U.S. sees potential for wider anti-Taliban uprising in Afghanistan

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The question Gen. Day says he’s asking is, “Is there a golden thread here that we can pull on that will unite them all?”

It is with that possibility in mind — and an awareness that U.S. influence here is likely to shrink as its forces continue to withdraw — that the Americans are encouraging the Afghan military to complete a plan dubbed Operation Solidarity to make what it can of this unexpected new opening in Ghazni province. Gen. Charlton, the American adviser to the commander of the main Afghan army group in this region, said this should be a major focus for the Afghans over the winter, when harsh weather tends to lessen the pace of combat operations.

The three-stage plan, designed with U.S. assistance and launched by the Afghan 203rd Corps in September, begins with an assessment of individual village uprisings and their potential for success. Those deemed worthy of pursuing are then approached by the Afghan military, in some cases to provide weaponry. Gen. Charlton described the third stage as a networking effort “to stitch these groups together into something larger.”

Gen. Charlton, who was a central player in fostering the Anbar Awakening in Iraq as a brigade commander in the provincial capital of Ramadi in 2007, is notably optimistic about the nascent Afghan uprisings.

“Over the course of the winter, if this thing works out right, these groups will be supported, they will come together a little bit more and by the springtime the insurgency will not have the popular support bases that they are used to having,” he said.

Gen. Charlton said he’s not discouraged by the merely incremental progress thus far.

“To me, the Taliban are doing the same thing that al Qaeda was” in Iraq, he said. “They used these really oppressive, violent tactics that eventually alienate these populations. And I see that same dynamic here,” even though that may not be enough to ignite a broader uprising.

“It may not change Afghanistan, but if it can help deny some support bases in Ghazni, we’ll take that. That is something we haven’t had.”

Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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