Thousands of U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers traveling in helicopters and mine-resistant vehicles began punching into a key Taliban stronghold in southernAfghanistan early Saturday, as the largest military operation since 2001 to assert government control over this country got underway.
The first wave of Marines and Afghan soldiers swooped into the farming community of Marja about 2 a.m. Saturday local time (4:30 p.m. Eastern), their CH-53 Super Stallion transport helicopters landing amid clouds of dust on fallow fields. As the troops, weighed down with ammunition and supplies, lumbered out and set up defensive positions, AV-8B Harrier fighter jets and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters circled overhead in the moonless sky.
Two more waves of troops touched down over the following 90 minutes near other strategic locations in Marja. Like the earlier contingent, they did not meet with immediate resistance.
Map shows location of U.S. offensive against the Taliban in Marja, Nad Ali District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan
At sunrise, hundreds more Marines and Afghan soldiers plan to enter the area by land, using mobile bridges to ford irrigation canals –built by U.S. engineers more than 50 years ago — that have served as defensive moats for the Taliban. Heavily armored mine-sweeping trucks and specially outfitted tanks will work to carve a path through a belt of makeshift bombs buried around the town.
Lets hope they succeed! Your thoughts.