Petraeus Sharpens Afghan War Strategy

WASHINGTON—Gen. David Petraeus plans to ramp up the U.S. military's troop-intensive strategy in Afghanistan, according to some senior military officials, who have concluded that setbacks in the war effort this year weren't the result of the strategy, but of flaws in how it has been implemented.

The officials said Gen. Petraeus, who took over as allied commander in Afghanistan this month and is conducting a review of the war, intends to draw on many of the same tactics he implemented to turn around the war in Iraq—and which his predecessor, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, introduced in Afghanistan.

But the officials said Gen. McChrystal put too much attention on hunting down Taliban leaders, at the expense of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, which focuses on protecting civilians and bolstering popular support for the government. Supporters of Gen. McChrystal dispute that assessment, dismissing any notion there were flaws in how he fought the war.

Gen. Petraeus's determination to intensify a strategy focused on driving a wedge between the Taliban and the Afghan people could be tricky to pull off, given the mounting political pressure in the U.S. to show results in the nearly nine-year war, and to begin drawing down troops next year.

Gen. McChrystal was fired last month by President Barack Obama after the general and his staff made disparaging comments about senior civilian officials in a magazine article. When announcing the change in command, Obama praised Gen. McChrystal's work and said the appointment of Gen. Petraeus, who wrote the army manual on counterinsurgency, would guarantee that the strategy would continue uninterrupted.

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Gen. Petraeus is expected to make several more moves to retool the strategy, according to people familiar with the situation. Such moves are expected to include a greater focus on how Afghanistan's security forces are being trained and how to make the Afghan people feel safe, they said, without offering details.

Under Gen. Petraeus, the coming offensive in the southern city of Kandahar will remain the primary effort for international forces, military officials said. But he is also expected to highlight other operations that are showing success, particularly the campaign against the Haqqani terror network in eastern Afghanistan.

Some in the White House advocate a pared-down approach that requires fewer troops and greater emphasis on drone attacks on insurgent leaders. These officials would like to see an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops.

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