Foreign Policy Blogs

Strike of the Sword

Just a day after most US troops vacated Iraqi cities, signaling the beginning of the end of the American military presence in Iraq, American forces launched one of their largest offensive campaigns in Afghanistan.  Approximately 4,000 marines partnered with helicopters and armored convoys made a major push into the Taliban dominated Helmand Province yesterday in an attempt to clear the area of insurgents and Taliban rulers and to help bring in Afghan military forces and government to hold the region.  This was the first major move since the Obama administration’s troop increase and strategy had been put in place.

The mission, dubbed ‘Strike of the Sword’, seems to be aimed at taking control over a region dominated (See Map) by the Taliban and making it secure enough for the August Presidential election.  This offensive hopes to turn into a defensive mission if/when US troops are able to remove most insurgent elements.  Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson stated; “Where we go we will stay, and where we stay, we will hold, build and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces.”

This is what all those new troops were for, right?  To disrupt, remove the insurgents and be followed by holding the area so the Afghan government could start to work for and with all its citizens.  However, this will not be easy.  First off, the Taliban have controlled this region for years now and in many ways it is close to their homebase, and this brings them many homefield advantages.  They will not give it up easily and will be persistent, that is for sure.  It will be interesting to see how the Pakistani military’s offensive in their northwest will effect this marine offensive.  Will the Taliban be pincered in a bit with less havens to flee to in Swat or NWFP?

Another difficulty facing the ‘Strike of the Sword’ is the ‘Will of the People’ as it has been reported that many Afghan civilians in Helmand are not exactly happy with the US presence.  Civilian casualties and a lack of results after years of warfare have left many Afghans in this region dubious to the idea that the Americans and the Kabul government could provide long term security, stability, and progress.  Though many of these people may dislike the Taliban at least they provided portions of the first two of those.