Mar 15, 2010
The battle for control of Marja in southern Afghanistan was supposed to be the biggest offensive in years, with more than 10,000 U.S. and allied troops. It was hailed as part of a new U.S. war strategy: massive numbers of U.S. troops would clear a Taliban stronghold, while supposedly taking care to protect Afghan civilians.
When the battle started, James Jones, Obama’s chief foreign policy advisor, told a CNN Sunday talk show, “A successfully demonstrated and executed operation in Marja is going to make a big change in not only the southern part of Afghanistan, but will send shock waves through the rest of the country that there is a new direction, there's a new commitment.”
After two weeks of battle, the U.S. claimed its forces had successfully cleared the Taliban from the region. According to a local Afghan official, Gulab Mangal, the battle was a “great achievement” because so few civilians were killed.
Big surprise: it was all a lie.
First, Marja is hardly a “stronghold,” as U.S. commanders described it and the U.S. news media repeated so obediently. Marja is neither a city, nor even a real town, but only a few clusters of farmers’ huts spread out over a wide region. But that didn’t mean that civilians were spared. At least 55 civilians, including many women and children, were killed in two separate rocket attacks that U.S. commanders later called “mistakes.”
After the U.S. declared its victory in Marja, Afghan President Hamid Karzai showed up at a local mosque with top American and Afghan officials to promise a better future to local residents. According to the account in the New York Times, the residents weren’t buying it.
Hajji Abdul Aziz, a leading elder in the region, shook his finger at Karzai, saying, “We will tell you that the warlords [connected to the Karzai government] who ruled us for the past eight years, those people whose hands are red with peoples’ blood, those people who killed hundreds – they are still ruling over this nation.”
Others denounced what the U.S. occupiers were doing: innocent farmers arrested by the Americans, irrigation canals destroyed, schools and homes taken over by American troops, other homes wrecked. “You have said on the radio that you want our children to be educated,” Aziz said to Karzai and U.S. officials. “But how could we educate our children when their schools are turned into military bases?”
U.S. officials boasted they have a government and police force to run Marja and the surrounding region. “Government in a box” is the way U.S. commander Stanley McChrystal described it to the New York Times. In fact, these forces assembled and flown in by the U.S. are obviously little more than puppets of the U.S. occupation.
From beginning to end, the U.S. battle in Marja was aimed not at Afghanistan but at the U.S. public, designed to gain support for an escalation of the war – a war the public has opposed for a long time.
Marja is a prelude to a potentially much bloodier debacle, the battle for Kandahar, the second largest city in Afghanistan, a battle that U.S. officials say they are planning to begin this summer.
U.S. troops out of Afghanistan – immediately! Long before the summer!