Early Saturday morning, US Marines and support troops from the Afghan military launched the widely anticipated invasion fo the Marjah district of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, the first major offensive since President Obama’s December escalation and reputed to be the largest invasion since the war began in 2001.
The United States and NATO have been trumpeting this invasion for over a month, and predict a quick victory though Taliban have been given ample time to plant explosives throughout the region. One US commander noted that Marjah residents who went to bed tonight would “wake up to a new tomorrow.”
The main road in and out of the town was absolutely packed, however, as residents attempted to flee the massive invasion, despite both NATO and the Taliban urging them to “stay put.” Elders pressed for NATO to finish the operation as quickly as possible.
The value of Marjah, an agricultural region propped up by the US in the early 1960’s as a “model” of modern American technology, is very much unclear. NATO insists the village is the key to the drug trade, but the region has never been controlled by the Karzai government and the international forces are only now, eight years after the war began, making any effort to install a Karzai appointee as governor. The Taliban, for their part, say they intend to “wait out” the invasion, and the inevitable NATO pullout.