February 18th, 2010
07:07 PM ET

Around the Web: Marjah after the battle

Preparations are underway for the next phase of the operation in Marjah – installing an effective government - report Matthew Rosenberg and Michael M. Phillips of the Wall Street Journal.

“It's also the phase with the most uncertain prospects. The Taliban was able to easily take Marjah more than two years ago because the government's authority there was weak, and what little existed was often corrupt and predatory,” Rosenberg and Phillips write.

“’Phase 2’ is to begin in coming days when the new top administrator of the town, sub-district governor Haji Zahir, is put in place along with a team four American ‘mentors’ who work for the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, said Frank J. Ruggiero, the senior U.S. civilian representative in southern Afghanistan.”


February 18th, 2010
07:00 PM ET
February 18th, 2010
06:26 PM ET
February 18th, 2010
04:19 PM ET

U.S. reviews '96-hour' rule for detainees

Roger Hill, a former Army captain (right), meets with Afghan elders in Afghanistan with his interpreter next to him.

Roger Hill, a former Army captain (right), meets with Afghan elders in Afghanistan with his interpreter next to him.

 The case of Roger Hill, a former Army captain who received a general discharge for his role in the questioning of 12 Afghan detainees, prompted CNN's investigation of what's known as the "96-hour rule." Under the rule, NATO troops have 96 hours to either turn over detainees to Afghan authorities or release them - a rule put in effect to avoid Abu Ghraib-like offenses. But now that rule is under review by U.S. Defense Department officials, a spokesman for the department told CNN. 

Soldiers interviewed by CNN said it could put them in danger because it forces them to release detainees in a short time span. For Hill, the 96-hour countdown began when he took 12 men he suspected were possible spies to a small building on the base. 

Read the full story from Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost of the CNN Special Investigations Unit

Filed under: Pentagon • Troops
February 18th, 2010
11:10 AM ET

General: Offensive will take another month

(CNN) - It will take NATO-led military forces "another 25 to 30 days to secure that which needs to be secured" in Afghanistan's Helmand province, and a further three months after that to be sure insurgents are being kept out of the area, British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter said Thursday. FULL POST

Filed under: Operation Moshtarak
February 18th, 2010
10:25 AM ET

In Kabul, doubts about the Marjah offensive

The biggest coalition offensive in Afghanistan since the Taliban were toppled is underway in Helmand Province, much of the action focused on the town of Marjah. 

U.S. officials are almost giddy over what they see, so far, as a successful operation. U.S. Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, normally the coolest of cucumbers, Wednesday declared to journalists at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul: "They will be studying this operation for years to come." 

Officials have been doing a lot of talking recently, about the goals of the mission, the tactics they will use, and their ambitious reconstruction and development plans for Marjah and adjacent areas once the fighting stops. They’re hesitant to declare this offensive as a turning point in the nine-year old struggle for Afghanistan, but you can sense a strong desire to do exactly that. 

Having gotten an earful from Holbrooke, it seemed a good idea to find out how Afghans are reacting to the fighting in Helmand.  FULL POST

February 18th, 2010
09:34 AM ET

Another Taliban leader captured in Pakistan

At least one other Taliban leader has been seized in neighboring Pakistan by security forces, sources tell CNN. Mullah Abdul Salam was arrested last week, according to Afghan government officials, Taliban sources and a U.S official.

"The Taliban is down another shadow governor," the American source said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the information.  FULL POST

Filed under: Baradar • Taliban
February 18th, 2010
08:45 AM ET

U.N. envoy: Reconciliatory efforts needed

The Taliban should halt attacks on schools and clinics to demonstrate support for the reconciliation effort in Afghanistan, the United Nations' top envoy in Kabul said Wednesday.

"I believe that the reconciliation process, a peace process, is important, and there is a need to talk," Kai Eide, the U.N. special representative to Afghanistan, said. "The best way of doing it is, as we have seen in so many other conflicts, by starting step-by-step with some confidence-building measures."

Eide, who is about to retire as the U.N.'s envoy in Kabul after a two-year tenure, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview to air Thursday that he does not believe the conflict will ultimately be solved by military means alone. "There has to be a political process," he said.

Read the full story from CNN's Tom Evans

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Filed under: Decision: Afghanistan • Taliban
February 18th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

5 ways forward for the U.S. in Afghanistan

Editor’s Note: Cynthia Keppley Mahmood is an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame, specializing in the anthropology of violence, war and peace, terrorism and guerilla warfare. The opinions expressed in this guest blog are solely those of Cynthia Keppley Mahmood.

The United States is losing respect and gaining enemies the deeper it involves itself in terror wars. We may tell ourselves otherwise and hope otherwise, but those who actually study how people on the ground react understand the veracity of this point, no matter what their personal politics.

The recent civilian deaths at Marjah crystallizes the point. We name the operation “Moshtarak” or “Together” (fooling no one), and we quickly apologize for what happened. Yes, many of us both here and there believe President Obama is sincere in his desire to further mutual respect and bring peace to a bloody and underdeveloped part of the world. But still, the bodies of women and children go into improvised graves before another sun rises, as we have learned by now, is required by Muslim tradition.

A group of expert scholars on South Asia met last year at the University of California to consider possible futures for U.S. relations with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Despite our disciplinary and political differences, we arrived unanimously at five points of advice as to how the United States should proceed in Afghanistan. FULL POST