Game On

NATO launches major Afghanistan offensive

U.S.-led NATO troops launched a major offensive on Saturday against the Taliban’s last big stronghold in Afghanistan’s most violent province, a test of President Barack Obama’s troop surge strategy.

The assault, the first since the U.S. president ordered an extra 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in December, is the start of a campaign to impose government control on rebel-held areas this year, before U.S. forces start to withdraw in 2011.

“The offensive in Marjah has begun. Our company is preparing to secure key terrain to facilitate stability and security for the people of Marjah,” Lt. Mark Greenlief of Bravo Company, First Battalion, Sixth Marines, told Reuters.

A dozen helicopters flew from south of Marjah in Helmand province and the first objective of U.S. Marines was to take the town center despite the risk of being blown up by bombs rigged by the Taliban.

“So far there has been no contact,” Gunnery Sergeant Brandon Dickinson, waiting in a muddy field, told Reuters.

The U.S. military said about 4,500 U.S. Marines, 1,500 Afghan troops and 300 U.S. soldiers were taking part in the offensive.

The operation, codenamed Mushtarak, or “together,” may have been labeled as such to highlight that NATO and Afghan forces were working closely to bring stability to Afghanistan, a country battered by decades of conflict.

See also:
U.S., allies attack Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan
U.S. Marines attack Taliban-held town
Coalition Begins Major Afghan Offensive
U.S. Starts Afghan Surge
Before day breaks, NATO troops descend on Taliban stronghold
US says Marines, Afghan troops launch main attack on Taliban-held town of Marjah
US, Afghan troops encircle Taliban stronghold
Civilians flee besieged Afghan town ahead of US-Afghan assault

So initial reports have it that the Taliban up and ran away with the civilians, probably wearing burkas.

/48 hour rule in effect

The Noose Is Tight, There’s Nowhere For The Marjah Taliban To Go But Down

US and Afghan troops ring Taliban stronghold

U.S. and Afghan forces ringed the Taliban stronghold of Marjah on Thursday, sealing off escape routes and setting the stage for what is being described as the biggest offensive of the nine-year war.

Taliban defenders repeatedly fired rockets and mortars at units poised in foxholes along the edge of the town, apparently trying to lure NATO forces into skirmishes before the big attack.

“They’re trying to draw us in,” said Capt. Joshua Winfrey, 30, of Tulsa, Okla., commander of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines.

Up to 1,000 militants are believed holed up in Marjah, a key Taliban logistics base and center of the lucrative opium poppy trade. But the biggest threats are likely to be the land mines and bombs hidden in the roads and fields of the farming community, 380 miles (610 kilometers) southwest of Kabul.

The precise date for the attack has been kept secret. U.S. officials have signaled for weeks they planned to seize Marjah, a town of about 80,000 people in Helmand province and the biggest community in southern Afghanistan under Taliban control.

NATO officials say the goal is to seize the town quickly and re-establish Afghan government authority, bringing public services in hopes of winning support of the townspeople once the Taliban are gone. Hundreds of Afghan soldiers were to join U.S. Marines in the attack to emphasize the Afghan role in the operation.

A Taliban spokesman dismissed the significance of Marjah, saying the NATO operation was “more propaganda than military necessity.”

Nevertheless, the spokesman, Mohammed Yusuf, said in a dialogue on the Taliban Web site that the insurgents would strike the attackers with explosives and hit-and-run tactics, according to a summary by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant Internet traffic.

In preparation for the offensive, a U.S.-Afghan force led by the U.S. Army’s 5th Stryker Brigade moved south from Lashkar Gah and linked up Thursday with Marines on the northern edge of Marjah, closing off a main Taliban escape route. Marines and Army soldiers fired colored smoke grenades to show each other that they were friendly forces.

U.S. and Afghan forces have now finished their deployment along the main road in and out of Marjah, leaving the Taliban no way out except across bleak, open desert — where they could easily be spotted.

See also:
Outreach Precedes U.S. Offensive
Marines roll out Assault Breacher Vehicles for Marjah Afghanistan offensive
Taliban vow guerrilla warfare against Afghan, NATO troops
Taleban ‘ready to talk’ as Nato prepares for huge assault
Region known as Marjah won’t be another Fallujah
Countdown To A Battle
Washington begins new Afghan offensive
Afghan campaign seeks to avoid Iraq mistakes
Special Forces Assassins Infiltrate Taliban Stronghold in Afghanistan
SITE Intelligence Group
In Your Face Taliban, The Coalition Is Coming To Take Marjah And There’s Not A Damn Thing You Can Do About It

More than a few appropriate songs come to mind, but I like this one (unfortunately there’s no original video):

/hey Taliban, mind if we sit down right in the middle of your primary opium area of operation and kill or capture about 1000 of your “martyrs”?

Classic Hammer And Anvil With Taliban In Between


‘Cobra’s Anger’ strikes Taliban

More than 1,000 U.S., British, and Afghan troops launched a major offensive in a key battleground of southern Afghanistan yesterday, only days after President Barack Obama unveiled a new strategy to end the war.

NATO said the offensive was designed to crush terrorists around a major town in Helmand in order to allow development to begin and civilians to return, key elements of Mr. Obama’s decision to deploy 30,000 new U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

About 900 U.S. Marines and sailors, British troops and more than 150 Afghan soldiers and police were taking part in Operation Khareh Cobra, or “Cobra’s Anger” in the valley of Now Zad.

Hundreds of Marines were dropped by aircraft into the north of the valley, while a large force of soldiers pushed northward from the town of Now Zad to sandwich the Taliban between the two forces.

“More than 1,000 ISAF personnel partnered with Afghan national security forces began a long-planned operation in northern Helmand province to clear insurgent forces from a key area,” the military said.

For the first time in Afghanistan, U.S. troops used Osprey aircraft — which have features of both a helicopter and a fixed-wing plane– to fly waves of Marines into the valley.

Also for the first time, combat engineers deployed the “Assault Breacher,” a tracked armoured vehicle built on a tank chassis. It was being used to clear a path through improvised minefields.

Major William Pelletier, from Camp Leatherneck in Helmand, told CNN the valley is “a major through-route” for transporting fighters and munitions from east to west and north to south. Terrorists have mined the region, and troops intend to provide enough security for the Afghan government and nongovernmental organizations to begin clearing the mines and roadside bombs so they can repopulate the town.

“So far, four Taliban dead bodies were left behind on the battlefield. But enemy casualties could be higher,” said Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Helmand governor, adding scores of mines and a cache of explosives were seized.

See also:
U.S. Marines advance in southern Afghanistan
US, British, Afghan Troops Push into Taliban Area
Marines Start Operation in Helmand Province
Marines, Afghans Launch Major Offensive
‘Cobra’s Anger’ unleashed in Taliban heartland
New Afghan push takes aim at militants
U.S., Afghan troops launch first major offensive after Obama’s announcement of troop surge
Militants killed, detained in new Afghan-US military operation
‘Cobra’s Anger’ making progress, say US Marines
‘Cobra’s Anger’ Offensive Sends Thousand U.S., NATO Troops To Afghan Valley
NATO takes on Taliban in south of Afghanistan
Marines Start Operation in Helmand Province
Monster mine-clearing tank goes to work in Afghanistan
ABV to protect combat engineers
Grizzly [Breacher]
Controversial ‘Osprey’ chopper makes debut in Afghanistan
V-22 Osprey
V-22 Osprey

/dusting off the old playbook, shades of Junction City

Deep Into The Heart Of Indian Country

Get some!

Operation Aims to Secure Southern Afghanistan for Elections

Hours into the new Operation Eastern Resolve II in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, defense officials report that U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers are confronting “some resistance” as they work to secure the area for the Aug. 20 elections.

The Marines and Afghan soldiers launched the offensive earlier today in Helmand province’s Now Zad district. Much of the operation is centered on Dahaneh, a Taliban-held southern Afghanistan town, and the surrounding mountains.

The mission was ordered to disrupt insurgent violence and intimidation campaigns and provide freedom of movement for Afghans to vote in upcoming provincial and national elections, military officials at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan reported.

About 100 Afghan National Army soldiers and 400 Marines and sailors from Marine Expeditionary Brigade, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, are conducting the operation. Marines from Marine Aircraft Group 40 provided helicopter lift and other aviation support for the mission.

The operation is proceeding as planned, and forces have confronted some opposition, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters. No casualty information is available, he said. Marine officials later reported that casualties are “very light.”

See also:
Operation Eastern Resolve II Launches
U.S. Marines Fight for Strategic Taliban Stronghold in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province
US to expand operation in Afghanistan
Military Operation Targets Taliban Before Afghan Election
US, Afghan troops launch operation to protect vote
Marines launch new assault in Afghanistan, target Taliban-held town so residents can vote
Helmand province
Camp Leatherneck

Rumor has it that the Taliban was tipped off in advance about the operation, but they’ll die just the same.

/Godspeed Marines, rack up lots of Taliban ass!