Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Next Falluja

Juan Cole comments on the news that people are fleeing their homes in Marja, Helmland Province in the South of Afghanistan, in response to notice that NATO soldiers are coming to rid them of Taliban, in what is being called the "largest assault against the militants since the war began." He reports that it is mainly a British operation, but the link he provides says it is being led by a "huge force of US Marines." (He also says the operation's name is the Persian word for "joint", while the link reports it as the Dari word for "together".)

I cannot forget the night I read the news that the US military had given the Fallujan people their notice, sending tens of thousands of families fleeing into the desert. It made me sick.

Agence France Presse reports that thousands of Afghans are fleeing an anticipated NATO/Afghan (mainly British) campaign against the Taliban stronghold of Marja, a city of 80,000, south of the capital of Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province. Marja is in the midst of a major poppy-growing region and so a center of narco-terrorism (the poppies are used to make heroin, and it is estimated that 40% of the drug trade goes to insurgents fighting the Karzai government).

The 5,000-man strike force will be British troops in the majority, and the rest will be Afghan or American. Although the campaign is called Operation Mushtarak, the Dari Persian word for "joint," it seems obvious that Afghan Army troops are a small part of the force. Unlike past such campaigns, the invasion force will be garrisoned in Marja rather than withdrawing, so as to allow the troops to keep the Taliban out and to win over local hearts and minds.


NATO is now racing to train enough Afghan troops to stay in the major southern city and keep it out of the hands of the Taliban.

  Juan Cole

The Marjah assault is the spearhead of a new counter-insurgency strategy, brainchild of US General Stanley McChrystal, who commands foreign forces in Afghanistan, aimed at winning over ordinary Afghans to support the government.


Winning hearts and minds by an invasion, driving thousands from their homes. I have a feeling we're getting off on the wrong foot.

President Hamid Karzai is eager to bring on board Taliban foot soldiers, who largely fight for cash rather than loyalty to the Islamists, by offering them money and jobs to put down arms and rejoin mainstream society.>

Because he hasn't noticed that this same tactic up to the present has simply succeeded in giving enemy soldiers intimate knowledge about the ways we go about fighting them, and money to purchase more arms. Because he hasn't noticed that their interest is in removing the infidel invaders and their passion is religious fervor, not a desire to rejoin mainstream society.

Sometimes I can scarcely believe what I read. Mark Twain said he couldn't decide if the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it. I expect were he alive today, he would have made his decision.

You may keep a measure of this type of attack and its results if you like in comparison to that ignoble previous such plan in Iraq through my compilation of Falluja posts (always linked in the right sidebar).

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

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