NATO/ ANA Assault on Marjah; Has the City already Fallen without a Shot?

AFP reports that the joint NATO/ Afghanistan National Army assault force of 15,000 on Friday moved toward the Helmand city of Marjah, at the center of the poppy growing heartland of Helmand Province. The city of some 80,000 has been surrounded for weeks. On Friday the road east to the capital, Lashkar Gah, was crowded with Afghans fleeing Marjah, where some had been kept against their will by the Taliban or were too poor to be able to afford to leave.

The military forces are spearheaded by the US Marines and Afghanistan National Army troops, in the first major test of the latter, and a British contingent of over 1,000 is being sent in. Radio Azadi reports in Dari Persian that the helicopter gunships were sent in first.

Pajwhok news agency reports that there were ‘shaping’ attacks on Friday: “In one clash, Marines fought off an ambush against one of their convoys with 50-caliber machine guns and grenade launchers. Reporters with the U.S. 5th Stryker Brigade heard a large explosion, which troops said was from a missile attack against a Taliban compound.” These actions appeared to have produced no casualties on Friday, though on Thursday the Taliban had killed a British soldier with a roadside bomb.

(Hundreds of miles to the east of Marjah, a suicide bomber wearing an Afghan police uniform wounded 5 US troops when he detonated his payload on Friday.)

But it may be that no Taliban stood and fought as the invasion took place. The USG Open Source center translated an item from the Afghan Islamic Press in Pasho early on Saturday, February 13, 2010 that reported,

‘ Foreign forces have reportedly captured Marja. Mohammad Salem Wardag, a former member of the Helmand provincial council, told Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) this morning, 13 February, that last night the foreign and domestic forces captured the Marja area (district). Wardag added: “The local residents told me over the satellite phone that when we woke up this morning, we saw Americans walking in Marja, and they have captured the area.” Wardag said no clashes had taken place in Marja and that the foreigners had captured the whole area. ‘

The Afghan government says it has 1900 police ready to go into Marjah and establish long-term order. But if these police prove corrupt, oppressive, or lazy (and many Afghan police are on the take and are regular drug users), then the area could easily fall back under Taliban rule.

CBS News has video on preparations for the assault:

AP emphasized the way in which the assembled NATO and ANA forces had surrounded Marjah:

End/ (Not Continued)

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7 Responses

  1. This is reminiscent of the years of cat and mouse games in Anbar province in Iraq. The Americans go into a town in force. The insurgents melt away apart from few suicidal fighters who would hassle the troops. The Americans declare total victory and move on to "clear" other towns leaving the useless local police in charge. The police vanish as soon as the US troops leave, and the insurgents reappear to punish the local "collaborators" and re-establish their rule. Repeat.

    The locals themselves must decide if they want to fight the Islamists badly enough to stand up to them. The westerners can only make things worse by the inevitable killing and uprooting of the civilians.

  2. Forget whatever happened in the past xx years. This is the real deal!! The same old mantra.

    This is just another bullfight – we're the bull and the Taliban is the toreador.

  3. WallStreetJournalIn Marjah Buildup, a Telling Day's Delay : “Afghan officials, impressed by the showing at a meeting that day of tribal elders from Marjah, were urging coalition officers to delay the assault a day, maybe longer. The tribal elders had promised to try to talk the Taliban out of fighting and to convince people in Marjah to aid advancing allied forces. Coalition officers agreed, even if no one expected major Taliban defections… The decision was taken to delay the well-advertized Marjah offensive by a day. It finally began after midnight, Saturday.

    After weeks of buildup and anticipation, the decision to delay, albeit just for 24 hours or so, offers an insight into how allied commanders, led by U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, are reshaping the war in Afghanistan. Instead of simply fighting Taliban, the emphasis has shifted to "helping Afghan authorities win over ordinary people who have grown weary of the fight and the endemic government corruption that has flourished around it." The commanders wanted to do whatever they could to avoid civilian casualties and earn support in the town for the quick roll out of what they called "government-in-a-box" – a ready-made administration for Marjah that would help restore the tattered legitimacy of the Afghan government in the Taliban's southern heartland. If successful, Marjah will be a model for future operations that are to unfold as thousands of fresh U.S. and European troops arrive in the coming months to take part in the latest ‘surge’ of allied forces…

    Dry baking mixes in-a-box of all sorts were a product of the Industrial Revolution in the west. They were promoted by companies as "convenience foods." The first dry mixes (custard powders) were produced in England. But problems of spoilage and packaging abounded, keeping mixes from widespread consumption and acceptance. In November 1947, after four years of cake mix research and development, General Mills' test markets were exposed to the "Just Add Water and Mix!" campaign for Betty Crocker's Ginger Cake. After a final assurance from the corporate chemists that the boxed ingredients would indeed perform as advertised, the mix was made available for limited distribution on the West Coast of the USA. Within a year it made a national debut that excluded the South (presumably, product testing there proved futile).

    According to the food historians, early baking mixes were not readily accepted. Why? Two reasons: (1) Early mixes were not reliable and they produced inconsistent results. (2) Home cooks had a difficult time reconciling modern convenience with traditional expectations. When food companies make things *too simple* their products are summarily rejected. Even in today's culture of ultra-convenience, this holds true.

    Though Betty Crocker–like her competitors–promised that cake mixes offered freshness, ease, and flavor ‘in-a-box’, the market was slow to mature. Puzzled, marketers reiterated the message that homemakers need only drop this scientific marvel into a bowl, add water, mix, and bake. The "quick mix" industry, eager to correct the shortfall, conducted research… The problem, according to psychologists, was eggs — they believed that powdered eggs, often used in cake mixes, should be left out, so women could add a few fresh eggs into the batter, giving them a sense of creative contribution. Business psychologists believed that baking a cake was an act of love on the woman's part: a cake mix ‘in-a-box’ that only needed water cheapened that love.

  4. There we have the Obama Presidency summarized by a needless war in a country poorer than poor. No health care reform, no climate change action, millions lacking work, but war, war, war.

  5. sorry off topic but I thought you might want to read this:

    This Week at War: Are the Ayatollahs Using COIN? / Robert Haddick
    Feb. 11 was the 31st anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad marked the occasion by declaring to hundreds of thousands gathered at Tehran's Azadi Square that Iran was a "nuclear state." Meanwhile, a heavy presence of security forces in Tehran appeared to have successfully suppressed counterdemonstrations by regime opponents. In an essay for Small Wars Journal, Dan Cox, an associate professor at the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College, wonders whether Iran's rulers are battling an embryonic insurgency. And if so, is the regime successfully implementing Western-designed counterinsurgency (COIN) theory to snuff out the opposition?

    Cox refers back to the French military commander David Galula, one of the original COIN gurus, and others to analyze the Iranian government's actions against the protesters. In response to well-developed insurgencies, Galula and other Western COIN theorists have recommended a gentle hand — counterinsurgents should limit the use of force, protect the population, and stress economic development in order to isolate the insurgents. However, Cox points out the lesser-known advice Galula and other COIN theorists have for embryonic insurgencies. The COIN gurus recommend early recognition of the problem and a harsh decisive response. Cox concludes that the Iranian government, taking advantage of its authoritarian position, is employing the recommendations of these Western theorists and to good effect
    link to

  6. Interesting that Wardag uses the term "foreigners" for the forces that have taken over marjah. That should make it clear whose operation this is, and the nature of the war.

  7. I'm a life-long Republican who voted for Bush twice. And to be honest, a year ago I thought Obama would be weak on the war on terror and national security, but I'm actually very pleased with Obama. I might even vote for Obama in 2012. Although I wish he would be tougher on Iran and Russia but hopefully that will happen in time. I'm glad that the liberals are finally coming around and not protesting the wars like they did under Bush. It took a great man like Obama to convince the left of the necessity of war. Great blog, Juan.

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