Officials had previously talked of the NATO invasion of Kandahar Province as something happening in late spring or early summer. Using the Marjah offensive as a guide, a massive number of US and allied troops would invade Kandahar city and the surrounding region.
But something changed at some point, and according to Gen. Stanley McChrystal that plan has been shelved in favor of a steady escalation over “the weeks and months ahead.” Beyond that, he says, the offensive has already begun.
In part this may be the result of increased Taliban aggressiveness in Kandahar, with weekend blasts in the city killing at least 35 people and injuring another 57. The Taliban has said the attacks are a warning to NATO.
The blasts have led President Karzai to conclude that he needs to send additional security forces to Kandahar. Though the Taliban seemed contented to let the threatened offensive against the sparsely populated farming community of Marjah just happen, Kandahar’s size and importance likely means they are unwilling to just sit idly by while NATO masses troops.
But with months of escalation ahead, McChrystal was unwilling to project when the pledged conquest of Kandahar would be complete. In the meantime it seems the residents of one of Afghanistan’s most populous cities will be living in the midst of an ever-growing military offensive.
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