The new commander of international troops in Afghanistan delivered a sweeping review of how the United States fights the war today, emphasizing a shift from fighting the Taliban to protecting the population, rooting out corruption, nearly doubling Afghan security forces and transforming how those Afghan forces are trained.
Though not included in today's assessment, General Stanley McChrystal is soon expected to ask for thousands of more troops to fight an enemy he recently told ABC News could challenge Afghanistan's sovereignty.
The report arrived at U.S. Central Command and NATO as four more troops, including two Americans, were killed today, closing out what was already the deadliest month in the war's history.
Since a surge of U.S. Marines and soldiers began fighting in early July, at least 150 international troops have died -- nearly the same number killed in the first 27 months of the war, according to icasualties.org.
The assessment comes at a time when U.S. officials fear much of the country is slipping out of control. The Taliban have made new inroads in the north, now virtually control Kandahar City, and reports of widespread fraud and low turnout could rob an election designed to create positive momentum of its legitimacy.
The review, which is titled an "initial assessment," does not request additional troops, but its recommendations "clearly indicate that additional troops will be needed," according to a civilian advisor to McChrystal.
"Clearly the insurgency is serious right now. It has spread geographically, it has spread in intensity in certain areas, and its ability to coerce or control parts of the population has increased," McChrystal told ABC News earlier this month.
Today, in a statement released by U.S. forces in Kabul, he said the "situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort."
The review's main focus is a fundamental alteration of how McChrystal wants troops to see their role, according to interviews with his military and civilian advisors as well as with Afghan officials whom he briefed on the plan last week.
It asks for troops to spend the majority of their time protecting the population rather than hunting the Taliban. As McChrystal wrote in an earlier strategy document: "The Afghan people are the Objective. Protecting them is the mission. Focus 95% of your time building relationships with them and, together with the Afghan government, meeting their needs. Get rid of the conventional mind-set. Focus on the people, not the militants."
That approach was welcomed by Afghan officials briefed on the plan as well as McChrystal's civilian advisors, both of whom say U.S. priorities in Afghanistan have been incorrect.
"Our focus was on hunting down terrorists, not on protecting the population and building governance for them," said Steven Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations, one of about 10 civilian advisors who spent a few weeks in Kabul over the summer studying the war with McChrystal.
"That is I think what led to an undefended population and that made it entirely too easy for the Taliban to get access to them and rekindle the insurgency," Biddle said.