Marines Advertise Looming Offensive on Marja

#1
Marines Advertise Looming Offensive on Marja
Marines Hope Warning of Coming Attack Convinces Some Taliban to Leave
By MIGUEL MARQUEZ

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan Feb. 4, 2010—

Marines have been advertising their intent to go into Marja and take it away from the Taliban for months. The beat of those drums has grown faster and stronger in recent days prompting many to ask, why tip one's hand to the enemy?

Brigadier Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, has a pretty simple answer. "Where else would we go? It's the only place left in the Marine area of operation that we're not in."

Speaking to a small group of reporters in a dusty corner of his headquarters at Camp Leatherneck situated in the middle of Helmand Province, Nicholson emphasized that there's really no reason not to let the insurgents know that Marines, U.S. Army soldiers, British, French and the largest contingent of Afghan forces ever are coming.

They have even released the name of the offensive, Operation Moshtarak, a Pashto and Dari word meaning joint operation.

Until now U.S. and Afghan military officials believed they didn't have the forces to effect the sort of change they were hoping for in the central Helmand town. Now with the addition of forces ordered up by President Obama, the confidence in their mission and ability to carry it out is palpable.

"We are coming," said Nicholson. "Deal with it. Could be easy or could be hard, but we are coming."

Click here for a map of the area where Operation Moshtarak will take place.

The muscular talk and crystal clear intention is already paying dividends says Nicholson.

"From that position of strength people have been coming out of Marja to talk to us," he said.

Marines say since they made their intention clear beginning last November they have held dozens of meetings with elders from Marja.

"Because of the inevitability of the operation, people have decided that they want to talk. There's a lot of influential people, people of import or businessmen. They don't want to be on the wrong side of this thing when it flips," Nicholson said.

The full throttle approach raises concerns about the possibility for civilian casualties. The area Marines will be operating in is home to as many as 125,000 people. It is densely populated and urban.

Major Gen. Nick Carter, commander of Regional Command South, says civilians will be fine if they just stay inside. "What we hope to see happen here is that population, metaphorically speaking, shuts their front doors, stays put until the forces of the government have control over the areas that have got to be controlled."

Marines Hope That Advertising Coming Offensive Will Lower Civilian Casualties

Nicholson underscored the point saying a heavy handed approach will reduce the chance for civilian casualties.

"Our feeling is if you go big, strong and fast, you lessen the possibility of civilian casualties as opposed to a slow methodical rolling assault. You go in and you dominate. You overwhelm the enemy," he said.

There's another good reason to advertise the coming offensive: the Marines would prefer it if the Taliban simply left.

Given the goals of counter-insurgency operations to bloody and weaken one's enemies while protecting civilian populations, Marines would rather establish control of Marja and raise the Afghan flag at it's town hall without ever firing a shot.

Since Marines now enjoy such overwhelming force in Helmand they can afford to secure a town and allow the nacsent local, district, provincial and national government structures to grow. Insurgents would be in the unenviable position of having to fight their way back into the city, a much harder task.

When the fight for this small but strategically important area of central Helmand Province kicks off is still subject to debate, but Marines here give every indication they'll take Marja sooner than later. It's a promise Marines have made before in places like Now Zad, Garmsir and Nawa. So far they've kept all their promises.

http://abcnews.go.com/International...surprise-coming-attack-marja/story?id=9747065
And this about the anticipated fight:

Afghanistan: Marines Gear Up for Biggest Fight Yet
The Biggest Test Yet for President Obama's Surge of Troops Into Afghanistan
By MIGUEL MARQUEZ

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Feb. 3, 2010 —

The city of Marja will be the biggest test yet for President Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan. Thousands of U.S. Marines, soldiers, Afghan security forces and international forces are planning to oust hard-core insurgents from their last big refuge in Helmand Province.

There are about 15,000 Marines in Helmand, about 4,000 of them arriving since Obama called for an increase in troops in December, Marine Col. George Amland, deputy commander in Afghanistan, said.

The Marines in Marja are "the leading edge of the president's surge force," he said.

Marines in Marja could face the biggest number of hard-core insurgents yet. An estimated 400 to 1,000 Marines may stay and fight.

Marja and the surrounding area, with an estimated population of 125,000, are more heavily populated, urban and dense than other places Marines have so far been able to clear and hold. Vast quantities of opium are produced in the center of the Helmand River Valley. Profits from drug sales often fund insurgent operations.

A large contingent of Marines moved into Now Zad in northern Helmand Province in December. They were able to quickly rout enemies and take full control of the village. Now Zad had been a ghost town before Marines moved in. The once-thriving market community is now beginning to return to life, with shops and schools opening for the first time in years.

Life is returning to normal in Garmsir and Nawa after Marines cleared the towns last summer. Another encouraging sign for Marines is that intelligence from locals has grown significantly since they took the towns. More residents are telling Marines whom to look out for, where bombs are being planted and, in some cases, even pointing out exact locations.

A major difference between the latest strategy in Marja and earlier operations is that there will be many more Afghan soldiers and police; about two Marines for every Afghan in the field, commander Amland said.

"It will be a joint Afghan army, police, U.S. Marines and ISAF forces [International Security Assistance Force] operation led by Afghans," Afghan defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi told reporters in Kabul today.

The ratio was about 10-1 in July's offensive in Kanjar.

Marines Confident They Will Win the Fight for Marja

Amland said he is confident that Marines "are going to gain control" of Marja and then change the dynamic that exists there today. The Taliban is the closest thing Marja has to a government. The town is a no-go area for U.S. troops and Afghan security forces alike.

In the past several days, when Marine units moved close to Marja, they came under hostile fire or encountered homemade bombs. They say that while they've been able to degrade the quality of bombs or improvised explosive devices, there are still thousands of them out there, in large part targeting foot patrols.

Although Marines are expecting the fight for Marja to be "fast and furious," what comes after will define the mission, Amland said. In the weeks and months ahead, Marines will try to replicate what they have done in other towns throughout Helmand Province, he added.

Initially, Marines will move in with force but will quickly work to develop links with locals and begin providing services funnelled through Afghan security forces and government entities.

"We are going to go with the Afghan national security forces [to] clear, hold and build and deliver alternatives for all the Afghans," NATO spokesman Eric Tremblay told journalists.

If the plan is successful, Marines expect Marja, in a matter of months, to become another island of security and progress in Helmand.

Marines say they have not reached the tipping point yet for Helmand but are confident that if they deny the Taliban safe havens and re-build communities one at a time, the entire province will eventually move away from Taliban control allowing the government of Afghanistan to exert its influence.

The United States has said it will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in July 2011.
http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=9734858
 
#2
Think I read something about this place 'being the expected area of a large offensive soon' on the 'USMC casualties provoke...' press release thread. Struck me as being a la Para Bn in Falklands having their intentions given away but I'm surprised it's intentionally been put out there, at least unless this is all a hoax.

Well, best of luck to the USMC with their next big job.
 
#3
Voltiguer said:
Think I read something about this place 'being the expected area of a large offensive soon' on the 'USMC casualties provoke...' press release thread. Struck me as being a la Para Bn in Falklands having their intentions given away but I'm surprised it's intentionally been put out there, at least unless this is all a hoax.

Well, best of luck to the USMC with their next big job.
Nah, Psy-ops. It's a gambit to make all the weaker willed, cash motivated insurgents decide to leg it.

I smirked a little at the thought of the locals, "just staying behind closed doors and being alright". Yep, when the CAS comes calling just don't answer the knock on the ceiling, you'll be cushty.
 
#4
bluntslane said:
Voltiguer said:
Think I read something about this place 'being the expected area of a large offensive soon' on the 'USMC casualties provoke...' press release thread. Struck me as being a la Para Bn in Falklands having their intentions given away but I'm surprised it's intentionally been put out there, at least unless this is all a hoax.

Well, best of luck to the USMC with their next big job.
Nah, Psy-ops. It's a gambit to make all the weaker willed, cash motivated insurgents decide to leg it.

I smirked a little at the thought of the locals, "just staying behind closed doors and being alright". Yep, when the CAS comes calling just don't answer the knock on the ceiling, you'll be cushty.
I guess thats what I meant by 'hoax', disinformation or misinformation. Could equally be a feint to try and concentrate hardliners in this town I thought. Anyhow, somethings afoot, whatever it is hopefully they pull it off.
 
#6
jumpinjarhead said:
Marines Advertise Looming Offensive on Marja
Marines Hope Warning of Coming Attack Convinces Some Taliban to Leave
By MIGUEL MARQUEZ


Life is returning to normal in Garmsir and Nawa after Marines cleared the towns last summer. Another encouraging sign for Marines is that intelligence from locals has grown significantly since they took the towns. More residents are telling Marines whom to look out for, where bombs are being planted and, in some cases, even pointing out exact locations.
Marines cleared the towns, eh? Anyone care to ask the QDG if that's true - Life there was pretty stable before the USMC arrived.
 

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