WASHINGTON - U.S., British and Afghan officials met with tribal elders in the southern Afghanistan city of Marjah Monday to assure them the international community and Afghan government are committed to stabilizing and developing the area, now the scene of a major NATO operation against the Taliban.
At the tribal meetings known as "shuras," the message was "we are still in the early days of the military operations but we are here and we are here to stay," Rory Donohoe, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) representative in Helmand province told CNN in a phone interview, as he sat 25 kilometers from the battlefield. FULL POST
KABUL, Afghanistan - An airstrike by NATO forces accidentally killed five Afghan civilians and wounded two Monday in Afghanistan, the military said. The incident was not part of Operation Moshtarak, the major push under way in Helmand province. Monday's air strike by NATO's International Security Assistance Force took place in the Zhari district of Kandahar province. A joint Afghan-ISAF patrol observed a group of people "digging along a path, and believed that the individuals were emplacing an IED (improvised explosive device)," ISAF said in a written statement. FULL POST
WASHINGTON - A rocket that killed 12 civilians during the NATO-led offensive in Afghanistan hit its intended target, but the troops who fired it did not know that civilians were inside the building, a senior military official said Monday.
The civilians were killed Sunday by a rocket fired during Operation Moshtarak, the biggest offensive that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force has conducted since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The offensive aims to force the Taliban from Marjah, a regional center in southern Afghanistan.
ISAF issued a statement saying the 12 civilians were killed when a rocket hit about 600 meters from its intended target. A senior ISAF official, however, said the rocket was not off target at all. The official said troops hit the building they were aiming for but did not know that civilians were inside.
The official has direct knowledge of the incident, but he declined to be named because an investigation is under way. Coalition troops targeted the building after taking "constant fire from five locations" in its immediate vicinity, the official said.
Coalition and Afghan forces launched Operation Moshtarak, an operation aimed at militants in Marjah, Afghanistan early Saturday morning. A round-up of some reporting on the fighting:
NATO troops in Afghanistan launched their biggest offensive of the war early Saturday Afghanistan-time (Friday ET), attacking what they call the last Taliban stronghold in Marjah, in the war-scarred southern province of Helmand.
Get up to speed with some of the highlights leading up to the offensive and the days after, below. FULL POST
MARJAH, Afghanistan (CNN) - Resistance is waning in a major NATO offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, the nation's officials said Monday, a day after 12 civilians died in a rocket attack by coalition troops.
"Coalition forces are clearing mines and roadside bombings, and facing only scattered resistance" from the Taliban, said Zahir Azimi, the Afghan defense spokesman.
On Monday, the troops met almost no resistance unlike Sunday, said Hanif Atmar, the Afghan minister of interior affairs. "Progress is being made on all fronts," he said.
However, CNN's Atia Abawi, who is embedded with Marines in Marjah, said the coalition forces were still battling militants, facing sporadic gunfire.
About 15,000 Afghan and NATO forces are taking part in Operation Moshtarak, the biggest since the Afghan war started in 2001. The assault aims to wrest control of Marjah town and surrounding areas from the Taliban.
"The operation is being conducted at the request of the Afghan government and the governor of Helmand," said Master Sgt. Jeff Loftin, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Forces were in the "clearing phase" of the operation, Loftin said in a statement Monday.