Telegraphing the Marjah Left Hook Punch



We're running a story on this afternoon that reveals the next big target for Marines will be the town of Marjah, in Helmand province.

Both CJCS and top Marine general in the region Nicholson are quoted as saying Marjah is in their sights.

"We're going to go in big," Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, told reporters traveling with Mullen in Helmand. "I'm not looking for a fair fight."

"Marjah is next," Nicholson said, because if U.S. forces are going to protect Afghans from the Taliban - a key component of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's new Afghan war strategy - they need to ensure free passage throughout Afghanistan.

Part of this is clearly a psy-op, but I can see these words coming back to haunt US military leaders if the bad guys prompt a bloodbath in the town. The pre al Fajr spool up was way out in the open as well, with the US military telling Fallujans that basically they'd better leave because the hammer was about to drop.
Military officials said the battle would be designed to minimize Afghan civilian casualties, but the fight, whenever it comes, may involve house-to-house combat and other tactics that put civilians at risk. It is unclear how many true civilians remain in the town itself, although many live in the surrounding 40 miles or so of lush river- and canal-fed farmland.

Although the U.S. military clearly wants to eliminate the Taliban threat around Marjah, some of the big talk may be a deliberate attempt to mislead the insurgents about when and how the assault will come.

By openly discussing their plans for Marjah, military officials risk the possibility that the Taliban will act contrary to their plans and mount a stiff defense that could swell American casualties.

The irony is that this story comes out a day after USA Today reporter Jim Michaels' interview with 1st MARDIV commander, Maj. Gen. Richard Mills -- where Mills declares victory in Helmand.
"They've taken on the Taliban, the insurgency, right in the heartland and they've defeated them," said Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Mills in an interview with USA TODAY...

..."I see us moving away from the clear phase and moving into the hold and build" phase, Mills said.

Michaels does mention the upcoming Marjah assault in the last line of his story, but I think it's interesting to see the paralells between Ramadi/Fallujah and Marjah.

See a Map of Marjah

-- Christian

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