Operation Moshtarak launched today in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Details here as available.
The Telegraph reports:
The first wave of choppers has landed inside Marjah. The operation has begun," said Capt Joshua Winfrey, commander of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, which was at the forefront of the attack.
Nato helicopters dropped leaflets on the town and surrounding area – which has an estimated total population of 125,000 – warning people to remain indoors once the offensive began.From the New York Times:
Radio broadcast messages telling people that the Afghan and international troops had come to rid their area of insurgents and that no civilians would be harmed.
The force of about 6,000 Marines and soldiers — a majority of them Afghan — began moving into the city and environs before dawn.
As Marines and soldiers marched into the area, several hundred more swooped out of the sky in helicopters into Marja itself. There did not appear to be any resistance, although a ground assault with more soldiers concentrated within the city was expected to begin within hours.
The American, Afghan and British troops began moving into Marja before first light, making their way through a broad, flat area crisscrossed by irrigation canals and scattered with opium factories as well as, in all likelihood, several hundred hidden bombs.From the Washington Times:
American and Afghan commanders said they expected the heavy fighting to be over in a number of days. At that point, the commanders say, the overriding purpose of the campaign will take shape, when they bring in a fully formed Afghan government and security force that can hold the city so that the Taliban cannot return.
Marine commanders say they expect between 400 to 1,000 insurgents to be holed up inside this southern Afghan town of 80,000 people in Helmand province, including more than 100 foreign fighters. Marjah is the biggest southern town under Taliban control and the linchpin of the militants' logistical and opium-smuggling network.
The helicopter assault was preceded by illumination flares which were fired over the town about 2 a.m. In the pitch darkness of a moonless night, the roar of helicopters could be heard overhead, flying in assault troops from multiple locations.
The white flash of Hellfire and Tow missiles could be seen exploding over the town as flares illuminated the darkness to help assault troops spot targets in the town.
Related and Background:
Taliban Prevents Marjah Families from Leaving ahead of Operation Moshtarak
Operation Moshtarak International Defensive: Overwhelming Forces