February 15, 2010

No getting around it: This really is Obama's war. I read yesterday that U.S. spokesmen were giving contradictory versions of this operation to different reporters, so as with any war, I'd take everything you read with a grain of salt. (By the way, I notice this outpost is named Belleau Wood, after one of the bloodiest battles of World War I. Is that supposed to be good for morale?)

The largest military offensive of the eight-year war in Afghanistan, launched this weekend in southwestern Helmand province, is a crucial test for President Obama's strategy of more troops, more civilians and more money.

In an acknowledgment of past mistakes, administration officials have emphasized that for the first time, U.S. and NATO forces are outnumbered by thousands of Afghan soldiers fighting alongside them. Unlike previous offensives, in which territory won from insurgents was later abandoned, the troops plan to clear the Taliban stronghold of Marja and hold it for as long as it takes to install a functioning local security system and government.

Large numbers of Afghan and international civilians have been marshaled to move into the district once the fighting is over, and development projects are funded and ready for implementation.

"What's important about this operation is that it is the first major operation in which we will demonstrate, I think successfully, that the new elements of the strategy -- which combine not only security operations but economic reform and good governance at the local and regional level with a much more visible presence of Afghan forces -- will take place," Obama's national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, said on "Fox News Sunday."

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