February 11th, 2010
07:57 AM ET

Q&A: Why Marjah, why now?

As U.S. and coalition troops, including a large Afghan force, surround the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, CNN asked two experts for their take on why this operation is important and what it means for the future of the war in Afghanistan.

Andrew Exum served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and was on Gen. Stanley McChrystal's review team of the Afghanistan strategy. His is the founder of the blog Abu Muqawama and is now with the Center for New American Security in Washington, D.C. Mark Moyar is a professor of national security affairs at the Marine Corps University and just returned from training U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

Q: Many have never even heard of Marjah – why is the area such a big deal?

Moyar: Marjah is in Helmand province where they've made a major push in the past year with the Marines. It is the last major enemy holdout, and it is serving as a sanctuary - it is allowing them to stage military attacks, build IEDs. And it is militarily imperative and also psychologically imperative that we remove this sanctuary area, make it harder for the insurgents to operate. It's much harder for them if they don't have that sanctuary area now so they can still move into sanctuaries in other places like Pakistan, but we're going to work on those as well. But this is really a big thorn in our side and one that we're clearly going to address in the near future.

Q: Why haven't coalition forces tried securing Marjah before now?

Exum: Unfortunately, when you look at our force-to-population ratios in Helmand and throughout Afghanistan really, we're not matched up to a degree where we can secure every place all the time. However, the Marines have had a lot of security gains in Helmand province over the past year, and so now it makes sense to go after Marjah at this time because we have had some gains elsewhere through that Helmand River valley.

Q: If indeed this will be a victory for NATO forces, will this be a game-changer for the whole war?

Exum: No, it's not. In Afghanistan, unfortunately, there's no silver bullet. There's no one thing that we're going to do that's going to turn the tide. What you're going to see in Afghanistan is very steady, very unglamorous offensives whereby we're moving in and trying to secure the population, to buy the Afghan government some time and space to build up key institutions. No one thing is going to be a game-changer. There is no silver bullet in Afghanistan. This is the long, hard slog of counterinsurgency, unfortunately. But so far the Marines in Helmand province have done very well over the past year since they've been deployed there.

Moyar: That's right, it is going to be a long process. These types of wars aren't going to be decided by a single battle, and we're going to have to hold this area. Even bigger than going in and clearing it out is going to be what we do afterward, because we have gone in and cleared that area several times before but we haven't had a good follow-on plan, we haven't had robust security forces, and the enemy has come back.

And I think one thing that could be significant coming out of this will be the amount of damage to the civilian population. That's a big question mark right now and something a lot people are concerned about. We don't know yet whether the enemy is going to stand and fight. We don't know how many civilians will be there. So in terms of public relations, it could be a significant event.

This interview originally aired on CNN TV's "American Morning."

Filed under: Marjah • Operation Moshtarak
soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. Sharifullah Khan

    OO American idiots! Dont send your loved-ones there. Your children will never come back from there same. Either they will loose there body parts or their lives. Americans have won nothing since 2001 in afghanistan. Afghans are born to fight and Americans can only win media war. Its a transition process for American super power to become a zero power.

    February 15, 2010 at 5:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. For Life

    Oorah Devil Dogs! Do your job, win the day, come back home – you are the best America has to offer. We understand your sacrifice and we are thankful for your service. Your success in Iraq was lost on the US liberal media – but not on the majority of the American people who love and honor you!

    February 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. vadim

    Marjah really was and is very complicated area in Helmand. I’ve read below and above about the lack of forces to clear the stronghold earlier. That’s true. I took part in operation of Soviet Forces there in 1987. That time in Lashkargah skirt was the only Soviet unit – a special forces brigade ( in fact, one SF combat battalion) and some Afghan interior troops and border guard units. Marjah always was the headache for us. Lashkargah that time was a very quite place for us and for Afghans as well – flourishing bazaars, gardens, a number of working plants, schools and colleges. But few miles away…
    Placing opposite us, at the right bank of Helmand river, this area, almost all covered with great green orchards (by the way there are no any mountains) for years was the source of regular harassing rocket fire. After decision to combat operation had made, we warning the population to move out, and Afghan troops had “clear the orchards”. Later mojaheddins (as usual) came back, but rocket fire have stopped. That time that was all we can do. But what about controlling the area – it was an impossible task – too many mojaheddins and poppy traders were there. Now, I see the power is enough to fight them, but the future seems unclear. I’m afraid the story repeats – the only way from north to south in Helmand is too crucial for Taliban. They will fight there to the end. I have no idea how many troops need to deploy there for effective controlling the area. But, who knows. God, save the soldiers’ lives…

    February 14, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mario Berardelli

    I don't think we have much choice here. Remember, they attacked us. And leaving Pakistan and Afghanistan to the Jihadists is just not reasonable. However the war is being fought for the hearts and minds of the people who live there and as long as we keep our eyes on this objective, we will be successful. In the last year we have seen the poltical situation greatly improve, especially in Pakistan. The Pakistani middle class has finally realized that they are the target of the Jihadist. Their way of life is the biggest thorn in the side of the fundementalists and I believe that this was the reason for 9/11 and everything that came after. The assassination of Benhasir Bhutto was the pivotal point in this struggle. The moment when they realized they were the ones in the crosshairs of the fundementalists. The decisions of President Obama have been a positive factor in the equation and returning the countryside to peace and security could be the coup de grace that we deliver to the Taliban and Ben Laden's minions.

    February 14, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. mael

    i completely agree with you MOBEL of PAKISTAN. this is a wrong move for the americans.

    February 14, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. mael

    can't help thinking what will happen to afghanistan after this war ends. i am not sure of this moves against them. why can't people prevent themselves using violence? this war will never end even if NATO forces had won this battle. there will be another Taliban that will rise and continue their struggles against the west. and this cannot be avoided because of the innoncent lives perished or will perish due to this non-sense war.

    February 14, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. steve poddy

    WHY are we in Afganistan?
    -WMD ?NOPE

    February 14, 2010 at 6:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mobin(Pakistan)

    The US Afghan policy is so flawed that it makes me laugh. The US first of all attacked Afghanistan to take out Osama Bin Laden, couldn't do it; let's kill the Taliban, couldn't do it; let's build democracy, couldn't do it; let's reintegrate the taliban, couldn't do it, let's kill taliban again. I mean, is this the Super Power? A power which fails to understand the very fabric of war they're fighting. A couple of days ago they wanted to "Re conciliate" with the taliban, and now they're on an all out offense? You can't kill the taliban by bombing villages, you just make ten more taliban in order to kill one. In all other conflicts the US's first strategy used to be to target infrastructure and industrial facilities that would aid the enemy in warfare, but in Afghanistan it has somehow for 9 years ignored the poppy farming and the "Democratic" warlords that the US helps get elected in Afghanistan that do it. And now they're attacking Helmand, the taliban will escape into Pakistan and then it would be our headache. The taliban can only be defeated when all poppy farming is stopped and this fake democracy is dissolved and tribal leaders given control of their own areas. All military actions should be stopped and an intelligence and local mercenary based clean out of extremists should be taking place. The longer the US stays in Afghanistan as a military force, the more the taliban will win their case against civilians.

    February 14, 2010 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
  9. Wc

    Eight more years!

    February 14, 2010 at 5:44 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ken

    We should purge Afghanistan of the Taliban and the AQI. I would like the day when Osama's head is brought on a silver platter.

    February 13, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Abed N Diaz

    I wish all our men and women from all over the world combating the Taliban all the best. They have been brutal with their own people, they deserve to be punished to the whole extent of the law. They do not care about human life, especially women and children. NATO forces need to finish the job. KEEP UP THE GOOD FIGHT. SUPPORT THE TROOPS! Abed

    February 13, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. T


    South Korea

    To the members of the military who are deployed in this fight and may read this:

    Thank you for your service and we hope you return safe.

    I am not in the military, a conservative, or happy with US policy in the middle east. But i am behind you and will vote the rest of my life to support veteran benefits and try to make sure you are honored for your service. I am sorry people have posted things here that lower morale. Please understand that people don't realize how damaging their comments can be to you.


    February 13, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cerberus

    its about time we destroyed the last taliban stronghold in that godamn country we need to go in fast and hard kill all those taliban bastards and get this operation over with

    February 13, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Broadway Blues

    You're welcome Black Serenade. Can you explain the couple of thousand Madrases in Pakistan who brainwash children to join the Jihad? Maybe you are privy to how they get their funding? Enlighten us genius. The poor Taliban given such a bad rap by our Military and CIA. The conspiracy theories that some you come up with are better suited for Area 51.

    February 13, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John

    its seems the media in the USA cant survive without having indepth looks at what there military is doing or any other piece of news that going on....indulging in mercurial pen pushing creating whys and why nots... the truth of the matter is they glorify situations out of all context to what the true relality is like on the ground... they have to write something to fill there news , time , and there internet space.. even if 90 % of what they write is only being written because its there job to fill up this space so that people read and see it on there news channel. the more succesfull there news coverage the more money they get for advertising.. so the ends does not justify the means.. and its about time people started realising what this media circus is all about ... its manipulation of situations people and time with one goal ....staying ahead of all the other media companys and creating a secure economic base in the rat race of the modern capatalistic world which we come from. i hope they are paying the the civilians they film surely that is a violation of privacy / copy right law.

    February 13, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Josh

    Its Marjeh, not Marjah.

    February 13, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  17. warmonger

    civilians is what they r worried about killing,,, they known for a week a sweep was coming,, if civilians r still there then they r taliban supporters.........period........

    February 13, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Holly D Trott

    Please research who the history of the Taliban. Also make the time to understand all the tribes in Afghanistan and their roles in seeking their freedom from the Taliban. And I should add the reason most of us have no clue to the Middle East ( a region not a political or country term) politics and why we should refer to the Arab Alliance when we speak of the politics of the region. Those of you whom insist we should not be there and should wait for them to try to enter our gates at the airports should take a close look at the region known as the herion breadbasket of Afghanistan. Does the term 'drug warloads' ring a bell with you????????
    Give me a break and look at the terrain of the region of the Helmand province and its neighboring Kandahar province. All of you complainers and Monday morning quarterbackers come up with a detailed solution and then maybe some of us will listen to you!

    And to Mike...God Speed! Thank you for being an amazing person and for putting your life on the line for us. Our prayers and love are with you.

    February 13, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  19. black serenade


    February 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Broadway Blues

    Eric don't get fooled by Taliban rhetoric. They are nothing more than a cult who twist Islamic Religion to justify their means of brutality. What they do should not be confused with any religion including Muslim. They terrorize women and children and brainwash the young to join their cause. Who said they were drug users? They are drug dealers selling opium to the west for consumption. First of all we may have been in Afghanistan since 2001 but we did not have enough boots on the ground to have control of Helmand province thanks to the previous administration. So you might say the Taliban have been in control of Helmand for all this time. Secondly you and I both know Karzai and his government is corrupt and receiving kick backs from the drug producers. Use your head. Do you think the Taliban are selling mud-pies to fund this insurgency? Just to put your conspiracy theory to rest I read much more than what main-street media has to say.

    February 13, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  21. red

    lets get real AMERICAN GUY. if you want to be ruled by religious text how about YOU move to IRAN. I am so tired of hearing that criticism against our troops is somehow akin to terrorism. When the civil war finally comes to the USA it will be the neo cons who will have to put or shut up!

    February 13, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |




    February 13, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  23. Maureen

    to #48, Mike, Keep your faith, Americans support you. Stay safe and may God bless you.

    February 13, 2010 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  24. Americanguy

    Don, Unfortunately for many people they actually believe what the mainstream media says. I believe that is where many of the knuckle headed opinions come from. Liberal news media spoon fed to infantile minds is a dangerous thing. The SILENT MAJORITY needs to be heard. SPEAK YOUR MINDS MY GOOD AMERICANS. Lets not let this country go to waste by sitting back and letting Minority opinion rule. 80% + of this country claims to be Christian... That is what this country was founded on, Conservative CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES. Again, For those who dont like it.... LEAVE. TAKE YOU AND YOUR CULTURE AND LEAVE!!! Stop trying to change our country into what you want it to be.

    February 13, 2010 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  25. Americanguy

    Marine Mom and Army Mom, God bless you and your soldiers fighting for us. I pray along with you that they all return home to their loved ones. It makes me sick to read some of the ANTI AMERICAN sentiment on these blogs but I suppose everyone gets a say. It's these Anti Americans that are destroying the true fiber of this country, from One Nation Under God to uncontrolled liberalism. These people want to bash our soldiers and our country, however these same people are using these AMERICAN RIGHTS granted to them to spew hatred toward the people and country that gave you those rights. Doesn't make much sense to me...Lets see, I have the right to FREE SPEECH... OK LET ME USE IT AGAINST THE COUNTRY AND SOLDIERS THAT GAVE IT TO ME... AND FOR ALL THE AMERICAN HATERS OUT THERE......LEAVE....GO BACK TO WHERE YOU THINK ITS BETTER. NO ONE HERE WILL MISS U. TAKE YOUR CULTURE AND ANTI AMERICAN SENTIMENT WITH YOU. GOOD BYE.. ARE YOU STILL HERE??? PROBABLY DONT HAVE ANYWHERE BETTER THAN THE GOOD OL USA TO GO DO YOU??? FIGURE IT OUT PEOPLE

    February 13, 2010 at 7:19 am | Report abuse |
  26. Neal

    One of these days and probably sooner than later, China is going to need more oil. What are they going to do? Park their cars and the transportation that supports their rapidly growing industry? Afghanistan just happens to bebetween China and the Middle East. Imagine that.

    February 13, 2010 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  27. Neal

    Almost 6 million people have been klilled in the Congo war. Can anyone explain why the people in East Asia are more important than the people in Africa? Can anyone explain why most people buy into whomever their leaders are and their approach and philosophy in foriegn policy? If we started getting our oil from the Congo, would the U.S. still stay out of that war? If we did get involved in that war, would the people on this site support our involvement there too? Why or why not?

    February 13, 2010 at 7:10 am | Report abuse |
  28. Eric

    Broadway Blues, you are just the type of person that the spin doctors of the US army are targetting. The Taliban are fudamentalist Muslims and drugs and intoxicants are "haraam" i.e. impermissable for a Muslim. The Taliban had eradicated poppy cultivation during their rule of Afghanistan. That is one of the reasons why they have been attacked because the drugs lords, in whose payroll most of the Western politicians are, complained to the might of the American empire. Ask yourself, the Western powers had a presence in Afghanistan for nine years and poppy production has increased tremendously under their watch, how come? Most of Karzai's Ministers are drug lords, how is this allowed under the Western watch. Think man, don't be duped by the American spin doctors.

    February 13, 2010 at 3:55 am | Report abuse |
  29. L.

    A planned attack is one thing – but a planned attack without a follow-up plan to sustain the fight is just spending $ and losing lives. Why are we not showing some brains in this fight instead of just braun.

    February 13, 2010 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  30. Don

    The Secret War. . .

    Here are troops are going into battle. . .Billed as the biggest battle of the 9 year Afghan War. . . I watch NBC nightly news. . . and frankly they've been too busy hyping their Olympics. . .Snow in NY and Dallas. . . .too pay any attention to our soldiers in this battle. . . Finally, tonite they mentioned it like on page 4. . .Clearly, the fine young lady skier is more important to the news than our valiant soldiers in a far off battle.

    If it is of such little interest to Americans. . . .why on earth are we putting all these men and women in harm's way. . . .

    There is zero acknowledgement of this operation by our President, our Congressman. . .when any die. . .we'll say sorry. . I don't feel proud, I feel sad.

    don in Texas

    February 12, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  31. jww

    The existance of these type of structures surely says a lot! Yes I'm talking about the picture included above. As to where your life and culture exists, it seems the occupancy of this area is void. These structures should be bulldozed and the operations of our troops should move on, (taking heed on finding out whom resides in these structures). By doing this makes people move on until we catch up with the problems.

    February 12, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Broadway Blues

    The latest CNN update states the offensive began at 4:30 EST. All escape routes have been cut by allied forces. The Taliban have two choices- surrender or die! God be with our troops.

    February 12, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  33. ryman

    Olyg has no clue what he is talking about. We have not a care in the world if those people are free or not! But I can guarantee you somebody is making alot of money or we wouldn't be there or in Iraq. Where were the weapons of mass distruction? Where is Osama? Don't know but I know where allot of oil is! Bottom line we are getting richer because of this and if we were not well then we wouldn't be there. Another thought, there is no war we can wage or anything we can do to stop terrorism. There will always be hate there will allways be anger and we can't find and kill em all. So what we are doing is simply killing more people than would be killed had we not gone there in the first place.

    February 12, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Art Adams

    The news of this offensive is not a "leak" it serves a purpose, if it did not, the media would not have it. It's exactly what was given to the media by the military media liason. Closely coordinated information control is my business, and buisness is booming! All I really wanted to say was, GOOD LUCK BOYS, wish I was going with you, I'm too damn old. GIVE 'EM HELL!!

    February 12, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Broadway Blues

    Eric opium money from the poppy fields of Helmand province is used by the Taliban to purchase weapons to kill allied forces and innocent civilians. They also use this money to bribe corrupt officials. So get your facts straight!

    February 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Mum of a Marine

    Anything said here makes no difference to anyone.
    Our troops are there, they are going into battle.
    A battle where alot will die, be maimed and everyone will be mentally changed. They are there. They need the support of everyone, even those who don't believe we should be there. Everyone...
    Everyone knows someone who knows someone who is over there or has been over in the Middle East.. Do what you can to suppor them? That might be sending letters, cards, packages etc.. .Or it might be hiring a vet. Praying is another way too.

    My 21 year old is over there. Not to fight for anyone but to fight for his buddies, his fellow Marines. That is what they do.

    Bless them all. Bless you all too. Get off your soapboxes and get on with supporting them...

    February 12, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Rob2tall

    We have to win in Afghanistan and Pakistan by eliminating the global terrorist threats in this region to statrt then on to Africa tip where pirates rule and eliminate that threat.
    Afghanistan is partly ours to blame as we have our hands in every dirty little game in town.
    We financed the holy warriors,Al Qaida,Mujhadeen,etc to repel the USSR from the region and they received training from our own CIA.
    Most do not realize that the USA built a nice infrastructure for these folks in the tops of the mountains..nice place to hide!
    Things just got out of control-we helped build a superior fighting force-then over the years pissed em off enough that they turn aginst us.
    Of course we are invading their lands for many reasons..Poppies have been a great success since Bush initially led the invasion..The poppie crop funds nations,wars,terrorism,you name it-and it has for centuries-including the pot farms..
    Its the drug capital of the world. Its also a major trade route!
    The USA is there to help control it-and once we push the Taliban out we will have greater access to the profits of trade in the region.
    As far as Obamma starting new wars-hes just making whats going on more visable-
    America has kept a blind eye policy to what out Govt does since VietNam.
    89% of you are afraid to know any truth! And would refuse to believe it if it was presented to you on a silver tray by the Queen.
    Before you jump on the anti Obama bandwagon-you have many many years of corruption in govt to peer down upon-and look in the mirror America! We allowed our govt to get us in the mess we are in!
    Afghanistan is the center of terror for the reqion-and must be liberated of the Taliban and Al Qaida out of the area Dead or Alive!

    February 12, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Eric

    This Marjah adventure/misadventure is just a PR exercise for the US/Nato army. Marjah is just a small place with no real significance and the spin doctors of the US army are making a BIG thing about it!!! This is really a non-event. The Taliban has presence in over 80% of Afghanistan and their presence is growing. What percentage of Afghanistan is Marjah?? ask yourself, don't be fooled by the American spin doctors. The only thing that will be "achieved" from this misadventure will be more American/Nato bodybags!!!

    February 12, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  39. Scott, NY

    To announce this attack serves several purposes. 1) We have seen significant backlash when unannounced plans cause civilian casualties. To announce this plan and show full cooperation with afghan forces in implementing this attack may set some minds at ease that the 'Americans' are not 'Invading' another province as well as give the civilians a chance to leave area of operations. 2)If the Taliban turn and run to hide elsewhere, as many have said will happen, this will help prove to the Afghan population that the Taliban are truly cowards who have no intention of protecting the 'Muslim Holy Land' or it's Muslim civilian population from the invading "Infidel Crusaders'.They do not fight for Muslims, they fight for money and a life that is supported by terrorist leaders, it's a job. 3) They may consider it an insult to them to announce that we will be taking this city and there is nothing they can do about it, leaving them with option #2 above, or to stay and fight out of pride/representation of a terror group that claims to be the strongest and best hope for the holy land. This may provide a very large number of targets, thereby leaving the coalition an opportunity to engage and destroy these groups in large numbers, which has previously proven difficult to do. Announcing this action leaves the reputation of the Taliban in that area in their own hands, their reaction will dictate the outcome of their future in that area, success is not always measured by body count.

    February 12, 2010 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  40. red

    it is the same imperial elitist war that has been waged since the beginning of the creation of the united states. the united states wants to assert control over the middle east and killing civilians seems to be a necessary circumstance for obama. god bless the insurgency.

    February 12, 2010 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  41. Donna

    To all the readers who have family members in Afghanistan, please know that despite all the disparaging remarks from some easy-chair soldiers here, there are some people who follow what is going on and know these men and women and their families are sacrificing more than most people will ever understand. All of our military personnel deserve the respect of support from all Americans whether or not these Americans believe in the necessity of the war. The single best thing for all Americans to do for our men and women in harms way is to show our support in any way we can. That support lifts the morale of the military living and working in extremely tough conditions. Americans need to keep in mind that a feeling of support and appreciation always lifts the spirit and determination of the military and each of us should find a way to show that support whether it's sending care packages to person we have never met or sitting down and writing a letter to someone who may never get mail, these things make a huge difference to our military personnel. If you want our military to be successful, hold your negative comments and get involved with supporting our military.

    February 11, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |

    1 low yield nuke and the battle is over. No troops get hurt, free parking lot established.

    February 11, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Wild Bill

    firebomb the poppies; that'll do more good and less harm to our forces.

    February 11, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Steven

    Marine Mom–I pray that NO ONE–American and non-American–is killed in war.

    February 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  45. Marine mom

    For Sean, #39, ".....look at the teabaggers. Where were they for the previous 8 years?"

    Sean, some teabaggers were watching their sons become Marines and getting angrier by the day. I think it takes time for a true grassroots movement to ignite but when we do – watch out. Democrat or Republican – we will not support you just because of the letter before your name. Sean, I'm sure you think "teabagger" is an insult. I call it an honor. You're drinking the kool-aid and your opinion about the movement mimics that of your follywood idols.

    February 11, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  46. Broadway Blues

    According to the reports I read on Google World News, The Taliban are digging in and setting up road side bombs. I'm hoping the generals are smart enough to position troops to the south of town and block the cowards from running back to Pakistan only to fight another day. Speaking of Pakistan, they are next. The extremist have their eyes on those nukes and will assassinate the leadership of Pakistan. We are already heading in that direction and it won't be long till we see troops on the ground in Pakistan. Although I like the way Obama is handling the war, I don't see us out of Afghanistan next year.

    February 11, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  47. Caleb

    I dont anticipate this will be THAT tough of a fight. This isnt Anbar province in Iraq. I would even say Iraq had a larger Al-Qaeda presence than Afghanistan does at this point.

    These Taliban are going to run like the wind from this fight with only some hardcore fighters remaining to their death. Funny how they like to talk tough and then at the first sight of a Stryker they run for the hills.

    Get in there and clear it out and get the development teams in there. That is what will win this war......showing the people that we are there for them and not to just kill as many people as possible.

    We saw the path to success in Iraq and Obama is smart in repeating Bush's strategy.......surge, take, hold, develop. Lets do it.

    February 11, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  48. Reality Check

    Am I missing something. Looking at the picture above one must ask how much of a stronghold could this place really be. "Invite" the indigenous freedom loving citizens to leave/evacuate and carpet bomb the town and surrounding areas with a combination of high explosive/incendiary/GRB/thermobaric bombs dropped high altitude strategic bombers launched from Diego Garcia. Why are we wasting American lives and treasure over a place like this? I believe it was General Curtis Lemay who once suggested "Lets bomb them into the stone age". I would suggest we stop wasting our time and do the same with this place.

    February 11, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  49. Eric

    Iraq? Afghanistan? Korea? Haiti? Where is the evidence that we are successful as nation builders? We can't even pacify and democratize Mexico. Name one country you'd rather be living in that the US has "made democratic". Go ahead, name one.

    February 11, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  50. Marine mom

    As the mother of a Marine poised to head into Marjah, I can only hope that all those offering their opinions on this operation are also on their knees praying for the safety of our troops. I realize that they announced this operation in order to get civilians to leave the town. We also know that the enemy has a vested interest in keeping them there. Our children will suffer greater danger in order to avoid the loss of innocent life. Like Lorre said, our precious children are "deciding to walk into hell". They need a nations' prayers and support. A big part of my heart is on the other side of the world in a very scary place. I know there are other military families feeling the same way about their loved ones. Please take the time to pray for them. God bless them all.

    February 11, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  51. Rene

    I do not understand those who tell us not to put the military in harm's way. They make us much sense as those who join the military and then complain when they are called to act like soldiers. The military is essential for any country. Can we solve all the world's problems? No we cannot. However, we cannot isolate ourselves from the world. We can be a force for good. Ideally it would be nice if talking would solve all of our problems but it does not. Unfortunately sometimes bloodshed is the only solution and when that time comes a military is needed.

    February 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  52. Army Mom

    I would like to thank jm, My Son is one of the thousands of American Soilders fighting this War. Also as for lou, you are correct, BUT if it wasn't for American Soilders like my Son We would not have the FREEDOM OF BEING AN AMERICAN.

    February 11, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  53. Mike

    I am sitting in Afghanistan right now reading all of these harsh comments geared toward our troops. Believe it or not we do have access to CNN.com in Afghanistan. When we read your ridiculous comments it lowers our morale quite a bit and generally makes us less effective. It is kind of like being the home team and being "boo'd" by the home crowd. If you dont support the war at lest support "our" efforts. I am not complaining because I am here, I do not have a problem with that. But what I do have a problem with is people that have to comment on topics they know nothing about.

    February 11, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  54. jfeeney

    These gorillas always throw their new recrutes at us. If we announce to all the world that we are coming in, then the real baddies just run off and leave the new recrutes to be martyers. No, in order to have an impact, you have to be more brutal than they are. If we kept our mouths shut, and just invade one snowy night in the middle of a snow storm, you would kill and capture most of the leadership as well as the recrutes. I hate so sound like a Bush fool, but you do have to have some form of secrecy as to what your next move is. Also when the toen is invaded, it must be completely surounded first, lest the leaders sneek away. If we are going to win this war, we are going to have to be smarter than this. This sounds like more Pentagon arragance, and the terrorists are using our arragance against us.

    February 11, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  55. Mustanger '71-'91

    Don't panic, America. Am confidant that USMC trainers have impressed upon Afghan troops the two most important commands & the only ones truly needed for this seige:
    1) FIRE!
    2) Cease Fire.

    February 11, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  56. Steve

    Civilian casualties due to NATO actions have already soured the Afghan public on our war against the Taliban. Announcing the upcoming attack is an attempt to reduce the civilian casualties and demonstrate sensativity to Afghan concerns. Unfortunately, there's nowhere for the civians to go, so the latest advice from our commanders is that they stay indoors.

    When the only tool in your tool box is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The entire US diplomatic core doesn't have enough people to staff one aircraft carrier.

    Military force is the answer. Uh, what was the question?

    February 11, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  57. Steven

    Benswa–you're right; these guys are ordered to fight–but they weren't drafted into the armed forces–they volunteered. Be careful what you ask for in life–you'll get it everytime.

    February 11, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  58. olyg

    This is war. There are casualties. I know these demons hold families against their will and threaten them daily. It is awful that innocent people must die – anywhere. But at some point, the Afghan, Irapi and Iranian people will have to take a stand against the filth that lives among them, and in some cases live amongst or rule them. This enemy is cowardice. They are not military by traditional means. I think the world has had time to see this as an absolute fact. We must go in and kill t he snakes – and innocent people will die. As long as they try to kill us – we will, and should, do so. As long as they dictate death and rehtoric to a false God and play it against the ignorance of their own people – there will be snakes. And we are going to start cutting off their heads – no pun intended.

    Have a Muslim faith – fine. You are entitled to that. You are not entitled to FORCE people to believe as you do. And if your Koran, indeed your beliefs, dicatate death to people who do not believe like you do – you worship Satan – NOT God.

    Americans want to be left alone – and to FREE the people bound by this misery that exists in the Middel East – BECAUSE THE PEOPLE WANT IT. We will fight for THEIR freedom – even to our deaths. That is why we are AMerican. To die – so YOU can choose your opwn path in life. Uprise against this filth and you will see them flee into the hills with the other coyotes. Then hunt them down and kill them – because they will continue to try and do so to ALL of us.

    February 11, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  59. Mike

    Silly people! The war is lost in Afghanistan and was lost from day one. Most of the Taliban grew up up and lives in Afghanistan and very few are foreigners. To rid Afghanistan of the Taliban would be to slaughter Afghan citizens. How many enemies do you think you make when you kill one person? Second, bringing democracy at the barrel of a gun is contradictory. They will smile to your face with a gun pointed at them, but shoot you in the back when you are walking away. We are just trying to figure out how to get out of there and save face.....

    February 11, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  60. Mike

    From what I've read in other articles, there is real concern for civilian safety. Since Marjah is a city of 80,000 people and unable to leave because of the Taliban, avoidance of civilian casulty is very important to the mission. Civilain casualty is great tool for the Taliban even though NATO forces may not be responsible.

    February 11, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  61. madmatt

    The only reason the US military is stillin Afghanistan is to facilitate the building of a pipeline for the oil industry. Dead soldiers and dead afghans are just a small price to pay for exxon to be able to save a couple bucks. Its why Karzai is supported, he is an oil guy and will do whatever the US tells him to do.

    February 11, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  62. Sean Phillips

    Lou: 'sean, perhaps those of us from the 'nam era need to get together and have another 'nam vets against the war(s) march in order to get the reptiles in DC to stop this type of insanity once and for all. count me in. Navy corpsman '66-70.' I totally agree, but we live in a society split along party lines where each side is only interested in scoring meaningless brownie points. The Dem's are spineless and fold like a cheap suit when the GOP are in power, and the GOP only cares about big business like KBR, etc. I remember when the Dem's wanted a timeline for our troops to leave Iraq, added to any additional funding. They gave in because they were portrayed as being un-American and then GWB signed a new status of forces agreement (SOFA) the month before leaving office, giving us an 18 months extension of 'combat' troops and a timetable to withdraw and needless to say at that time, Obama was trying to save our failing economy and didn't make hay out of it. There's nothing we can do anymore to stop this madness. The average American only cares about their own little lives, and could care less about the suffering of others. Just look at the teabaggers? Where were they for the previous 8 years, while our nations debt doubled?

    February 11, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  63. Richard

    Some one named Henry said we've lost all the battles since WW2. Henry I can't think of any battles we lost. If you meant an entire war, even that is debatable. You see, Henry it's obvious that you've not served your Country, nor do you understand why we fight. Regardless if it's good war politics, we win almost every battle and most wars. It's folks like you that whine enough to make us all fed up. We will win and have won all battles in Afganistan, but we might just get fed up before and leave. After all our freedom and all peoples freedoms are not important to Henry. Henry, hopefully is an American but his ignorance is not his fault. He lives in a free country but does not have the stomach to defend it. Say bye Henry.....

    February 11, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  64. ken

    The Art of War.
    "It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten
    to the enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one,
    to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army
    into two.

    If equally matched, we can offer battle;
    if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy;
    if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him."

    Thanks to all the news now the enemy knows what to do...

    February 11, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  65. lou

    sean, perhaps those of us from the 'nam era need to get together and have another 'nam vets against the war(s) march in order to get the reptiles in DC to stop this type of insanity onmce and for all. count me in. Navy crpsman '66-70.

    February 11, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  66. Lorre

    Yes, the Russians gave up. But, they spent 3, nearly 4 years, standing up 300K security forces, so that the puppet govt. that they left behind could survive, prior to pulling out. That puppet failed because of funding. Money. We may make some of the same errors that the Russians made, but we need not make that same critical error. When we leave, we must continue to support and fund the folks that we leave behind. Say a prayer today for our forces as they approach their baptism of fire. It should make you feel sick to your stomach to know what a test each of our guys will face over the coming days. This will not be like fighting their way out of an ambush, sudden, unexpected, reactionary. This will be like DECIDING to walk into hell. God bless and protect each and every one.

    February 11, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  67. Sean Phillips

    As a 2 tour DAV Viet Vet, I find this war another useless adventure. We went for one reason being 9/11, and morphed it again into another nation building projest. This country isn't even a 3rd world country, they're living in the stone age. Where do we go next, Yemen, Samalia, Iran, etc. What on earth is our objective? It started out the enemy of my enemy, is my friend. So, we gave Iraq weapons in the 80's and we gave the freedom fighters the Taliban stingers to shoot down Soviet Hind choppers in the 80's. Same old story and it appears, we'll never learn from past mistakes. We could've at least got oil out of the deal in Iraq! But, thousands of lives later and a trillion dollars, we have nothing to show for either war. We eliminated a bitter enemy of Iran, and replaced it with a weak and corrupt Shiite gov't that'll just make Iran a stronger regional player.

    February 11, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  68. narrator

    So this is military intelligence, announce your invasion so that the enemy can flee and fight another day. In the mean time they leave behind a few land mines and suicide bombers to kill soldiers and citizens. After they invade Marjah are they going to go door to door and take a census handing out food and small business loans. Like I've said before take away Pakistan's nuclear weapons and you remove the main objective of the Taliban. Why not try this experiment. What does Pakistan have to loose? The Cold War is over.

    February 11, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  69. lou

    jm. the soldiers wouldn't be facing dangers if we stopped sending them in harms way for pointless causes. DOH!

    February 11, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  70. jm

    When all of you Monday morning quarterbacks are done criticizing what is going on, you might want to think about the dangers the soldiers are facing, the lives being shed and the families back home who are worried sick about them. If it wasn't for this country's military, you wouldn't be able to voice your opinions. Yes, you have the freedom to state your opinions - all Americans do. However, when you are done, how about thanking the next soldier you see for allowing you to continue to do so.

    February 11, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  71. Benswa

    I don't like the guy who called the US "idots". Who are you? The Sultan of Afghanistan?
    You should be praying for our US troops. Everywhere they go, they are in danger. Don't forget, the majority of them did not ask to go there. They are ordered there and risk their lives for us. Literally risk their lives. Would you? Would your Homies? Some of the best of our country are serving in the military. It's usually the lower economical class of our country who can't afford a college education who wind up in combat. Not always, but usually. How many Senators and Congressional sons and daughters are serving? How many college students are serving? Silence.

    February 11, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  72. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    There may be a blood bath but I pray for our brave men and women.

    February 11, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  73. PR

    Most people commenting on announcing this attack have no clue what our strategy is now. go read up people! its to win over the people in hopes that they will stand up for themselves with us against the taliban. Giving them notice gives the innocent people time to get out of there or atleast avoid being outside during the attack so civilian casualties are as low as possible. Or we could go in there and blow everything to hell and kill tons of innocents hence ruining our current strategy.

    February 11, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  74. military mom

    As a mother of a soldier, not knowing where your child is can be heart breaking.But knowing he is there now. And knowing he believes what he is doing can make a difference I can feel the pride in his voice. And that alone will get me through another day. I want my baby home, but he is there. So please help and support them and those that are home missing them.

    February 11, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  75. TimL

    Many have commented that the US forces are stupid to let their intentions known, however perhaps they are "Rabbit Hunting". That being surround an area, then "kick the bushes" and see what comes out.

    February 11, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  76. PR

    @ aquib. I'm pretty sure after fighting the taliban for years the Army knows what it's doing for the most part. And if you are going to refer to the troops as "US idiots" maybe you should learn to spell and use proper English before calling anyone an "idiot".

    February 11, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  77. SGT Wahl, Andrew

    If you look back in time we have done this before in Operation Mar Karardad. I was there we did a very similar thing to this. The only difference is that the press coveage was not as much. They made it look like the Afghan Army did all the work to take it even though we (ISAF forces) I was in 1/508th PIR, Fort bragg) Had 72 hours non stop engagements before we finally took the area, which was littered with mine, bunkers, and trenches. The Taliban know how to fight very well and have a very large foreign force working in their ranks. Chech fighters being the most feared. If you look we have been hitting the Helmand River Valley for a long time. Sangin, Kajaki, Lashkar gah, Musa Qalah... Now the Marines are going to finish it off in Marjah... Gods Speed men. Strike fast and kick ass!

    February 11, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  78. Jessica

    "Since stealth isn't so much an option, we employ fear and intimidation, I can assure you that the weak kneed and less committed Talib's are already fleeing the playground ahead of this weeks scheduled kick off, which is what our generals are hoping for."

    CS – I guess from a tactical perspective, how does it make any sense to "scare them off" – they arent abandoning the taliban. just moving to a safer space.

    Am I missing a crucial piece of this puzzle that makes this strategy – long term – successful?

    February 11, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  79. hoorah

    JO-do you even know what the hell you're talking about? Operation Moshtarak (the operation this article is talking about) is the 1st major offensive that has been made widely public since the campaign here began. We know the Taliban are not going to leave. Publicizing this is a tactic to minimize civilian losses. Afterall, the contingencies within this war will go a lot more smootly if the Afghan people are on our side.....THAT's the objective. So before you jump to conclusions with what's going on over here I suggest you do your research. Let us handle the rest.

    February 11, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  80. Jessica

    There is no VICTORY in afghanistan, we are fighting a force that is not an army, does not "stay put" – but rather moves before we come, so then we kill civilians and get more afghans to oppose us. If we stay there to secure it, they will just ambush us. If we leave, they will just return to whatever they were doing before (as noted, they've cleared this area several times before).

    Their whole game plan is simply to outlast us – to drain us of resources, people and money.

    They arent interested in "battling us"...

    February 11, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  81. Mark

    My 20 year old son is a US Marine and will likely be involved in the assault. It has been agonizing reading about this operation over the last month. In past military campaigns, the element of surprise has been a valuable strategy. I am concerned that this new stratgy places our brave Marines and Soldiiers at greater risk. My hope is that with superior training and overwhelming force casualties will me minimized. I pray that htis strategy will be successful and that Marjah will quickly join the list of cities and towns in Helmand Province that are turning the corner under the protection of NATO and Afghan forces.

    February 11, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  82. pravin

    It would be smarter to combine the Marjah pustch with a blockade of the exit routes from Marjah into Baluchistan across the border in Pakistan.. because, rather than face a frontal assault, these guerilla fighters will simply fold their tent, pick up their IED marbles, and melt away... the advance notice has given them ample opportunity to disperse..

    February 11, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  83. Brandon

    Here's another great example of media propaganda. A list of reasons to continue to support war in Afghanistan.

    When we begin to unplug from mass media, their whole story falls apart.

    The time for compassionate change on planet Earth is now. War is not the answer. The US is not a God-appointed world superpower. We are all humans. Out of the Middle East NOW!

    February 11, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  84. Henry

    Two choices really do make sense, either
    1) Untie hands and legs of our military and let them go and do the jobs that they are trained for, or
    2) Call our entire troop home, with honor.
    Anything in between is simply politic.

    The reason our military lose almost every battles after the World Wars is because the “political correctness” element imposed upon our generals and solders in the battle fields ever since!

    February 11, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  85. John Murphy

    The wars keep expanding under Obama......not only are there 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan but now we're into Yemen. Meanwhile Al Qaeda is securing Somalia.....in other words, they're always one step ahead of Obama.

    Russia eventually gave up in Afghanistan and went home with its tail between its legs...we will eventually follow since Afghanistan cannot be secured and has not been in 1,000 years.

    February 11, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  86. lou

    bernie, you're right. all any of the mideast is is a black hole sucking away lives, money, and spirit. pull out, let them find their own destiny, and (ala teddy roosevelt) smack the crap out them when they transgress. all you war cowboys need to read history. there's never been a successful outcome to fighting guerrillas in a conventional manner. let's use our resources wisely from our borders, and handle terrorism case by case.

    February 11, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  87. RYP

    "It is the last major enemy holdout"

    Wouldn't that be nice. Kunduz is up next, the entire East, Southern border and anywhere else the taliban choose as their "last stand" Then of course there is Western Pakistan, Northern Yemen and most of Somalia?

    Please. Even the COINdanistas all agree it takes ten to 15 years to subdue an insurgency.

    February 11, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  88. Michael

    What a dump. Get out of there. Let the US stop terrorists at the ticket counters. Flying is a privilage, not a right. Take that away from them into the US and we could have less problems.....then think about port security.

    February 11, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  89. Arnie

    This will not be the first time coalition forces have operated in Marjah. In May 2009 they attacked and secured a single bazaar in Marjah, an operation which yielded almost a hundred tons of narcotics, and a bunch of explosive making material, and killed 60 bad guys. That single bazaar took a few days to secure and hold, securing and holding the entire city will be a formidable task, but an important one for sure.


    Governor Mangal has put forth some great initiatives in Helmand, he simply needs the security and breathing room to make them effective.

    February 11, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  90. Muhammad

    Just a suggestion, before Marines starts pushing insurgents so called Taliban here out of Marjah, they need to place force along the Afghan-Pak border to not allow a safe escape rout for them. This will end up capturing maximum of them, that shall help intelligence in mapping out there cross-border bases. Then go blow up those bases and finally end this f**king game.

    February 11, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  91. An old vet

    This is one of the reasons I am proud to be an American.Helping set people free and protecting ours.
    God be with these young brave men and good luck

    February 11, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  92. cs

    So JO above thinks he's smarter than the field commanders who have purposely decided to announce their intentions to the media and the enemy and as if the Taliban aren't watching our marines and troops gear up for the assault. There can be no secret's in the desert when you're talking about a multi-thousand person assault.

    I agree there's plenty of crap loaded into this conflict and that the arms dealers and weapons manufacturers are the only real winners so far BUT, as a combat vet familiar with the region I can assure everyone that the Taliban watch our bases, watch us roll in and watch us roll out and know we're coming well in advance of our arrival.

    Since stealth isn't so much an option, we employ fear and intimidation, I can assure you that the weak kneed and less committed Talib's are already fleeing the playground ahead of this weeks scheduled kick off, which is what our generals are hoping for.

    February 11, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  93. Tom

    so um ah uh – When you going to find Osama ????????????????????????????

    February 11, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  94. Bernie

    Let get out of this s***hole as quickly as possible. To think that spending more time there is going to make the U.S. safer from attacks is just stupid. As proved by the underwear bomber, they just move elsewhere or recruit from elsewhere. Are we going to keep invading every country they send attackers from?

    February 11, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  95. ERin

    I agree there was plenty of notice given for civilians to flee and that this is something that needs to happen so that we can do what we need to do and get out of there, But knowing my nephew is going to marjah very soon my heart aches not just for him but for all of the U.S troops I know this is what they signed up for and believe you me my nephew is more then proud to serve his country, Again lets just get this all over with quickly and safely.

    February 11, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  96. aqib

    they were always gorilla fighters... they are not waiting for US idiots to come and fight wit them... US will go, invade and stay... STAY thats when these will come down from mountains and attack US... this is what they have been doing all the time...

    US army stilll dont understand they are not dealing with an army... its Gorilla warfare... same as Vietnam 😛

    February 11, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  97. Danram

    The biggest mistake (among many) that Donald Rumsfeld and his people made in Iraq was not going in with enough troops to hold and secure the country. He was warned by many experts, including people like John McCain, that his "lighter, meaner" force simply wasn't big enough. But he butt-headedly insisted that doing it his way would work. The price for his stupidity was high. Thankfully, it seems as if we've finally learned the lesson that while a "smaller, leaner" military might be able to win wars, it will always take boots on the ground to truly establish and secure the peace.

    February 11, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  98. Henry in WV

    It's not amazing to me that most Americans haven't heard of Marjah .If you asked the average non-Ph.D non-foreign policy expert to name 5 cities in Afghanistan ,I doubt they
    could do it. Helmand province is crucial to our success because of it's geographic and political location. It isn't just that it's the last Taliban Stronghold in Afghanistan ;it's also
    adjacent to Pakistan where the Taliban has support also.If NATO could drive the Taliban out of Helmand Province they can probably secure Kandahar Province and be back within several years.

    February 11, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  99. jo

    were giing them plenty of notice of our attack plans so they can run and hide somewhere else. what a load of crap lets announce our attacks before we launch them. morons this is why this thing is draging on forever and will the only ones profiting are the arms dealers

    February 11, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  100. Anon

    It's about time. Take away their ability to hide, increase border security, work on the corruption within the Government, and we will have made strides towards making Afghanistan a more peaceful country.

    February 11, 2010 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |