A coalition of international forces in Afghanistan has announced the coming of Operation Moshtarak before it has even begun. The announcement was designed to get families out of the town of Marjah until the town can be secured, and the Taliban ejected. The Taliban, however, has their own plan and they do not include letting the citizens of Marjah to flee to safety.
Operation Moshtarak will utilize an "overwhelming force," and is considered the biggest battle of the 8 year old war in Afghanistan. Troops have been moving into position for several weeks.
Pentagon officials say this unusually public "shaping" of the battlefield has one key goal: while hundreds of hard-core Taliban are hunkering down for a fight, many more, along with thousands of residents, have fled Marja until the dust settles. That should limit civilian casualties and, they hope, lure some lukewarm Taliban over to the government side.
"We're not interested in how many Taliban we kill," Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S., commander in Afghanistan, said Thursday. "We'd much rather have them see the inevitability that things are changing and just accept that."I don't know. Maybe I'm looking at this wrong, but why wouldn't we want to kill the bastards who have no regard for their own people. For every Taliban left, there is one more to hunt our soldiers. Complete victory is the only answer. But then, what do I know.
U.S. and Afghan officials know that die-hard Taliban forces have been burying hundreds of improvised explosive devices around the town in recent weeks. "It's giving time and space to those who want to fight to dig in," says Ali Jalali, who served as Afghanistan's first post-Taliban Pentagon's National Defense University in Washington.and now works with the
"It could be very bloody, and that could affect public opinion in Europe and the U.S."Yeah, well...let's kill the bastards.
The city of Marjah, is a large poppy producing community, considered a "den for narcotics traffickers and insurgents," and is the first major target to clear. "Hundreds" or "thousands are said to have run to safety in the town of 80,000 before the Taliban crackdown. Officials believe Marja will be a turning point in the war.
The offensive, when it begins in earnest, will largely be conducted on foot. That's because the terrain surrounding Marja is latticed with canals built by the U.S. a generation ago to expand agriculture to 250,000 acres in the Helmand River valley. It also gave the region the nickname "Little America." The canals and ditches created a network of bridges unable to support and gives the Taliban good places to hide IEDs - the top killer of U.S. - and snipers. They also turned the region into lush farmland that has proven ideal for growing opium-producing poppies.Afghan soldiers will be a frontline force, along with US Marines. General Stanley McChrystal says the Afghan forces "all have Marine haircuts right now."
Read more details of Operation Moshtarak in Helmand Province here, and keep our soldiers in your prayers as this critical offensive gets underway.
Photo credit: US Marine Corps, Sgt. Pete Thibodeau