US soldiers in Afghanistan have launched a preliminary operation ahead of a planned and much publicised military assault aimed at flushing out the Taliban. In what will be the first such action in the country since President Obama ordered a surge of 30,000 extra troops, one of the targets is to be the town of Marjah.
By flagging up their plans, the combined NATO and Afghan armies hope most of the possible 1,000 Taliban fighters will leave the area. But its unlikely – reports say the militants are preventing many of Marjah’s 80,000 population from getting out.
Britain’s Brigadier Richard Felton described it as a “challenge”, but the key was in giving the Afghan government a chance to explain that what they have to offer is far better than what the Taliban have to offer.
Those civilians who can leave, have left. Those who cannot have been warned by NATO and Afghan officials to keep their heads down when the fighting starts.
NATO insists the primary goal is to gain public confidence and have promised to follow up with projects and restoring services, that is once the planned military action is over.