Editor's Note: CNN camerawoman Mary Rogers accompanied a U.S. Marine Corps unit on Operation Moshtarak in Marjah from its preparations into the first few weeks. A veteran of warzone reporting, she has filmed in places such as Somalia, Sierra Leone, the Congo, Iraq, Chechnya, Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon and Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002. Here is part 1 of some of her reflections on her time in Marjah and a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges and camaraderie reporting from the Afghan battlefield.
In all my years with CNN, Operation Moshtarak was one of the roughest, toughest assignments I have ever had. It was also one of the most memorable, an experience I wouldn't trade for the world.
D-Day: February 13, 2:30 a.m. local time, somewhere in a farm field on the outskirts of Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan. Operation Moshtarak begins.
Cold. Dark. Muddy. Miserable. "What in the HELL have I gotten myself into?" These were my first thoughts just minutes after exiting a helicopter with the Alpha 1/6, USMC. Tripping and stumbling in deeply furrowed farmland. Falling not once, but three times! "You are such a dork, Mary," I say to myself. "Wonderful first impression you are making here!" FULL POST
[Update 9 a.m. ET] President Obama landed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland shortly before 9 a.m. ET, returning from Afghanistan.
President Obama is expected to return to the United States on Monday morning after a surprise visit to Afghanistan, where he met with President Hamid Karzai and reiterated the need to wipe out terror networks.
Obama slipped into Bagram Air Base near Kabul under the cover of darkness on Sunday. He met with about 2,000 troops at the U.S. base and told them their work is significant to security at home.
WASHINGTON - As the U.S. military and its NATO allies intensify their campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Obama administration also is revamping its messaging in the region with a robust strategic communications strategy employing new technologies to fight extremism.
For years the Taliban and al Qaeda owned the airwaves with strong anti-American propaganda, which was met with a weak U.S. effort to counter it.
"We found that Afghans in the most-troubled, insurgent-held areas lived in information wastelands dominated by militant propaganda," the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said last week. "We are fighting back with a revamped strategy that puts the people and their ability to communicate at the forefront of our effort."
The new strategy, Holbrooke's advisers say, attempts to control the "narrative," rather than respond to the extremist version of events, as part of a new approach to empower Afghans and Pakistanis with 21st century media technologies.
In Afghanistan, that means building capacity for communications, investing in infrastructure - including construction of radio stations and setting up cell phone and television towers. FULL POST
KABUL, Afghanistan - Investigators say troops accidentally caused the deaths of two civilians in eastern Afghanistan when they returned fire after an insurgent attack, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Friday.
The attack - which took place Wednesday in the Bak district of Khost province - prompted a joint ISAF-Afghan force to respond with "indirect fire," according to the results of a preliminary military investigation. Indirect fire refers to shooting from a position without a direct line of sight to the target. FULL POST
On Thursday, CNN.com's Brad Lendon wrote in Afghanistan Crossroads about a blog post that appeared on the International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan blog this week, announcing the military was cutting back on "non-essentials" for U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan. This included closing restaurants such as Burger King, Dairy Queen, Orange Julius and Pizza Hut on bases and dropping first-run movies from base theaters.
The reader response was fiery. FULL POST
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A pre-dawn attack in Pakistan's tribal area killed five Pakistani soldiers and 21 suspected militants, the military said Friday.
The deadly fighting started when a check point came under attack in the village of Kalaya in northern Orakzai district, according to a statement from Inter Services Public Relations, which coordinates military information for the media. FULL POST
WASHINGTON - The United States on Thursday announced tens of millions of dollars of aid to Pakistan, for roads and power plants, as the Obama Administration tries to forge a new relationship with a major ally in the fight against terrorism.
The announcements came as two days of high level talks wrapped up in Washington.