I looked a bit into this "Marjah", target of the ongoing "Operation Moshtarak". A German blog mentioned that there's some confusion about whether Marjah is a city or not.

It turns out that Marjah is an an agricultural development district with irrigation. There's no city, no town and barely something that could be called a village.
Most of it is simply a very subdivided green area in the vicinity of some similar areas. There's open, easily controlled terrain around it.

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The names of settlements can be quite confusing in Afghanistan (close to Kunduz is a village that consists of three parts wide apart!) and there are locations with similar names, but this is confirmed to be the right location for the "battle".

By the way; there are some accusations in regard to reconnaissance / military intelligence in this Marjah action. It appears as if the object recce wasn't exemplary.
Such poor intelligence (if the report is true) would be understandable if Marjah was a remote mountain village - not so much given its real location.

I saw some news about the ongoing OP recently that suggested a prominent role of heliborne troop insertions. This is odd, as there's not that much helicopter transport capacity for the many, many necessary troops (the Marjah green area has a perimeter of about 50 km) and there's no real chance of operational surprise. The "offensive" was announced weeks in advance.

Sven Ortmann


  1. It's pretty obvious, even without these ... let's say contradictions, that Moshtarak was supposed to include this huge PR effort as an integral part of the operation. Which seems weird, given that it's a short term hype that might in the long run actually hurt our goals by building up expectations, and in fact every commander goes on record saying that this will be a 12 to 18 month campaign. So why do they promote the fuss? Is it mostly for the audience at home, a kind of "look here, we're doing something"? Which begs another question for me: was it worth it to blow the fanfares, or would it have been wiser to just quietly trickle down into problem districts one at a time? Where's the real substance of this operation? It's definitely not planting flags in an imaginary town. O_o

  2. Indeed, the US-Afghan version of the moon landing?

  3. I didn't mean to imply that it was a lie, bluff or farce. The "80,000 inhabitants city" story was probably just sloppy or otherwise poor work of an unimportant newspaper clerk.

    We'll learn more reliable details about the action in a couple of years and I'm really not in a hurry in this regard.

    The purpose of the text was mostly to capitalize on an hour's worth of curious research. It made no sense to keep it back if it could help others.