Shall we place bets now?
The fight for Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city, shows some of the biggest hurdles faced by the U.S. as it tries to implement a strategy of winning over the ordinary people of Afghanistan.
Kandahar, a city of an estimated 800,000 people in the south, is an important piece in the battle for Afghanistan, and losing control of it would be a huge blow to the coalition.
The city – and the outlying province with the same name – will be a focus of the additional buildup of tens of thousands of troops which President Barack Obama is expected to order for Afghanistan.
and from Brown:
Canada, with about 2,800 troops, has the security lead for Kandahar province, but the number of U.S. forces is growing. There are currently about 1,200 U.S. troops already serving under Canadian command in the province, including the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, and a company of U.S. military police in the city. Three additional U.S. Stryker battalions are also posted in Kandahar province, but they are under a separate American command.
According to a report last week by McClatchy Newspapers, a division headquarters element, totaling about 7,000 soldiers, will be sent to Kandahar Airfield to direct U.S. forces in the south. A second Marine expeditionary brigade is expected to be sent to Helmand province.
Interesting. Brown leads with the factoid that Kandahar is the spiritual home of the Taliban, which certainly sends a message. The Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe reports that some of the first troops deployed after Obama’s speech tomorrow will be 9,000 Marines delivered to nearby Helmand:
Days after President Obama outlines his new war strategy in a speech Tuesday, as many as 9,000 Marines will begin final preparations to deploy to southern Afghanistan and renew an assault on a Taliban stronghold that slowed this year amid a troop shortage and political pressure from the Afghan government, senior U.S. officials said.
The extra Marines will be the first to move into the country as part of Obama’s escalation of the eight-year-old war. They will double the size of the U.S. force in the southern province of Helmand and will provide a critical test for Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s struggling government and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy.
“The first troops out of the door are going to be Marines,” Gen. James T. Conway, the Corps’ top officer, told fellow Marines in Afghanistan on Saturday.
Weirdly, it kinda feels like getting spoiled for a movie. Incidentally, I won’t be able to liveblog the speech (with a drinking game or no) because of a prior appointment, but I bet you (or you, or you) that there are thirty different post-speech commentaries by the time I get myself home in the evening…