NATO commanders are putting the Canadian Forces in charge of the Arghandab district, north of Kandahar city, a region where U.S. troops have sustained heavy casualties since being assigned there earlier this year.

"The local population is frustrated. So I think that's one of the purposes of this strategy -- to deploy troops in areas and keep them there," Mark Sedra, of the Centre for International Governance Innovation, told CTV News.

Task Force Kandahar will gain an additional U.S. battalion and Afghan National Army unit that will each serve under its command by the new year, said Brig. Gen. Frederick Hodges, director of operations for NATO's southern command.

Retired major-general Lewis McKenzie said that's a sign of great respect from the U.S.

"We're the only nation in the 28 NATO nations where the Americans entrust their troops under our command," he said.

Hodges said NATO intends to deepen its hold in Kandahar, before using any surplus troops to clear neighbouring Helmand province.

In a telephone interview from Kandahar, Canadian Press reporter Jonathan Montpetit told CTV News Channel that NATO is "trying to regain the momentum of the insurgency in the south, which is really what they've identified as the biggest problem area in the country."

Michel Drapeau, a retired Canadian Forces colonel, told CTV News Channel that the Arghandab district doesn't appear to be any more dangerous than the area Canadian soldiers currently patrol in Kandahar.

"We'll have to wait and see whether or not this is going to be more perilous... and probably in the end, it will mean very little except that we will be operating in a sector that we haven't been up to now," Drapeau said during an interview from Ottawa.

It is possible that the changes were made with an eye to the fact that Canada will be pulling its soldiers out of the war-torn country by the end of 2011, he said.

Under the new plan, U.S. troops currently serving in the Arghandab district will be reassigned to protect the roads in and around Kandahar. The U.S. troops currently serving in Kandahar, in turn, will then fall under the direction of the Canadians.

Hodges said the changes will take place regardless of U.S. President Barack Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Obama committed 30,000 more U.S. troops to the NATO effort to secure southern Afghanistan.

With a report by CTV's Lisa LaFlamme and files from The Canadian Press