Thousands of US Marines launched a massive offensive into the villages of the Helmand River Valley, which they intend to purge of all insurgents before the August 20 presidential election. Military officials describe the offensive as the first major operation of the Obama Administration’s revamped strategy. Helmand’s governor has reportedly predicted the offensive will be a success.
Besides the large number of troops involved in the attack, officials say the operation is set apart from previous ones in that they intend to remain in the area for a prolonged period of time. Helmand, the center of British operations in Afghanistan, has seen some of the worst violence in the nation.
It is unclear how the Marines intend to operate in Afghan villages considering General Stanfley McChrystal’s reported order to stop engaging in fights near the homes of Afghan civilians. Recently US troops operating in and around populated areas have called in air strikes killing enormous numbers of civilians.
Despite repeated calls from commanders for the US to commit even more troops to the conflict, National Security Adviser James Jones declared today that he had told commanders that the administration won’t consider adding more troops beyond the planned surge this year, though President Obama was considering deploying an additional 10,000 troops at some point in 2010. Admiral Mullen seemed to contest the notion, however, saying the administration hadn’t limited McChrystal on what he could ask for.