By Mark Memmott

From southern Afghanistan, the Associated Press reports that "U.S. Army soldiers launched a preliminary operation Tuesday in support of a planned U.S.-Afghan attack on the largest Taliban-controlled town" in the region.

The focus of the push is Marjah. There, the AP writes, "large plumes of smoke could be seen in the area, and reporters traveling with the U.S. unit could hear the distant rattle of 50-caliber machine gun fire and detonations from MK-19s, which fire 40 millimeter grenades from Stryker vehicles."

This offensive has been widely publicized in advance. Why let the Taliban know about it beforehand?

As The Christian Science Monitor writes, military officials say:

Their primary mission in Afghanistan is to protect Afghan civilians, not kill insurgents, and that the forewarning was meant to give civilians time to leave or take shelter.
U.S. Marine Brigadier General Larry Nicholson speaks to U.S. Marines from the 2nd MEB, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines at Belleau Wood outpost outside Marjah in Afghanistan's Helmand province Tuesday, February 9, 2010. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

<p>

Earlier today, Marine Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson briefed some of his men at an outpost near Marjah. (David Guttenfelder/AP)




categories: Afghanistan, Military

11:15 - February 9, 2010