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.
And from the distance, you can still hear the fighting between other companies within the U.S. Marines and different Taliban leaders in different areas in the city.
On top of that - also very loud explosions coming in by vehicles. Some of the explosions are from assault machines that the Marines have which have been able to find IEDs and detonate them before causing casualties.
That being said, Marines are within the city limits, finding IEDs particularly with the IED detective dogs searching those out and also detonating them. And although the fighting seems to be in a lull state, it has been going on all day.
The city of Marjah is actually fairly built up compared to most rural Afghan cities throughout the provinces of Afghanistan. The Taliban are actually using homes, civilian homes, to fire at the Marines, including some compounds that may be 400, 500 meters away.
And there were two civilians who were injured by the fire, and they came to the U.S. troops, got medical attention, got out, and the family then told them that the Taliban were actually using their homes to fire at troops.
And they also said - there are more Taliban fighters waiting it out, assessing what's going on and possibly waiting for attack in the next hours, maybe days.
When it comes to the Afghan people, and one thing that I've noticed from villages throughout Helmand and throughout Afghanistan, it's not necessarily that they are against NATO forces. It's that they want peace, that they're also afraid of civilian casualties.
And that's something the Marines have been keeping in mind. They are abiding by the tactical directive that has been placed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan.
And the directive is, if you suspect a Taliban fighter or insurgent fighter is within a compound, and you also expect civilians are in the area, you do not fire. And they have been abiding by that.
Our camerawoman, Mary Rogers, was actually filming the snipers who are targeting some of these Taliban fighters. And they have the equipment to assess who's out there. They were able to distinguish a woman within this abandoned bazaar, and they did not fire.
But they were also able to distinguish a Taliban fighter holding an AK-47, holding a radio, signaling to his other fighters in the area, and they were able to kill him.