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Afghan boys walk past US marines with 1/3 Charlie company at a market in Trikh Nawar on the North Eastern outskirts of Marjah on February 22, 2010. The market was reopened by US marines after its closure on February 9, the day the marines pushed the Taliban out of the area following an overnight helicopter assault. Four women and a child were among 33 civilians killed in a NATO air strike on February 21 when they were attacked after being mistaken for Taliban militants who are waging an eight-year insurgency to evict Western troops.
President Obama’s Afghanistan surge is now in full swing. With 30,000 additional troops, a major operation has been launched in the Taliban stronghold of Marja. But Gen. Stanley McChrystal says the offensive is “not about the battle, it’s about the postlude” and the new “government in a box” strategy. The idea is for joint military forces to go in hard and clear towns and cities of Taliban insurgents. Then – and this is the new part - install Afghan government and police forces, leaving behind enough American and British support troops, to maintain security. Crucial to this approach is winning the hearts and minds of the local population. How is this different from what the Russians did? And can this approach really work?
Reza Aslan, internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions; contributing editor at the Daily Beast. His most recent book is How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror.
Kalev Sepp, Professor of Defense Analysis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations. He also served as a U.S. Army Special Forces officer