So how do the U.S., coalition military and Afghan government prepare for a major clearing operation to eliminate the Taliban from an insurgent stronghold? Talk about it publicly ahead of time.
For months now, one of the worst kept secrets in Afghanistan’s central Helmand region has been the forthcoming operation to take back control of the poppy-covered and Taliban-held Marjah district in the restive central Helmand province region.
The area is home to some of the most serious fighting between the coalition and Taliban in the country, and also is some of the most fertile land in the country. Helmand province is in southern central Afghanistan and is patrolled mainly by forces from the United Kingdom and U.S. Marines, and it has been on the coalition’s radar for a long time as Taliban dug in and funded their operations with money from poppy production.
Central Helmand is also home to the majority of the world supply of heroin, about 60 percent, according to U.S. government officials. The relationship of convenience between narco-traffickers and the Taliban brings in about $400 million to the Taliban from the poppy sales, “more than enough for them to conduct the kind of operations they do,” according to a senior U.S. military official.
The U.S. military has been briefing reporters for months on basics, mainly that the Marjah region is the target of this operation. However, officials have been leaving out details of how and when the operation will go down.
The British military even put out a press release with the name of the effort, Operation Moshtarak, which means “together” in Afghanistan’s Persian-language dialect of Dari, saying the military is in the “shape” phase of the operation.
There have also been discussions with local governmental leaders about the operation, and those leaders have in turn spread the word around the local population.
Read the rest of CNN’s Afghanistan Crossroads story here.