Afganistan: If the enemy vanishes -- kill civilians

Since the assault was always intended to be as much a publicity stunt as serving any military objective, Barack Obama and Gordon Brown will certainly be pleased at how the media has snapped into line and acted as stenographers for Nato press releases.

The truth is, most of the few hundred Taliban fighters in Marjah vanished well before the much touted offensive began, not being stupid enough to face up to 15,000 of the most heavily armed troops on the planet.

Much of what we've seen on the TV screens looks like random firing into empty space to give the cameras footage for the evening news bulletins.

But, with very few enemy to engage, it wasn't long -- two days in fact-- before tragedy struck when a missile attack looking for Taliban to kill managed to slaughter 12 civilians, five of them children -- the very people this war was supposedly tailored to keep out of harm's way.

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