Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Afghan offensive : When the Marjah “pork chop” turns into a “lamb chop”
By Golnar Motevalli
All militaries are notorious for their use of jargon, acronyms and code names to describe people, places and operations. The village of Koru Chareh in the centre of Marjah and a key area in the U.S. Marines’ objective to seize the town in Operation Moshtarak was also given a moniker.
Koru Chareh is a cluster of unevenly planned low-rise mudbrick dwellings surrounded by small canals. From an aerial map it is shaped like an oblong which tapers at the end. So the Marines called it the “pork chop”.
Officers would radio in suspicious sightings in the “pork chop”, such as a bomb-like device or a suspected Taliban sniper. About a week later it occurred to them that the reference to a cut of meat from an animal seen as “haraam” or forbidden in one of the world’s most conservative Muslim countries may be inappropriate. So one evening, as some Marines were turning into their sleeping bags while others kept watch on outposts, it was decided that the “lamb chop” should replace the pork chop.
“Well, no one in the States eats lamb” one officer said, to explain why the moniker was chosen in the first place. It is also highly doubtful if any Afghans in Marjah, most of whom had fled the town before the offensive, had any idea that their U.S. allies were using the name at all.