Many stories about Afghanistan today and during the weekend focus on the battle in Marjah and the rebuilding effort that lies ahead.
“After the declaration this weekend that the battle for the Taliban enclave of Marja had been won, for the Marines standing behind sandbags and walking patrols, the more complicated work has begun. With it will be a test of the strategy selected by President Obama and the generals now running the Afghan war,” writes C.J. Chivers of the New York Times.
Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post reports that dangers still exist in Marjah, despite coalition and Afghan forces now largely in control of the city.
“The farmlands of Marja, once a Taliban stronghold and drug-trafficking hub, remain a treacherous place. Over the course of the two-week offensive, 5,000 Marines and Afghan soldiers have encountered hundreds of mines and homemade bombs, and the troops still plan another detailed, house-by-house clearing of the ground they've already passed through,” Partlow writes.
Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times says some signs of “normalcy” are returning to Marjah. Perry writes that you can now find popcorn vendors on the streets of the city, “an adjacent bazaar has come back to life, and the main road into Marjah was packed with vehicles bringing residents back to their homes and farms on Saturday, the fifth consecutive day with no battles. “
Some news from the weekend: The man believed to be the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees and contractors last year appears in a newly released video, claiming to have tricked Jordanian intelligence officers as a double agent.
The 43-minute video, posted on various Islamic radical Web sites Saturday, shows Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, whom a former U.S. intelligence official identified as the suicide bomber.
Family members have said that the man in the video, who uses the alias Abu Dajana Al-Khorasani, is al-Balawi. A much shorter version of the video was posted online in January.
Other news reports and perspectives:
- Asif Ali Zardari (Guardian): “In Pakistan, we are fighting for our lives”
- Zahid Hussain (Wall Street Journal): “Pakistan blocks prisoner transfers”
- Reuters: “Analysts assess Marjah offensive”
- Keith Richburg (Washington Post): “In Afghanistan, U.S. seeks to fix a tattered system of justice”
- Sabrina Tavernise and Waqar Gillani (New York Times): “Frustrated strivers in Pakistan turn to Jihad”