U.S. troops have launched a "major operation" against Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan, U.S. military officials announced in Afghanistan early Thursday.So, we get to test drive our shiny new Afghanistan counter-insurgency plan this month, with our shiny new Afghan theater commander, Gen. McChrystal. Interesting message to send, the same week we leave Iraq's major cities, we're driving into the cities in southern Afghanistan to try to do what we did in the last six years in Iraq.
About 4,000 Americans, mostly from the Marines, and 650 Afghan soldiers and police launched Operation Khanjar -- "strike of the sword" -- in the Helmand River valley, the U.S. command in Kabul announced.
The push is the largest since the Pentagon began moving additional troops into the conflict this year, and it follows a British-led operation launched last week in the same region, the Marines said.
It is also the first big move since U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal took over as the allied commander in Afghanistan in mid-June.
In Washington, a senior defense official said the size and scope of the new operation are "very significant."
"It's not common for forces to operate at the brigade level," the official said. "In fact, they often only conduct missions at the platoon level. And they're going into the most troubled area of Afghanistan."
Helmand Province, where much of the fighting is taking place, has been a hotbed of Taliban violence in recent months. At least 25 U.S. and British troops have been killed there in 2009.
The defense official said the operation is a "tangible indication" of the new approach that McChrystal -- a former chief of the Pentagon's special operations command -- is bringing to the nearly eight-year war.
Will it work?
Ask me again in 2015.