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Canada's Afghan 'model village' praised by U.S. general

A four-star U.S. general in charge of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan praised Canada's model village approach Thursday as key to winning the eight-year war.
U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal (centre) enters a store in Canada's 'model village' of Deh-e Bagh, Afghanistan, on Thursday. McChrystal praised the approach, saying winning over people is key to winning the war. ((Colin Perkel/Canadian Press))
A four-star U.S. general in charge of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan praised Canada's model village approach Thursday as key to winning the eight-year-old war.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who took command of roughly 88,000 soldiers earlier this month, visited the Afghan village of Deh-e Bagh, where Canada has been providing security and overseeing small-scale community reconstruction.

Some of the 2,800 Canadians serving in Afghanistan unveiled the model village, south of the city of Kandahar, on Tuesday.

McChrystal said he'd like to see more model villages around the country, adding that such sustainable-development projects are key to winning the support of the population.

Canadian soldiers have spent the past month overseeing the reconstruction of the district centre of Deh-e Bagh. More than 100 Afghans were hired to help build an irrigation canal and post solar-powered street lights.

Shift in Afghan strategy

On Wednesday, McChrystal said the mission needs a major shift in strategy and troops must move from high intensity combat to protecting civilians.

"This is appropriate for the conventional battlefield where it is army against army, but not appropriate for the [counter-insurgency] battlefield," McChrystal said on a visit to the new U.S. marine base in southern Helmand Province.

"In my view what we've really got to do is make a cultural view," he told reporters.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly complained to NATO countries about the high number of civilians killed by the military alliance's airstrikes.

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates handpicked McChrystal for the role after firing the previous commander. Gates had complained the mission lacked focus and resources.

Under McChrystal's command, the mission is expected to rely less on aerial bombings to shut down Taliban bomb-making factories and cut off militant supply routes from Pakistan and to make more use of ground operations.

He is expected to release the new operational guidelines within days.

With files from The Canadian Press

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