March 10th, 2010
10:04 AM ET

Going old school in Marjah

A school built by Americans in 1950s is being used as a base by the U.S. military in their operation in Marjah. But now Afghanistan's government is taking the building back in order to make it a school again, which would make it one of the few in the area.

March 10th, 2010
07:13 AM ET

Gates ends Afghanistan trip as Iran's Ahmadinejad begins his

KABUL, Afghanistan - After surveying training camps in eastern Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates hinted Wednesday that U.S. troops could be leaving earlier than the announced July 2011 troop withdrawal date.

Without giving details, Gates said that any early pullout and hand over of control to Afghan forces "would have to be conditions-based."

"We will begin that transition no later than July 2011, but the pace will depend also on conditions on the ground," Gates said after watching training exercises at Camp Blackhorse, where Afghan soldiers are trained by U.S. and British forces. FULL POST

March 9th, 2010
05:47 PM ET
March 9th, 2010
09:54 AM ET

McChrystal eyes Kandahar next

Kabul, Afghanistan  - The top U.S. general in Afghanistan vowed that coalition forces "are absolutely going to secure Kandahar," as security efforts expand in the country's south.

"We already are doing a lot of security operations in Kandahar, but it's our intent - under President [Hamid] Karzai - to make an even greater effort there," Gen. Stanley McChrystal told a joint news conference Monday with Mark Sedwill, the NATO senior civilian representative to the country. FULL POST


Filed under: Operation Moshtarak • Pentagon
March 8th, 2010
03:35 PM ET

From fighters to fixers: Marines woo villagers

Yesterday I wrote a piece for Afghanistan Crossroads touching on the main challenge facing the coalition now that the fighting in Marjah has come to an end: winning over the local population.

Today, Monday, we saw first hand what that means. We went to the rough base of the Charlie Company to join a patrol heading to the village of Nasiri, outside Marjah. Mad-dogs, Englishmen and the Marines go out in the midday sun. FULL POST

March 8th, 2010
07:49 AM ET

Gates makes surprise visit to Afghanistan

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Afghanistan on Monday morning on an unannounced visit, as NATO-led coalition forces are pressing an offensive in the nation's south in the area around Marjah. Gates was scheduled to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

Read the full story


Filed under: Operation Moshtarak • Pentagon • Troops
March 7th, 2010
10:24 PM ET

Can Karzai deliver in Marjah?


The small windows of the U.S. military aircraft give only fleeting views of the ground below. But it’s spectacular. A soaring, snow-capped mountain range.

Behind me the man who officially leads this country has his eyes closed. He might be sleeping. No, he’s not. He’s just caught my cameraman trying to get a shot of him. And he’s not happy about it.

President Hamid Karzai is referred to as “The Mayor of Kabul” by those who say his government has little influence outside the capital. Today’s journey is an attempt to expand that influence. He’s going to Marjah for the first time in his life.

The Afghan president swoops in on a marine helicopter and is greeted warmly by hundreds of men. There are no women.

This desolate town in Helmand province is now world famous because it was recently the focus of efforts to drive the Taliban out of this region as part of Operation Moshtarak. The president is here to persuade the local population that military forces will now hold this ground and his government will start delivering services.

Any services would help. Marjah is a shadow of a town. It’s difficult to describe how little there is here.

The local elders forcefully tell Hamid Karzai they need more of everything. They need all the basics: roads, schools, hospitals and honest police. They tell him they have been oppressed by the Taliban and abandoned by Kabul. He agrees and promises to help.

So now what? It only took weeks to drive back the Taliban. But building communities that can resist them in the future will take much longer. The people of Marjah know just how hard that’s going to be and President Karzai learned today not all of them believe it’s even possible.

March 7th, 2010
11:36 AM ET

Making it to Marjah

After sitting and stewing in one military base after another for six days, we were finally going to Marjah.

We all awoke of our own accord around 1:30 AM, quickly packed our things and made our way to the transport area of Fiddler’s Green, an absurdly idyllic name for a Marine base that was neither green nor anything to fiddle about. FULL POST

March 7th, 2010
09:57 AM ET

Karzai visits Marjah

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai made an unannounced visit to Marjah on Sunday to see the gains made after a massive military offensive by Afghan and international troops to wrest control of the southern city from the Taliban.

Karzai toured the city in Helmand province with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

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Filed under: Karzai • Marjah • Operation Moshtarak
March 4th, 2010
02:02 PM ET

In Marjah, it's still a competition with the Taliban

WASHINGTON – Citizens of Marjah remain very skeptical of U.S. troops and the Afghan government that has moved in and taken over the southern Afghanistan town, according to the U.S. general in charge of the operation.

U.S. Marine Corps Brig. General Larry Nicholson said on Thursday that 20 days into the operation to rid the area of Taliban influence, the public is concerned about what the new Afghan government is going to be able to do for them.

"We are in competition every day for the confidence and support of the population – we're in competition with the Taliban," Nichols told reporters at the Pentagon during a video-teleconference briefing from Helmand province.  "We have a very narrow window of opportunity here in Marjah to make that first impression and you get one shot at it," he said. FULL POST