US General Stanley McChrystal is certainly a new kind of commander. As he finalises the details of Operation Moshtarak in Afghanistan he has apparently authorised sustained publicity about the fact that it is about to take place.

This offensive in Helmand is being described as the biggest since Suez or Vietnam (not encouraging comparisons). Nato aircraft have been dropping leaflets to inform those living in the villages in the line of fire that there will be Afghan soldiers among the attacking force who will be remaining afterwards to keep the peace. Apparently the thinking is that the Taliban may decide to leave the area rather than face the promised onslaught. Whether or not they will do so is uncertain but there are reports that villagers are packing their bags and moving out. Operation Moshtarak (”together”) is likely to be the first test of the new US/Nato strategy in Afghanistan. The town of Marjah is the largest community in Helmand province under Taliban control. The success of the impending operation is of considerable importance to future strategy and, in particular, to the extent to which newly-trained Afghan forces perform both in the initial assault and the later consolidation of the area. In the eight years since the Afghanistan war started there have been many new approaches tried without success. Operation Moshtarak is the most ambitious to date.