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Friday, February 19, 2010

War in Afghanistan

Reuters reported on February 15:

"U.S. Marines leading one of NATO's biggest offensives against Taliban Islamic militants in Afghanistan are facing fierce resistance in some areas, bogged down by heavy gunfire, snipers and booby traps. Marine units have tried twice since Sunday to reach a bazaar in Marjah, the last militant stronghold in the country's most violent province, Helmand, only to be pushed back. Coming under heavy gunfire and sniper attacks -- one assault lasted over an hour -- they were forced to call in Harrier jets and attack helicopters with Hellfire missiles.

"There have been conflicting assessments of how much progress NATO has made, but it seemed clear that the campaign to seize insurgent-held areas before a planned 2011 troop reduction could drag on for weeks... The assault, one of the biggest in the eight-year war, is the first test of U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, where the Taliban have made a steady comeback since a U.S.-led invasion ousted them in 2001.

"The Marines' efforts to close in on Taliban snipers in Marjah's bazaar came a day after the compound the U.S. troops are holding in the heart of the town was attacked several times, showing the Taliban are not confined to one area. Afghanistan is a top foreign policy issue for Obama so failure here could be seen as damaging to his presidency. Much of the operation's success in Helmand province depends on whether the administration wins residents' trust and Afghan troops are able to keep the Taliban from returning...

"NATO and the Afghan government's credibility rests on limiting civilian casualties, and NATO commanders told Marjah residents to stay at home during the offensive. NATO rockets killed 12 civilians by accident on Sunday in the attack on Marjah, a farming area criss-crossed by canals, a breeding ground for insurgents and lucrative opium poppy cultivation, which Western countries say funds the insurgency."

The Washington Post wrote on February 18:

"Although U.S. and Afghan forces have made steady inroads here since beginning the largest joint military operation of the war four days ago, they control only a few modest patches of this farming community, principally around the two biggest bazaar areas. Much of Marja has not yet been patrolled by troops on the ground, and video images from surveillance drones have shown Taliban fighters operating with impunity in those places.

"U.S. and NATO commanders were not certain whether the insurgents who have lorded over Marja for the past three years would stay and fight, or flee to parts of Afghanistan with fewer international security forces. It appears clear, however, that many Taliban members here have opted to stay -- at least for now.
"That may mean many more weeks of arduous house-to-house clearing operations for Marines and Afghan forces in this 155-square-mile area, making this a far more complex and dangerous mission than initially envisaged..."

The Afghan war is dragging on. Conditions in the country are worse than they were before the invasion began eleven years ago.

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