Taking It to the Taliban

The U.S. and its allies combine an offensive on Marjah with an elaborate plan for what to do when the fighting stops. Will it work?

David Guttenfelder / AP

U.S. Marines and their Afghan allies cross a military bridge in Marjah, Helmand province, where the Taliban is strong.

Two days before launching the most ambitious military campaign of the Obama Administration, General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, convened a meeting in Kabul of 450 tribal elders and scholars from Helmand province. The general's objective: to build support for Operation Moshtarak, a massive offensive on the Taliban stronghold of Marjah. McChrystal ran through the military phase of the plan, which would involve 6,000 U.S. Marines and British soldiers and 4,500 Afghan troops and police. Then he described how these troops would protect the town while a "government in a box" — a corps of Afghan...

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