"As Marines and soldiers marched into the area, several hundred more swooped out of the sky in helicopters into Marja itself. There did not appear to be any resistance, although a ground assault with more soldiers concentrated within the city was expected to begin within hours.
“The message for the Taliban is: It will be easy, or it will be hard, but we are coming,” Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the commander of the United States Marines in Helmand Province, told the men of Company K, Third Battalion, Sixth Marines before the operation began. “At the end of the day, the Afghan flag will be over Marja.”
The operation, dubbed Moshtrarak , which means “together” in Dari, is the largest offensive military operation since the American-led coalition invaded the country in 2001. Its aim to flush the Taliban out of a huge area — about 75 square miles — where insurgents have been staging attacks, building bombs and processing the opium that pays for their war." NY Times
The marine commander at the 2nd Battle of Fallujah in Iraq made the argument that the outcome had settled the war and that the insurgency was over. His men had carried the day. The insurgents no longer had a sanctuary. The war would soon be over as the insurgents came to recognize their defeat. In fact, none of that was true. The marine general was simply "mirror imaging" what his own feelings would have been in a similar situation. In fact, the corner was turned in Iraq when a handful of Army and marine officers and sergeants took matters into their own hands and responded to "feelers" from insurgent leaders who wanted to change sides. They wanted to do that not because they had been defeated at Fallujah, but rather because the Al-Qa'ida in Iraq sought to impose so extreme a version of Islam that the Sunni and secular Shia insurgents found it preferable to align themselves with the coalition rather than submit to the fanatics. The troop surge in the Baghdad area? Helpful in sorting out neighborhoods, helpful in backing up the efforts of the "Sons of Iraq," but definitely a sideshow.
Now the marines are once again following their instinct to seek a decisive battle. The Taliban in Helmand, whoever they are, have provided the marines with a satisfactory objective that can be expressed in terrain to be seized and held. The US Marine Corps is an amphibious assault force at its core. It wants to fight a decisive battle. The marine commander in Helmand is saying things that are eerily familiar from the time of Fallujah. He is saying that victory at Marja ill be decisive in that the insurgents will have no base, no redoubt area, in Iraq. We will see if that is true.
If it is not true, then it seems unlikely that the American electorate will allow the time that would be required to apply the kind of methods that did work in Iraq.
Fallujah would have been decisive if the Anbar Awakening had not occurred.
The outcome at Marja will be decisive. pl
Last night we watched the HBO film "Battle for Marjah." It is well done. The story of the marine assault into this agricultural region is well told. Nevertheless, the overall impression is one of futility. pl