â€œThis is where the friendlies are,â€ Faucett says, pointing to the screen. â€œThis is where we think the sniper is.â€ Itâ€™s a building in the northern compound, next to the main east-west road.
The next step seems obvious: Call those F-15s and have them reduce the Talibanâ€™s positions to rubble. Thatâ€™s how the Marines took out insurgents in Fallujah in 2004. Hell, itâ€™s how they went after the Taliban in August 2008. But itâ€™s August 2009, and today Meador is not sure.
A month earlier, just as Meador, Paz, and 4,000 other Marines were getting ready to move into Helmand province, the US military modified its counterinsurgency strategy. Incoming top general Stanley McChrystal issued strict guidelines forbidding air strikes except in the most dire circumstances. The number one priority in Afghanistan, he declared, was to secure the population so normal life could resume. The US needed to rob the militants of popular support, he argued. Dropping bombs only disrupted lives and drove people into the arms of the Taliban. So civilian casualties from air strikes had to stop â€” immediately.
2010-02-06 21:28:03 UTC