With the first American troops slated to withdraw in July, the Afghanistan surge is nearly over. But even as the overall U.S. force in Afghanistan contracts, portions of a handful of particularly important districts — the rough equivalent of U.S. counties — could actually get more troops and more development cash.
The shift toward these so-called “key terrain districts” is the result of a slowly evolving plan for making the best out of a bad situation. Come summer, the NATO and Afghan coalition won’t have enough forces to even try controlling every one of Afghanistan’s 400 districts. So the alliance is prioritizing, by pulling troops from relatively secure areas and those being handed over to Afghan forces — not to mention areas deemed lost causes — and sending them to districts where they still stand a chance.