Last week the NATO command in that country (that's U.S. mainly, as you probably know) held a press conference as reported in the New York Times:
That makes some sense, assuming the people ever heard the announcements and could find somewhere to go. Though unless things presently are unbearable in Marja, they'd probably actually prefer not to be on the receiving end of a massive military attack.
Apparently a good-sized part of the Afghan population of Marja has been getting out. And the commander of the Western troops opines that's a good thing.
Can't blame him. He doesn't want to be shot at any more than the Marja residents do.
On the other hand, someone in NATO headquarters decided they should start telling residents of the southern Helmand area not to leave. According to Reuters today:
Yeah, if I lived in Marja I'd be frightened, confused and very worried.
And to a very considerable degree, I would know what was coming. You see, as Joshua Foust explains, this will be the fourth time since 2007 that Western forces have fought their way through the area. For what?
So okay, all the U.S. posturing and journalistic noise from Afghanistan may be so much smoke; this is war, after all. But I claimed immanent atrocities -- what's that about?
The atrocity is that no one has given any plausible reason why thousands of Afghans should be displaced and some number killed, their livelihoods destroyed, and nothing really changed except those still alive left more vulnerable and miserable. The military doesn't intend atrocities, but atrocities are an unavoidable by-product of a war without purpose or end.
Al-Qaeda isn't in Marja -- bin Laden decamped to Pakistan years ago. The NATO troops will leave the burned out town -- maybe next year, maybe next month. Western troops won't hang around anywhere in Afghanistan forever; their countries will stop paying for this war in lives and treasure. Afghan soldiers or police from other parts of the country may hang around for awhile -- or not. The Taliban may fight -- or melt away -- and certainly come back, because some of them live there. This has been going on for 9 years since the U.S. arrived and 30 years since the Soviet Union took a turn at tearing up Afghanistan. Fighting over these places builds nothing; it only destroys. Time to just stop it.
Here's a clip from a displaced persons' camp outside Kabul so we can at least look at the people we are driving from their homes for no defensible plan or reason.