Force protection is somewhat of a mantra in U.S. military policy, and as the beneficiary of that policy, I feel I need to tread carefully in being too critical of it.
But the fact remains that airstrikes and other uses of heavy firepower carry enormous risks for bystanders in the area.
The controversy over a recent airstirke that reportedly killed some 90 people in Afghanistan, including as many as 60 children, shows no sign of abating. New video evidemnce has emerged that suggests that the U.S. reports of no mor ethan seven dead civilians is incomplete.
I'm not sure why the military is having such a hard time pinning down the truth here. The U.N. and Afghan authorities seem to have information, one wonders if it's simply not accepted by the military as valid.
The bottom line, however, is that firepower is of limited use in counterinsurgency and is no substitute for numbers on the ground and presence. This has been, all along, the fatal flaw of the Rumsfeld strategy for war in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are many reasons why Gen. Petraeus has seen some success in Iraq, but foremost among them seems to have been changing the deployment of U.S. troops from centalized bases to forawrd positions among the population. This carried risks, of course, and initially casualkty rates did climb, but eventually they fell and now Iraq is safer for U.S. forces than ever.
A similar thing nees to happen in Afghanisatn, where, really, the overall situation should be more favorable. A cost of the Iraq venture has been in preventing the U.S. from having reserves avaikable to influence the Afghanistan fight.
Petreaus is moving up to Central Command and one expects he will apply his talents to redressing that deficiency.