As NATO gets ready for a massive troop surge in Helmand Province, the local population flees ahead of what both sides promise to be the "Mother of All Firefights". Operation Moshtarak, which means "Together" in Dari, is about to be unleashed by NATO in the southern Helmand town of Marjah, the largest population center under Taliban control in the region and the largest counter-insurgency operation since the Afghanistan campaign began in 2001. 15,000 NATO and Afghan troops, plus Special Forces are poised to attack a force of about 1,000 Taliban fighters, who have been warned to lay down their arms or leave the area, but they have refused. The result is a mass exodus of tens of thousands of civilians, who fear being caught up in what promises to be a bitter fight. According to sources, the impending engagement constitutes a critical moment in Afghanistan, where the Taliban gains have gathered momentum, and the increased firepower on the battlefield is certain to result in a greater number of civilian casualties, as well as a greater war cost for all belligerents.
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