Marja offensive tactical prelude to massive blitz later this year in Kandahar

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Washington, Feb. 27 (ANI): While the US forces are speeding up their offensive to oust Taliban insurgents from Marja, they are already planning to extend the campaign to Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual and political heartland, officials in the Obama administration have revealed.

"I think the way to look at Marja, it's the tactical prelude to larger, more comprehensive operations later this year in Kandahar city," the New York Times official quoted a White House official as saying.

"If our overall goal for 2010 is to reverse the momentum and gain time and space for the Afghan capacity, we have to get to Kandahar this year," he added.

The announcement has confirmed what American military officials have been saying for weeks: that the Marja offensive was a prelude for a much bigger battle ahead.

Washington's intention behind the announcement seems to warn both residents and insurgents, months in advance, that a big force led by American troops is on its way.

American, NATO and Afghan officials talked openly about the Marja offensive in advance, even going so far as to announce at a news conference in Kabul that an offensive involving thousands of troops would begin "in the near future," the paper noted.

The deliberate publicizing of these offensives, administration officials said, is meant to accomplish two goals: to reduce the number of military and civilian casualties by giving insurgents the opportunity to withdraw in advance, and to reassure the local population that a return to control by the central government is looming, the report said.

For both Taliban and the US, Kandahar is a much bigger prize than Marja.

The city is the second largest in Afghanistan, and it is the spiritual heart and birthplace of the Taliban movement. (ANI)

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