01 June 2010

On Being Target

These days in the news a glimpse into the life of Marines enforcing the occupation in Helmand's newly occupied district of Marja:
"We've been here for a month, and we’ve been in more firefights here than we have during the rest of our time in Afghanistan,” said Cpl. Anthony DePrimo, squad leader of India Company’s 3rd Platoon, 3rd Squad, which was involved in the May 19 firefight. 'You never know what’s going to happen here.'"
"Outside the wire, action has been more predictable. Patrols are regularly ambushed within a few hundred meters of the schoolhouse, with anywhere from three to 10 Taliban gunmen opening fire on Marines at a moment’s notice."
In a utterly predictable outcome the taking of the district in the "Operation Moshtarak" seems not to have represented a turning of a corner of any proportion, but has rather opened up another ultimately unwinnable front, and provided more and closer targets for the guerillas who are not giving up.

There was no reason to come in, but now there is some reason not to leave. The taking of Marja was done primarily for the benefit of the public opinion in the US, to show it that progress could be made in Afghanistan. Jet before that nobody in the US had the slightest interest in Marja, in fact nobody knew it existed. It could have stayed Taleban controlled for the next three thousand years and nobody would have lost sleep over it. It became important only once Pentagon built it up into something important. But now that is where it is at and to ever have it retaken would represent a significant blow to the occupation on the moral level.

Jet the pro-active occupation devoid of other ideas had announced months ago Marja had only been a dry run for a much larger effort directed at Kandahar in the summer where the same recipe is to be used. Which is bound to bring about the same sort of situation but on a far larger scale.

In this way the Marja situation is also a microcosm of the Afghan escalation. Before it Afghanistan had been a side show, the Western forces could have withdrew at any time and as long as Karzai would have stayed the mayor of Kabul the world would have hardly noticed. But now, after such investment anything short of unambiguously clear victory, which had always been unattainable, is going to attract attention and be recognized in the world for a defeat.

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