Largest Marine Op since Fallujah Starts Today

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

From The Washington Post:

Thousands of U.S. Marines descended upon the volatile Helmand River valley in helicopters and armored convoys early Thursday morning, mounting an operation that represents the first large-scale test of the U.S. military’s new counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

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(You can see the province of Helmand at the southernmost area, in the center, on this map)

The strategy is different this time around:

Once Marine units arrive in their designated towns and villages, they have been instructed to build and live in small outposts among the local population. The brigade’s commander, Brig. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, said his Marines will focus their efforts on protecting civilians from the Taliban, and on restoring Afghan government services, instead of a series of hunt-and-kill missions against the insurgents.

“We’re doing this very differently,” Nicholson said to his senior officers a few hours before the mission began. “We’re going to be with the people. We’re not going to drive to work. We’re going to walk to work.”

I hope they do a better job “protecting civilians” than we’ve done with our drone planes.

This is a big battle:

Officers here said the mission, which required months of planning, is the Marines’ largest operation since the 2004 invasion of Fallujah, in Iraq. In the minutes after midnight, well-armed Marines trudged across the tarmac at this sprawling outpost to board the Chinooks, which lumbered aloft with a burst of searing dust. A few hours later, another contingent of Marines was scheduled to board a row of CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters packed onto a relatively small landing pad at a staging base in the desert south of here. As the choppers clattered through the night sky, dozens of armored vehicles rolled toward other towns along the river valley.

The U.S. strategy here is predicated on the belief that a majority of people in Helmand do not favor the Taliban, which enforces a strict brand of Islam that includes an eye-for-an-eye justice and strict limits on personal behavior. Instead, U.S. officials believe, residents would rather have the Afghan government in control, but they have been cowed into supporting the Taliban because there was nobody to protect them.

I hesitate to even quote WaPo on this.  We’ve had such terrible reporting from our mainstream media on what’s been going on both in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The broad outlines of the strategy, however, seem believable, including the lack of personnel to help build up the infrastructure:

Despite commitments from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development that they would send additional personnel to help the new forces in southern Afghanistan with reconstruction and governance development, State has added only two officers in Helmand since the Marines arrived. State has promised to have a dozen more diplomats and reconstruction experts working with the Marines, but only by the end of the summer.

To compensate in the interim, the Marines are deploying what officers here say is the largest-ever military civilian-affairs contingent attached to a combat brigade — about 50 Marines, mostly reservists, with experience in local government, business management and law enforcement. Instead of flooding their area of operations with cash, as some units did in Iraq, the Marine civil affairs commander, Lt. Col. Curtis Lee, said he intends to focus his resources on improving local government.

I believe this battle will be a major benchmark for President Obama as Commander in Chief.  Will the people of the region be protected?  Will reconstruction happen with Marines, who are not civil engineers, doing the work?  What kind of resistance will be seen and how loyal will the folks in Helmand be to the Taliban?

So far, all I have are questions.  I am no military expert, but I think this is the beginning of something that deserves attention.

9 comments

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  1. … again.

  2. Obama aide says no more troops to Afghanistan:

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s top security adviser has told U.S. military commanders there are no plans to send more troops to Afghanistan for now and that the focus instead will be on economic development and reconstruction, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

    • Viet71 on July 2, 2009 at 12:59 am

    This is another presidental tactic.

    Johnson tried it and failed.

    Nixon tried it and failed.

    Obama will fail.

    BTW, Johnson and Nixon were smarter than Obama.

    • ANKOSS on July 2, 2009 at 4:09 am

    Excuse me, but a battle, in military terms, is a high-intensity engagement between large forces. There is no opposing force even remotely equivalent to the USMC in Afghanistan, and the local insurgents would never be stupid enough to fight a “battle” against the concentrated power of a technologically superior foe.

    No, this is not a battle; this is theater, a huge cloud of dust that will make the TV audience think Obama is a kick-ass war president, just like the beloved Dubya. Unfortunately, unlike a theatrical production, which ends after a season, this show is scheduled to run forever, or until the US economy completely collapses.

    America’s thirst for war is despicable. With every blow we strike against the poorest and weakest people in the world, we confirm our reputation as bullies and fools.  

    • Inky99 on July 2, 2009 at 6:53 am

    So who are we killing?

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyo

    • Inky99 on July 2, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Something the American media seem to be failing to point out?


    The BBC News website cites “officers on the ground” who say this is the “largest Marine offensive since Vietnam.”

    http://rawstory.com/08/news/20

  3. to hear what those on these threads that are calling Obama less smart that Nixon or that he’s grandstanding or are hoping for him to fail will say if he does not.

    Obama has a Hobson’s choice in Afghanistan. If he withdraws at the time he’s pressed Pakistan to go after the Taliban, he’s insuring Pakistan’s defeat.  If he goes into full scale battle with the Taliban, they’ll retreat into their mountains and come out again when we leave.

    If he puts in outposts in Kandahar so that Afghans who are willing to give up opium production are protected from the Taliban while the Pakistanis fight the Taliban on their side of the border, then this looks like strategy aimed both at Pakistan and at setting up outposts in Kandahar to turn the people to other pursuits while they draw the Taliban out of their mountains.

    I don’t know if the strategy will work, but I suspect it has as much to do with Pakistan as Kandahar and it shouldn’t written off as grandstanding or stupid with so many lives at stake in both Afghanistan and Pakistan (over a million refugees that can’t go home until the fighting ends there).

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