BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- Standing on a mountaintop, 1st Lt. Maximilian Soto swept his arm from side to side, indicating a 400-square-mile expanse of fields, rivers and streams surrounding the village of Estalef in Parwan province, just north of Kabul. "All this," he said, "is mine." With a force of just 26 men from the Special Troops Battalion of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, Soto provides security for a chunk of Afghanistan the size of a typical American county. "It's quite difficult," he told World Politics Review.
In December, U.S. President Barack Obama announced he would be sending 30,000 new troops to reinforce the more than eight-year-old Afghan war effort. These forces are now arriving, feeding ongoing NATO offensives in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, as well as efforts to establish a meaningful troop presence in provinces that previously went unpatrolled, such as Logar province in the east.
But there's a downside to the Afghan surge. The concentration of resources in the south and the more mountainous parts of the east has meant keeping troop contingents in more secure areas to the absolute minimum. "Clear and hold," is NATO's new mantra, but the "clear" part is receiving the bulk of the resources, while in provinces like Parwan, soldiers doing the "holding" are stretched thin. This under-resourcing could jeopardize the security and prosperity of the pro-NATO Afghan heartland in the provinces surrounding Kabul.