McKiernan Leaves As U.S. Strategy Shifts

CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric traveled to Kabul last week and sat down with Gen. David McKiernan for what would be his last interview as top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. McKiernan stepped down from his post Monday at the request of Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Couric reports on the U.S.'s new strategy in Afghanistan.
This is what the America's new Afghan strategy looks like up close. Rather than staying on large bases, U.S. and international forces are fanning out into the country, setting up smaller operations in local communities, working with Afghan security forces and trying to get to know the people they're trying to protect, reports CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric.

On a mountain top in Afghanistan's rugged Logar Province, soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division watch over U.S. convoys as they bring supplies to one of those new outposts. The Taliban are fighting back - bombings and ambushes are a daily occurrence there.

"They kind of observe what you do as you come in and they always like to shoot as you're leaving," Lt. Jay Boston said.

Logar Province lies just south of Kabul and the Taliban are fighting hard to hold on to it so they can use it to launch attacks on the capital.

This is just one of several regions that are very much in play.

"There are large areas in Afghanistan where we are not winning," Gen. David McKiernan told Couric in an exclusive interview days before his resignation as U.S. commander in Afghanistan became public. "There are areas where I've said we are stalemated - that we don't necessarily control, the Taliban doesn't necessarily control … that there's a feeling of insecurity."

But the harsh reality is this: there are simply not enough boots on the ground to reach every corner of this vast rugged country, reports Couric. Even with the additional troops coming in, it's impossible for them to be everywhere they need to be. But the U.S. military is beginning to make some inroads.

As the Americans build these new small bases in the countryside, they are also hiring Afghans workers and are already plans to introduce a community-based security forces like. It's already been done in Wardak Province next door and, so far, it's popular with the tribal leaders.

"We brought up their village elders to the graduation, they were ecstatic. They were proud, their sons were now in a uniform, they were paid, they had some sort of a equipment, and they were going to come back to their village and provide local security - guard the roads, guard the mosque, guard the school," McKiernan said.

But even as he outlined the new strategy, McKiernan made it clear he was still not convinced there were enough troops to pull it off.

Couric: We have heard stories from U.S. soldiers who have moved into areas in the mountains and Logar Province, and they have been told to be first Americans to set foot in that village, and that is eight years into this war. Do we have enough troops, General, to actually place soldiers in some of these remote areas?

McKiernan: No, no we don't have enough troops of any country, including Afghanistan, to have a persistent security presence everywhere in Afghanistan. And that is why we need more military capability.
  • Katie Couric

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