KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Commanders in Afghanistan say they will devote the majority of the fresh troops expected from the White House to securing the country's troubled south and will especially target this volatile city, the Taliban's main power base.
President Barack Obama will announce his revamped war strategy in an address early next week, likely Tuesday. He is widely expected to adopt a plan that sends between 20,000 and 40,000 more troops to bolster a flagging military campaign and the 68,000 U.S. troops now fighting it.
But even before Obama takes his case to the public, military commanders on the battlefield are ready to implement a plan that makes a defensive ring around Kandahar a linchpin of the fight to come. No matter how many troops the president decides to authorize, the Kandahar campaign will be an early, large-scale test of U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal's plan of refocusing allied military, political and economic efforts on population centers and away from sparsely peopled rural areas.
The new commander of coalition forces in southern Afghanistan, British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, and his staff detailed how they will put the McChrystal approach into action, in interviews with The Wall Street Journal: They plan to mass thousands of troops now scattered around the south and pack them into a tight cordon around the outskirts of Kandahar city.
At the same time, the coalition plans to pour economic, police and political assistance into the urban core to try to persuade residents that the Afghan government serves them better than the Taliban alternative. "We have to regain the initiative, and we have to get some momentum going," said Gen. Carter.
As Gen. McChrystal's team scrambles to reverse Taliban gains in Kandahar, they will also dispatch thousands of American soldiers to secure the major highways that pass through the city to Pakistan and southern Afghanistan.