Take a look at some of the top stories and editorials in Afghan media related to Operation Moshtarak in Marjah. Excerpts are compiled from a U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan report.
Weesa Daily (private media editorial): The United States and United Kingdom want to establish their military bases in Helmand, Nimroz, Herat and some other important places in Afghanistan so that they can have control of Helmand with its rich petroleum resources. They also want to control Guada Port in Pakistan and Bandar-e Abbas in Iran. (Guadar is a port that links Pakistan to China). The offensive launched in the name of Marjah is nothing but hiding their intensions about oil wells in Helmand and the strategic importance of the ports mentioned. Therefore, both the public as well as the authorities ought to pay attention to the sensitivity of the issue. FULL POST
CNN correspondent Atia Abawi is embedded with U.S. troops who launched the Operation Moshtarak offensive early Saturday morning, Afghanistan time. As the daylight ends there, here is an edited transcript of her first day's account she gave to CNN's Betty Nguyen via phone:
There seems to be a lull in the fighting, but that's not to say it's not going to start up again when it's dark. We're actually embedded with the Alpha company. And when they came in, the first thing that they hit was a very tough terrain. They came on farm land. They came in the pitch black night and the first four wounded were not serious wounds but still had to be medevac-ed out because of terrain, not because of enemy fire.
But as the sun rose and the fighting began, the Taliban found their target and they started to fire. They were running through the fields, caught in open fields, finding their way to a compound. In that compound, there have been sporadic battles with U.S. forces as well as the Taliban insurgency. FULL POST
Operation Moshtarak, which launched early Saturday local Afghanistan time, is expected to be the largest offensive in the nine-year war in Afghanistan. It focuses on the Marjah area in southern Afghanistan. CNN's national security analyst Peter Bergen gives his perspective.
Q: We know Marjah is important. From what you're seeing, does it look like NATO forces have learned some lessons from the past in the way they're going about it militarily and also the way they're going about involving the Afghan government and also the civilians there?
BERGEN: The biggest differences that we've seen in this whole operation from previous operations in Helmand is the size of the Afghan military force. You may remember when the Marines went into Helmand in July of last year - one of the big criticisms is there are very few Afghan soldiers that went along with them. Now it's very different in this operation. So that's one difference. FULL POST
UPDATE: SUNDAY, 1/14/2010: A coalition soldier was killed in a bomb explosion Sunday in southern Afghanistan, but it was not related to Operation Moshtarak, NATO confirmed.
(CNN) - Two coalition troops were killed Saturday during the coalition's major offensive against the Taliban in Helmand province, a NATO spokeswoman confirmed. A U.S. military official confirmed one U.S. Marine was killed in small
arms fire in Operation Moshtarak in Helmand province, and a British soldier was killed in an explosion.
Three U.S. troops were also killed in a bombing on Saturday in neighboring Kandahar province but the incident was unrelated to the offensive, NATO said
The goal of Operation Moshtarak is to force the Taliban from Marjah to free the opium-rich province of Taliban influence and drug traffickers. It's an example of a U.S. strategy to focus on population centers and separate the Taliban from Afghan civilians. And, the ultimate test of the effort is what happens after the offensive.
Two questions observers have been asking are will the Afghan forces and government be able to maintain control and generate the allegiance of the citizenry? And, will the Afghan authorities be able to provide farmers an alternative to growing the poppy that pervades the region?
What do you think? If the offensive rids the area of Taliban, can the area remain Taliban-free?
Afghan President Harmid Karzai also cautioned troops to keep civilians safe as they attacked Marjah in Operation Moshtarak. In a statement Saturday, he urged Afghan and international troops to exercise "absolute caution " and ensure there were no civilian casualties.
Karzai also urged Taliban fighters to take the new offensive " as an opportunity to renounce violence and re-integrate into civilian life alongside other Afghans for the welfare of their country."