go back into the valleys and remove pockets of the enemies when they grow sufficient to warrant military attention,” Mrs. Kagan said. “That is really what has changed in operating in the northern Kabul area.”

Mrs. Kagan said the operations of Army Col. Andrew Poppas, who led Task Force Bastogne last year, stand as a good example. He used “creative ways to mass forces” to go after the Taliban, she said.

Nine months into his mission, Col. Poppas talked to the Pentagon press corps from a base in Jalalabad. He gave three examples of combined strikes on identified safe havens that took territory away from the Taliban.

In Operation Bulldog Bite in Kunar’s Pech River Valley, “we successfully reduced the amount of insurgent attacks on the local populace and proved wrong the entire mystique that there were safe havens [for] the enemy,” he said. “We worked through each of the separate valleys, identifying, targeting the enemy network, predominately Taliban.”

Gen. Keane said that, while the Korengal Valley outpost warfare did not work, what has succeeded is keeping pressure on the enemy to prevent it from planning and staging large, continuous attacks on the capital via eastern mobility corridors.

“I think we’ve been largely successful in that we conducted a defense in-depth to protect Kabul, the capital city,” he said. “And by and large, Kabul has not been lit up in terms of catastrophic systematic attacks, which challenge the legitimacy of the regime, which was happening in Baghdad in 2005 and 2006.”

The spring and summer “fighting seasons” are beginning in Afghanistan. Gen. Keane said the U.S., while making significant village-by-village gains in the south and the southwest, has still not tamed the east.

“The enemy has not been able to do what it has been trying to do,” he said. “But, nonetheless, we have not been able to defeat the enemy in the east.”