The latest major Afghan offensive is apparently supposed to represent victory for President Obama’s new strategy in the Hindu Kush

"Operation Moshtarak will mark the start of the end of the insurgency," said Brigadier James Cowan, commander of British troops in Helmand Province. That sounds grandiose, but is little more than whistling past the graveyard. These are the facts: 15,000 troops are advancing on a small city. Most of the Taliban insurgents suspected of being there have long since either withdrawn or are hidden among the civilian population. There is only sporadic combat — after all, why should the Taliban rise to the bait offered by superior forces? Apparently, and above all in the United States and Europe, the offensive is supposed to be seen as a major victory, a tough test passed by President Obama’s new strategy in the Hindu Kush.

But is that what it really is? The new American strategy is to switch from killing Taliban to protecting the civilian population from them. To do that, cities like Marjah must not only be conquered, but must be occupied and controlled as well. Whether that’s possible with the additional 40,000 troops thus far sent to bolster forces there is more than just questionable.

The Taliban have proven to be masters of guerilla warfare and have gradually taken control of much of the country. They’ll try to do so again as soon as the foreign troops withdraw. They don’t have to fight; they only have to wait.