Thursday, February 4, 2010
In an unusual tactic, allies in Afghanistan issue statement describing attack plan in Helmand in a bid to intimidate Taliban
In a rare break from traditional military secrecy, the U.S. and its allies are announcing the precise target of their first big offensive of the Afghanistan surge in an apparent bid to intimidate the Taliban.
Coalition officers have been hinting aloud for months that they plan to send an overwhelming Afghan, British and U.S. force to clear insurgents from the town of Marjah and surrounding areas in Helmand province, and this week the allies took the unusual step of issuing a press release saying the attack was "due to commence".
Senior Afghan officials went so far as to hold a news conference Tuesday to discuss the offensive, although the allies have been careful not to publicize the specific date or details of the attack.
"If we went in there one night and all the insurgents were gone and we didn't have to fire a shot, that would be a success," a coalition spokesman, Col. Wayne Shanks, said before the announcement. "I don't think there has been a mistake in letting people know we're planning on coming in."
The risks could be substantial, however. By surrendering the element of surprise, the coalition has given its enemy time to dig entrenched fighting positions and tunnel networks. Perhaps worse for the attacking infantrymen, the insurgents have had time to booby-trap buildings and bury bombs along paths, roads and irrigated fields. Such hidden devices inflict the majority of U.S. and allied casualties.
Over the past few months, the new allied commander in southern Afghanistan, British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, has revamped NATO's coalition strategy in a region that is home to the Pashtun tribes and opium poppy fields that form the ethnic and financial foundations of the Taliban insurgency.
With the first of 30,000 new U.S. troops already on the ground in Afghanistan, Gen. Carter's plan is to focus on two population centers—Kandahar city, in Kandahar province, and central Helmand province to the west. Combined, they are home to about two million of the estimated three million residents of southern Afghanistan.
Still, the military has taken an unusual step by broadcasting its imminent intention to assault a particular town, Marjah, and its environs. During World War II, civilians and servicemen were frequently reminded that "Loose lips sink ships" and "Enemy ears are listening." For months leading up to the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, the Allies went to great lengths to disguise their target.
For the full report click here here for the Wall Street Journal