The speculative Battle of Marjah is set to begin, with NATO and Taliban forces squaring up for a clash unprecedented both in size and telegraphing since the 2001 invasion.
For what is ultimately a battle over the tiny village of Marjah and the surrounding farmland, the impending invasion has been trumpeted by US spokesmen for a solid month, giving the media plenty of time to size up the competitors like a professional prizefight, but also giving the Taliban ample advance notice over the invasion.
And while civilians stream out of the region, reports have the Taliban digging in, shoring up their defenses and planting explosives while bellicose US officials provide constant updates about how soon the invasion will be.
The invasion is mostly about propping up Karzai-appointee Haji Zair, the “governor” of the Marjah region who has been unable to travel there at all during his term. Indeed, Marjah has not been under the control of the Karzai government at all since the US invasion. It is also the first major offensive since the most recent Obama Administration escalation of the war. With growing controversy over the unpopular war, it seems the military is looking to make the offensive as high-profile as possible.