The U.S. and its allies are working to create a new American-led military command in southern Afghanistan, setting the stage for a large-scale offensive into the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.
Senior military officials say the new command will manage all military operations in Helmand province, including the continuing campaign in Marjah. The plan would allow the existing British-led command in southern Afghanistan to focus on the Kandahar campaign.
Many of the 30,000 U.S. reinforcements being deployed to Afghanistan will take part in the assault on Kandahar, the most populous city in southern Afghanistan and the Taliban's spiritual birthplace.
U.S. and British commanders plan to deploy the additional troops to build a security cordon around the city to make it harder for Taliban fighters to intimidate local residents or assassinate Afghan government officials and security personnel there.
As with Marjah, senior U.S. personnel are publicly telegraphing the Kandahar campaign, which will likely start this summer. A senior White House official said last week that the Marjah campaign—the coalition's largest offensive since 2001—was a "tactical prelude" to a substantially bigger assault on Kandahar.
"Bringing security, comprehensive population security, to Kandahar city is really the centerpiece of operations this year," the official said.