The U.S. and its Afghan allies have decided to "announce their military intentions in advance, an unorthodox step they hope will spare civilians by helping them hunker down for the assault," the New York Times reported Friday. -- "The announcement appears to have prompted many Taliban fighters to flee the city already," said Dexter Filkins, author of The Forever War. -- "It was unclear when the military operation would start. American and Afghan officials have said only that they intend to move into Marja soon." -- COMMENT: Is there any absurdity promoted by the national security state that the New York Times is above promulgating? -- The advantage of surprise is always sought by attacking military forces. -- Clausewitz devoted an entire chapter to subject in his classic On War (Book III, Ch. 9), where he states that the desire for surprise is "universal." -- "This desire is more or less basic to all operations, for without it superiority at the decisive point is hardly conceivable," he writes, and a little later: "We suggest that surprise lies at the root of all operations without exception" (translation by Michael Howard and Peter Paret). -- This article's absurd claim that there is now underway an "effort by the Afghans and the Americans to announce their military intentions in advance" should therefore be rejected out of hand....
AFGHANS TRY TO REASSURE TRIBAL ELDERS ON OFFENSIVE
By Dexter Filkins
New York Times
February 11, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan -- With a military operation looming, Afghan leaders met Thursday with tribal elders from the southern city of Marja to tell them that, indeed, government and NATO forces would soon rid the area of Taliban fighters and that Afghan police officers and soldiers would stay behind after the fighting was over.
Hanif Atmar, the Afghan interior minister, told a group of about 350 elders from Marja’s main tribes that a major military operation would begin in the area soon. When it is over, he said, about 1,000 police officers will be assigned to help keep the Taliban out. Mr. Atmar also promised that the government would initiate development projects, including roads and health clinics.
Marja’s tribal elders, who gathered in the governor’s office in nearby Lashkar Gah, voiced support for the military operation to clear the Taliban from Marja, according to several Afghans and a senior American commander who attended the meeting. Some of the elders said they would help persuade the Taliban to leave before the battle started and identify hidden bombs for the Afghan and American soldiers as they came through.
But while Marja’s leaders said they had no love for the Taliban, many expressed deep skepticism that Afghanistan’s leaders would make good on their promises to protect them from insurgents.
“Yes, we want this operation in our area -- but do not leave, as you have in other areas, and let the Taliban come back,” Hajji Abdul Rashid, one of the elders, told Mr. Atmar. “We want a sound government here. We want the government to pay attention to Marja.”
Mr. Atmar and the other officials promised that Afghan and NATO troops would stay once the military operation was over.
“Give me your sons,” Mr. Atmar said, “and we will make a national police force with them.”
The meeting was the latest effort by the Afghans and the Americans to announce their military intentions in advance, an unorthodox step they hope will spare civilians by helping them hunker down for the assault. The announcement appears to have prompted many Taliban fighters to flee the city already.
It was unclear when the military operation would start. American and Afghan officials have said only that they intend to move into Marja soon. Local Afghans say that although many Taliban fighters and even leaders have left, several hundred intend to stay and fight.
Afghan officials called the meeting — known as a shura — to enlist the local leaders’ support for the coming operation.
The elders, for their part, told the Afghan officials that they were worried about civilians being killed. Some of the elders said that if homes in Marja had to be searched during the operation, only Afghans should do it.
“People are really scared, especially about civilians getting killed,” one of Marja’s elders said when the shura was over. He declined to give his name for fear that he would be killed.
“The Taliban have told us that they have blocked all the roads because they have buried mines in all the roads and footpaths,” he said. “They told us it would be good for villagers to stay in their houses and to leave the city.”
Still, some of Marja’s elders appeared to be looking past the operation itself. The tribal leaders at the meeting agreed to form a pair of councils to advise the new government. One of the councils would make recommendations about things like the appointments of local officials and the types and locations of development projects. The other would assist the government in reintegrating Taliban fighters into society once the fighting was over.
In Marja, many Taliban fighters are promising to put up a fight. One Taliban commander said in a telephone interview that his men were busy building fighting positions in anticipation of the Afghan and NATO assault.
In addition, the commander, named Mir Azar, said the Taliban had buried thousands of mines in Marja’s roads and sandy trails. “The Afghan and foreign soldiers always use footpaths while they walk and do their patrols,” he said. “That’s why we have paid such close attention to them.”
An Afghan employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan.