Although billed as a major confrontation between the international coalition and Afghan forces and the Taliban, the offensive in the southern Helmand province saw only sporadic fighting in its first day. Two coalition soldiers were killed, along with about 20 insurgents. It was the biggest assault since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.
The helicopter airlift into the heart of the city of 80,000 started around 2 a.m. and allowed the troops to quickly establish 11 posts throughout Marjah, while the bulk of the 15,000-man force carefully picked its way over land.
The operation had been deliberately telegraphed in advance for weeks, but the military tactics still seem to have surprised the enemy.
…Marjah is the last Taliban stronghold in Helmand and the hub for a thriving heroin business in the province, which fuels the insurgents.
The U.S.-led NATO offensive, called Moshtarak, which means “together,” is a joint operation between the International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan army. It is designed to showcase both Afghan capability and the coalition’s new approach to the war.
…Some 15,000 soldiers are involved in the Marjah operation, with the British soldiers focused on the surrounding villages of Nad Ali district. A civilian effort, including Afghans and others from the international community, is supposed to follow just behind the troops.
2010-02-15 20:29:02 UTC