Families in remote parts of southern Afghanistan will be left to fend for themselves as a result of Natos plan to switch the focus of the campaign to securing towns and cities. The top general in the area told the media that most of the surge would be deployed to five districts in central Helmand and the area around Kandahar city, where most of the regions population lives. However, he insisted that troops in the four southern provinces would not abandon remote bases, as Americans forces have in the east. One may not be able to focus on some of the areas where the population is very disparate and in those areas the population is going to be more involved in protecting themselves, Major-General Nick Carter said. He refused to say what help communities outside the Nato areas could expect, but he said that no one would be left in the lurch. If the population feels it can secure itself, it will do that, he said. In the past US troops have considered arming local communities so that they could protect themselves. More recently, small groups of US Special Forces have begun living in remote tribal communities, in at least 14 areas of Afghanistan, to train men to protect their villages. But critics say that the Community Defence Initiative risks backfiring as America uses loosely vetted private militias, after years of international efforts to remove weapons from illegally armed groups. The focus on population centres comes after a reappraisal of Natos strategy by Americas top US commander, General Stanley McChrystal. US and Nato commanders had focused on killing insurgents and disrupting their supply lines, which often required outposts to patrol remote passes. But US troops in the East of the country have withdrawn so that they can concentrate on trying to secure larger towns. We are not going to leave areas where we already have a presence, General Carter said. What we are going to do, as more forces in particular more Afghan forces come online, is protect population centres because the Afghan Government has to assert control over the population. Nato estimates that about three million people live in the four provinces of southern Afghanistan. Almost half of them 1.3 million live in and around Kandahar city, while up to 750,000 people live in central Helmand, military officials said. There are about 45,000 Nato troops in southern Afghanistan, but that number will rise as the 30,000 US troops and up to 7,000 coalition soldiers arrive in Afghanistan next year.General Carter said that by the end of the summer Afghan soldiers and police should be in a position to match Nato troops man for man. This is a coalition operation. Im a coalition commander, General Carter said. The campaign will be won on a regional basis, not simply in Helmand. (The Times)