NATO Ministers, Commanders Advertise Planned Offensive in Southern Afghanistan - Craig Whitlock, Washington Post.
For the upcoming Battle of Marja, the element of surprise has already gone by the wayside. NATO ministers and commanders, gathering Thursday and Friday in Istanbul, could barely contain themselves about a major military offensive set to launch 2,000 miles away in southern Afghanistan. Ignoring the usual dictums about keeping battle preparations secret, officials were keen to talk about what they touted as their biggest joint operation since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
"In the coming days, you will see a demonstration of our capability in a series of operations, led by the Afghans and supported by NATO, in southern Helmand," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen volunteered to reporters. Although Rasmussen said he could not go into details "for security reasons," other NATO officials said an allied force, led by U.S. Marines, was preparing for an assault on the town of Marja, a Taliban stronghold in Helmand province. Senior military officials began touting the offensive, the first operation since a U.S. troop increase in Afghanistan, even before President Obama announced in early December that he would be sending more forces to the country...
More at The Washington Post.
U.S. Announces Helmand Offensive - Michael M. Phillips, Wall Street Journal.
In a rare break from traditional military secrecy, the U.S. and its allies are announcing the precise target of their first big offensive of the Afghanistan surge in an apparent bid to intimidate the Taliban. Coalition officers have been hinting aloud for months that they plan to send an overwhelming Afghan, British and U.S. force to clear insurgents from the town of Marjah and surrounding areas in Helmand province, and this week the allies took the unusual step of issuing a press release saying the attack was "due to commence." Senior Afghan officials went so far as to hold a news conference Tuesday to discuss the offensive, although the allies have been careful not to publicize the specific date or details of the attack.
"If we went in there one night and all the insurgents were gone and we didn't have to fire a shot, that would be a success," a coalition spokesman, Col. Wayne Shanks, said before the announcement. "I don't think there has been a mistake in letting people know we're planning on coming in." ...
More at The Wall Street Journal.
Why are U.S., Allies Telling Taliban About Coming Offensive? - Jonathan S. Landay and Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers at Stars and Stripes.
Thousands of U.S., British and Afghan troops are poised to launch the biggest offensive of the war in Afghanistan in a test of the Obama administration's new counterinsurgency strategy. Military operations usually are intended to catch the enemy off guard, but for weeks U.S. and allied officials have been telling reporters about their forthcoming assault on Marjah, a Taliban-held town of 80,000 and drug-trafficking hub in southern poppy-growing Helmand province. Senior NATO commanders and top Afghan officials have openly discussed the approximate time of Operation Moshtarak - the Dari language word for "together" - the size of the force and their objectives in news conferences, interviews and news releases that have been disseminated around the world and posted on government Web sites. Leaflets have been airdropped on the town.
Though the exact time of the kickoff hasn't been disclosed, a "news article" posted Thursday on the British Ministry of Defense's site announced that operations involving "elements of the Royal Welsh, Grenadier Guards and Scots Guards" and Afghan forces "in preparation" for the Marjah attack had been under way for 36 hours. The unusual approach, according to U.S. and British commanders, is intended to persuade Marjah's civilian population to leave or turn against the Taliban, while pressuring the estimated 2,000 insurgents to flee the town or switch sides...
More at Stars and Stripes.
Rage, Boredom, Misplaced Offensives - Joshua Foust, Registan.
The old saying that war is boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror is very much relevant to the fight in Helmand. Over the summer, when the Marines were advertising their latest "surge" into Helmand (at least the third Marine Surge and at least the fifth misfocused ISAF surge into the province), many expressed surprise at the Taliban's propensity to "melt away" from a fight - that, rather than facing certain death with the Marines, they'll just slink away to cause trouble elsewhere.
This isn't a new thing - the Taliban have been doing it since, oh, let's go with 2001 - but the Marine Corps nevertheless seemed surprised by it. And it is indeed a bizarre, frustrating thing to deal with an enemy that generally won't fight "fairly," choosing instead to rely on roadside bombs and mortars (the unfairness of such an idea - as if the American reliance on overwhelming air power was any less terrifying to the Taliban - is probably best left for another post). It would be understandable, even easy to find the Marines are running out of patience trying to fight a counterinsurgency while their opponents are not...
More at Registan.
Announcing the Marja Offensive - Herschel Smith, The Captain's Journal.
Let's not overdo the surprise and offer too many superlatives at announcing the Marja offensive. A similar strategy was taken for Operations al Fajr and Alljah, both in Fallujah. The U.S. Marines have a rich history of using intimidation as one of the many tools in their bag. My problem isn't with announcing the offensive. It comes at a more basic level than that...
I have also spoken strongly against targeting the poppies. I cannot speak directly to whether the Marines are targeting poppy in Helmand at the moment, but my objections to the handling of the Marja offensive are much more basic and foundational. If there is no one in charge who can explain why we are in Helmand, let me do it (sigh) once again...
More at The Captain's Journal.