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Qingu's avatar

What are your thoughts on the Coalition force's successful occupation of Marjah, a Taliban-stronghold in Afghanistan?

Asked by Qingu (21160points) February 13th, 2010

The New York Times reports that U.S. and Afghan forces have successfully taken over Marjah, a major city in the Taliban-controlled Helmand province.

Marjah has 80,000 people. So far, I haven’t seen a single reported civilian casualty. 2 coalition soldiers died and about 10–20 Taliban have been killed. Far as I can tell, one or two buildings were bombed.

In comparison: in 2004, we invaded Fallujah, an Iraqi city of about 300,000. According to Wikipedia, 800 civilians were killed and half of their homes were damaged or destroyed, along with dozens of schools and mosques. 1,000 insurgents were killed (and perhaps “insurgents” is broadly defined). 100 U.S. soldiers killed.

Maybe this is premature, but if the Marjah operation ends up being successful—holy crap! That is an amazing improvement. And if this becomes a new model of warfare, I would actually have a great deal more faith in humanity.

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21 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

That would be amazing if they finally figured out how to run an invasion without turning people off, but, as we all know, it doesn’t end there. You then have to “win the peace,” as the cliche now goes. Will they know how to keep from killing the wrong guys when they all look the same? Do they have people who understand the language and culture with them?

I guess the armed services don’t want to do a bad job, but they seem singularly ill-prepared for this mission and somewhat slow to learn. I’m sure it’s incredibly difficult, but it just seems to me that they don’t pay as much attention to the knowledge that academics have when preparing for these missions. They have to learn the hard way—making the mistakes on their own.

So the question now is whether they’ve learned enough. If they have, they can make a success of this operation. But the real issue is safety and the economy. If we can’t bring that to the Afghans, we can’t win.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

For security reasons, I don’t think we are getting the whole story.
What we do know is that area was of some strategic importance to US led forces.

SeventhSense's avatar

Sounds like a well crafted mission. I still can’t help but imagine this is all strategic placement for an eventual move against Iran.

ETpro's avatar

We let the inhabitants, and thus the Taliban know we were coming. The reason was we wanted to give them an opportunity to lay down arms and join the Afghan government if they would. It doesn’t seem many did. They high-tailed it instead. But the opperation would appear to be a great success in one important respect. This area was the major poppy growing region and of vast importance to the Taliban for finances. Cutting off their money will help cut off their ability to fight.

Qingu's avatar

@wundayatta, the article makes me optimistic that we’ll be able to “hold” the city. Along with military forces, there’s thousands of local Afghan police and government officials entering the city to hold political control after the military operation is over. I don’t believe this has ever been done before, and it’s a great idea—a “government in a box” to take over the void we clear from the Taliban.

@ETpro, I don’t think the fact that we didn’t kill lots of Taliban makes the operation “less successful,” though. They’re an indigenous resistance force, and in many cases they’re not even that ideological. Killing lots of them isn’t even necessarily good, because that just means their brothers and cousins get even more pissed off and probably end up motivated to replenish their ranks. We’re out of there in a year; we’re never going to kill many of the Taliban without killing even more civilians. We need a political settlement with them, we don’t need to kill them.

ETpro's avatar

@Qingu Agreed. I didn’t mean to imply that a low death toll was a failure. It is just a metric the public has been educated to accept as a sign of success in a military campaign. That’s why I mentioned it. But I should have expanded on that thought as you did. Thanks.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Qingu
You really think we’ll be out of there in a year? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Qingu's avatar

@SeventhSense, yeah, I believe it. Nobody wants us there, including us. Its’ not like there’s even a profit motive to allege, like oil-rich Iraq.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Qingu
I think it’s about our relationship with Israel more than anything. People forget how silent Israel was in the first Gulf War even amidst significant Scud missiles being lobbed into residential areas by Sadaam, but they certainly had the last laugh. Our government knows instinctively that any action by Israel will be highly provocative but at the same time Israel will not stand for a nuclear capable Iran nor will the US.

Qingu's avatar

I don’t really see what Israel has to do with Afghanistan.

Apart from perhaps motivating some people there to fight against the occupation.

SeventhSense's avatar

No not Afghanistan but our troops have an increasingly strong presence surrounding Iran in both Iraq and moving progressively westward in Afghanistan. The US wants regime change in Iran. Imagine a nation on the North American continent simultaneously involved in wars with Canada and Mexico. We would certainly have cause for heightened awareness if not tension. I can’t imagine Iran is any less comfortable. They’ve never been an ally and they are the most powerful enemy of our chief ally in the Mideast.

augustlan's avatar

This gives me hope that we are finally going about this in the right way. I guess time will tell whether that hope is justified.

ucme's avatar

I feel it’s only right at this point to state that British troops were also deployed here.A glaring omission that needed addressing.

ragingloli's avatar

The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined that according to my source 12 civilians have been killed by two “stray missiles”.

Qingu's avatar

As ragingloli points out, I may have to eat my hat.

However, 12 is way, way less than the amount of civilians we killed in Fallujah.

@ucme, sorry, it was a bad omission. iirc they’re operating half of the helicopters, right?

ucme's avatar

@Qingu There were thousands of ground troops also deployed along with the French.I welcome your apology.Consider this matter resolved.

mattbrowne's avatar

I think the new civil-military strategy that is population-centric and based on a “clear, hold, build, and transfer” approach is working. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Qingu's avatar

Update: with the exception of some holdouts in the South, we’ve taken the city, and the Taliban has largely fled.

The 12 civilians who were killed were hit by a stray weapons system that was immediately suspended by Gen. McChrystal. The Afghan forces say that 3 of the 12 killed were actually insurgents who had strong-armed the other 9 to house them.

Whether it’s 9 or 12, that is a huge, huge improvement over the nearly 1,000 civilians we killed while taking over Fallujah. Not to sound cheesy, but I’m proud of our military right now.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Qingu
Doesn’t sound cheesy to me.

mattbrowne's avatar

I’m proud too. And I applaud the approach of the Afghan forces being in the lead when having to explain civilian casualties. It’s still very tragic, but as long as the Taliban use civilians as protective shields, it can never be ruled out.

flutherother's avatar

It is merely a prelude to an equally successful withdrawal.

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