US Marines today launched a major offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan that will serve as the first big test of a new American strategy, reports the Washington Post. About 4,000 Marines descended on villages and towns in the remote Helmand province. Their goal, however, isn't to wage war but to live among the locals, protect them when necessary, restore government services, and, if all goes well, win their support.
"We're doing this very differently," said the brigadier general in charge. "We're going to be with the people. We're not going to drive to work. We're going to walk to work." The strategy is to establish a strong presence in areas where NATO has largely allowed the Taliban to roam free. In Helmand, poppy plants provide half the world's opium supply and a steady flow of cash to insurgents, notes the Post.