Some 3,000 US troops recently deployed to insurgent-heavy provinces near Kabul.
Maydan Shahr, Afghanistan
The 3,000 new American troops who arrived in recent weeks in Logar and Wardak provinces, both of which border Kabul, face a formidable challenge: establishing control in areas with little government presence and where insurgents operate freely.
In Band-e-chak, for example, a district capital in Wardak, gun-toting Taliban fighters regularly come into town on their motorbikes to do some shopping. They buy their produce and go home, driving past government offices unmolested.
"Policymakers in Washington will be watching the progress there closely," says Habibullah Rafeh, political analyst with the Afghan Academy of Sciences. "If [the US] can turn things around there, they can create the momentum to turn around the whole war."
The strategy in Logar and Wardak will be to push the insurgents out of their strongholds and eliminate their contact with locals, and to emphasize development and reconstruction, says Col. David Haight, commander of the newly arrived troops.
Insurgents' expanding control
Unlike areas of the Afghan south, such as Kandahar, the provinces close to Kabul were free from a sizeable insurgent presence until the last couple of years. The deteriorating security here mirrors the trends of worsening violence nationwide over the past year, where record numbers of foreign soldiers and civilians were killed.
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