June 28th, 2010
10:24 AM ET

The 'bleeding ulcer' of Marjah

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2010/06/27/sotu.marjah.afghanistan.cnn"%5D

When Gen. David Petraeus takes over command in Afghanistan, his first and most urgent problem may be what the ousted commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal famously called "a bleeding ulcer" - the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in Helmand province.

Marjah was supposed to be the showpiece of the clear, hold and build strategy. The idea was to use the military to clear out the Taliban and then win the hearts of the community with better government services and a workable local power structure.

Four months into the Marjah operation, Time magazine offers the assessment of a company commander on the Taliban presence in Marjah: "It depends on what your metric is for 'clear.' They're obviously not gone, and they're not going to be gone."

According to a report in The Washington Post, there have been more U.S. military deaths in Marjah this month than in the first month of the operation. Taliban intimidation of civilians is rampant.

But Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently testified that the gloom-and-doom reports are premature, that the Marjah effort just needs more time.

"The reality is that the military operations in Marjah were successful, and a place that had been controlled by the Taliban is no longer - for two years or more - is no longer controlled by the Taliban," Gates said. "Getting the civilian coalition and Afghan forces in there - the civilian officials building the development programs is moving forward, but it is moving slower than we originally anticipated."

Panetta: Afghan war has 'serious problems'
Is Panetta right about Afghanistan? Sen. Saxby Chambliss talks about Panetta's statements

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Filed under: Marjah • Petraeus
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Ruslan

    you americans not only stupid, you are stupidly stubborn.

    June 30, 2010 at 5:23 am | Report abuse |
    • marinemom

      who the HELL are you ! !

      June 30, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      Is that why the Americans are winning the war and the Russian lose it!!!

      June 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TrueAfghan

    a 'bit' of information for you all. taliban didn't even have much chance to fight in Marjah, as the tribesmen told them to stand-by as, tribesmen' themself took care of the neto fighters. how do you like that, neto forces were 'defeated' by the local tribesmen, and that's the truth none of you are told.

    June 29, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • desert voice

      How are you so sure? My take of this is different. I believe that the local tribesmen were Taliban, ceased to call themselves Taliban for the duration of the Marjah offensive ... and then returned to be Taliban! This is the game that Karzais know how to play! I see a fundamental flow in the Coalition's campaign, as long as places like Marjah are firmly in non-Taliban hands! I would give the Marjah population 72 hours to identify and turn in the Taliban, or face another offensive! No more jirgas and no more lying! Just put the cards on the table! The true Afghans must go to the right, and the traitors to the left ... in 72 hours!

      June 30, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bill D

    Thanks for your thoughts – but it is not myself to say no thanks to – it is my son. He does fight for your needs, regardless of your feelings in the matter.

    June 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      That is why I got mad when a General says anything bad about the fighting there!!! The Poor and Middle Class has their children fighting, dieing are getting crippled because they are following the orders they are giving to them... Thank GOD the President got rid of him... The Military deserve better than him!!! Those of you that don't support our troops... Go to the Middle East and live there and maybe then you would appreciate what they are doing for you!!!

      June 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |

    its not bleeding ulcer ...its a boiling pot usa

    June 29, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shrek

      What that country needs is an enema...

      June 29, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bangash


    200 years history of this region, yesterday being a war front in the "GREAT GAME" and today in the "WAR ON TERROR", can anyone show a single example of success except the one that the death toll, destructions on both sides, show significant increase. Today it is Helmand but tomorrow it can be Kandahar Afghanistan. Main aim is justification for stay of USA-UK in this middle of the East and West of the world, to contain the challenges, posed by the rising China and equal giants behind the Iron Curtain. If there is an end to wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan then it is an end to the Iron Curtain when there will be roads, railway links, gas and oil pipelines via Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean through Pakistan’s coastal belt, for china and entire Eastern World. This is an end to the financial and political monopoly of the West, particularly USA-UK. This change in balance of power is a matter of life and death for both giants while we the small one in Afghanistan and Pakistan, like grass, being crushed in this elephants dance. So west is quite successful in avoiding this to happen so far, but hunger, deaths and destruction has been knocking at the doors of everyone in this war front. Now it is a stage when everyone has to rise for survival and put an end to the GREAT GAME. What UK Magnacarta, US Declaration of independence and similar values of other nations in the West, advocating for and practicing in their respective countries, same should be applied to all nations in the world otherwise perpetrators of this centuries old barbarism may not survive before rising human feelings for globalization. So achievements in Marjah Hilmand by the NATO forces, in operation “Mushtarak” few months back has become a bleeding Ulcer today. This is not something strange, as it is the law of nature, which cares for none, and, takes its own course of action. THIS IS REALITY that Americans have been bleeding, killing, and bombing the innocent human beings here in this region for the last three decades, either in the name of Jehad against Communist USSR yesterday or today in the name of war on terror. I really feel sorry for Bill D, proud father of his soldier son, for being on front line, very much in the bleeding Ulcer, for his country, when he will know later that this was never a war for his country but rather it was a war planned by CIA in collaboration with Corporatocracy for personal commercial benefits, at the cost of American nation, sons and daughters of such sincere, loyal and patriotic fathers like Bill D. I am writing these lines exactly from same frontline therefore as a humanist I suggest immediate end to the prevailing confrontational policies before it reaches the point of no return.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      The difference is how we are going about to make changes there that will make the difference!!!

      June 30, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. PatrioticMarineMom

    Bill D
    We thank your son for his service. My son is also in Helmand Province. We've loaned our children to the U.S. Marines and I pray they are returned safely.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Anabel

      Amen to that, and stay safe to all the boys and girls out there.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill D

      Hello, and all the best to your son as well. I do hope that the tide will turn, and that your son will return safely home soon. Please accept my thanks to your son for his service, and to you and the rest of his family for your unwavering support in this most difficult war.

      June 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Smith in Oregon

    Driving off the Taliban initially in Marjah appeared to have been successful although some NATO troops apparently callled in one or more airstrikes on convoys of civilians fleeing the fighting which resulted in a great many Marjah civilian deaths and invariably more Taliban fighters composed of those surviving family members, and more IED's planted by family members whose children and wives were murdered by the NATO airstrike on their civilian convoys fleeing the fighting in Marjah.

    Now however the residents in Marjah after seeing the Karzai Clan-McChrystal picked Afghanistan Police and regional Governors forced upon them as utterly corrupt, they are largely wanting the Taliban back, supporting the Taliban, aiding and feeding the Taliban forces.

    It certainly appears McChyrstal's 'shake and bake' strategy has failed in having a lasting effect. The people didn't accept the change and ultimately if the residents of Marjah majorly reject the 'shake and bakers' that spells a lasting failure. Forcing the people of Marjah to continue to accept Police and Governors they view as utterly corrupt by the end of a machine gun is nothing short of a dictatorship and certainly not a democracy ruling that country.

    Meanwhile the drum-beaters are using the same cookie cutter approach now on Kandahar. And when the people of Kandahar largely reject the Karzai-McChrystal Afghanistan shake and bake Police and regional Governors in favor of the Taliban, then what?

    When does America stop propping up a dictatorship by the ends of machine guns which invariably builds misery to the residents of that country and in the end breeds a tremendous hatred towards America?

    June 29, 2010 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
    • RScott

      The central government was picked by us made up of mostly Northern Alliance people and other minorities with a token Pashtun as the head. The corruption came in with the drug trade and remains strong to the point where the people at least in the south, have lost complete trust in central and local government. And no matter how much we spend, it cannot by trust. Our position is not much different from that of the Soviets when they went in, to prop up an Afghan communist government that was about to fall to insurgency.

      June 29, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      Once the People has a real taste of freedom... They won't want to go back to the way it was... That is why We have to train them to take care of themselves!!!

      June 30, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. waseem bangash

    The best option for USA is to get out of Afghanistan. Afghanistan needs centuries to modernize. Fighting is in thier blood. Help them in education and development but do not intervene militalirly. Slowly and gradually they well develop and modernize. The day some foreign power intervene militarly, all afghan unites and thinks that some foreign occupation force is taking their country from them, they start fighting it.

    June 29, 2010 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      We will as soon as we make it so the Tarriest has know place to hide there are Pakistan!!!

      June 30, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Afghan Empire

    The guns which were given to Mujahidin by CIA for killing Russians, killed 20000 Red Army Soldiers and the same guns are killing NATO troops in Afghanistan.
    greater achievement

    June 29, 2010 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jester

    Majrah? I thought it was successfully done

    June 29, 2010 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      The job our troops are doing is making the war a success!!!

      June 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. SGT Bower

    Bill D,

    When you have an inside look to the war and what its truly about , how its fought and the politics that affect our soldiers, marines..... You see things in a whole new way. Most Americans only see what’s on TV, internet, left wing talk radio… and believe everything they see or what the popular people/ vote says; they are sheep to the big media. You see the war for what it is through your son who has first hand knowledge of the current ops, and it can be tough to know that every day your child is seeing the atrocities of man. God bless you and thank you for your families’ sacrifice to our country. We American patriots are a dying breed. Especially when you have people who haven't sacrificed so much as five min in there day to tell a marines mother thank you for your sons service and thank you for yours. Keep your head up your, the red whit and blue displayed on your porch and pray, pray, pray that the wonderful marine fighting for the rights of another people in a far off land comes home. God bless you and your family. I wish your Devil Dog luck!

    June 29, 2010 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bill D

    My son is on his second tour of Helmand province, Afghanistan with the Marines. God willing he will return next month from his duty station in Marjah. Some are not making it back, and some are with less than they left with. This tour has differed markedly from the last one – as his unit was the first US unit to enter Helmand Province a little over two years ago to help out the British in Garmsir. In that tour, the Marines had access to things like air cover. use of force when endangered – of course only when the source of the threat was identified. They cleared Garmsir, reopened the markets and schools and then left it with no replacements – just the British – and it slid back. However, since June 2009, the area is stable, opium free and is making steady progress with the steady support of about 4,000 Marines. Like Marjah, it has about 100,000 occupants. Interestingly, the local population trusts the Marines and the government is making a slow and steady progress back. The local people want no part of the Taliban. But no, it did not occur in a four month period as many would like to see happen in Marjah – it has taken a little over two years and still has a ways to go.

    Marjah is a different story. There have been only only two battalions in Marjah for months – that is folks 1,600 troops. There is no local government nor has there been one or years – here the Taliban are the local war lords, unlike in other areas of Afghanistan. The rules of engagement are bizarre and many of those in this blog apparently do not understand the agony of having your son or daughter fighting with one hand behind their backs. Firefights occur daily. Snipers are active and since they are hidden in residential buildings, the fire freely with little concern of taking return fire. Unless positively identified, return fire cannot be given by our troops. Air cover cannot be called in – something that saved my son's life on his tour in Garmsir.

    The administration established this ridiculous COIN policy – not the military – as that decision is a civilian one. The soldiers simply carry out the mission and any person should know that you do not publicly contradict the commander in chiefs orders.

    Oh, by the way, the troop build up to date is 10,000 troops. That right folks, we are at 78,000 troops versus the planned level of nearly 100,000. So we do not have the troops in the field to bolster areas like Marjah, nor do we have the troops in the field (not to mention the right troops) to take on a task like Kandahar.

    Anyone who lives freely in this country who can stand up and turn their backs on the Taliban and their unbelievable record of human rights atrocities apparently has forgotten what that Statue of Liberty is all about. Fundamentalist Islam has historically been an aggressive, anti-western force. If we roll over on this one, the people of Afghanistan and potentially Pakistan will continue in servitude for decades to come. And do not think they will stop there.

    June 28, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      I completely agree with everything you have said.

      June 29, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      May GOD watch over your son and bring him home in one piece!!!! For some reason these Idiots feel towards Afghanistan like they did Vietnam... I can never understand how anyone that never fought in a war has the nerve to say anything about those trying to protect Our Country!!! They would feel different if they had to put up with it...

      June 30, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. remember when

    hey your right it is amess hey your wrong no one invaded your country you supported those who attacked us bush did make a mistake he should have stayed in afganistan full force while the momentum was ours to be had now too many have shed blood and many hard lessons made on both sides its time to come to a comprable solution for all the people , all people , too much has been lost by everyone

    June 28, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      That is what happens when you listen to Chenny rather than the Generals!!! There is more money to be made in 2 wars than just one... Then you have Iraq oil to attend with there!!!

      June 30, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Smith in Oregon

    Marjah has been the first and only test of Stanley McChrystal's failed 'shake and bake' Afghanistan Police and regional Governments. Briefly the Taliban were pushed out of Marjah, now that Marjah residents see the Karzai Clan's Police and regional Governors are more corrupt than the Taliban, they in mass reject the 'shake and bake' replacements that are being forced upon them, go figure! Meanwhile in a double down Bush-Cheney 'theory', the already failed 'shake and bake' strategy is being employed in a cookie cutter approach in Kandahar.

    Americans wanting a swift end of the Afghanistan occupation should implore and request Kyrgyzstan to close it's airbase to America's refueling tanker fleet used to refuel fighter jets over Afghanistan.

    Americans wanting a swift end of the Afghanistan occupation should implore and request Turkey to warn America that any further deaths by Israel on Turkish civilians will result in Turkey closing it's airspace and borders to US Military convoys moving US Military supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Americans should applaud Turkey's action in closing it's airspace to Israeli fighter jets, effectively defusing the friction and situation in the Middle East between Israel and Iran. NATO country's should be on notice that Israeli overflights of Turkey would be the same as an attack upon a NATO country and immediately respond to hold Israel entirely responsible.

    June 28, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • CBCalif

      I am not sure how anyone other than an Islamic radical or their supporters logically transfers a subject from American / NATO strategy in Afghanistan to supporting the policies of anti-Western Islamic regimes such as Erdogan's Turkey and their forth comming Iranian allies.

      I agree that there is no strategic benefit to the US in Afghanistan. Time will favor the Taliban and who cares who more or less rules that part of the world. If they invite Al queda back, that is the reason God gave us (the US) B-52's et al – a quick solution to a minor problem.

      When NATO pulls out of Afghanistan, the Taliban will return and fight their way back into power. The so-called Central Government's army will collapse as their troops will simply lack the will to die for a corrupt government. I may not be a fan of the Taliban's moral, cultural, religious, or other ideas, but one has to admire their dedication to those beliefs and willingness to die for them. Kharzi Inc. will never obtain that level of dedication from his hired supporters, any more than Thieu and Company did from the South Vietnamese troops who fought against Giap's NVA – it that means anything to you.

      However, this country and the others in NATO should not be allied with any radical Islamic government such as that now in power in Turkey. If Erdogan and company are not reversed in the next Turkish election the US should close its base or bases in Turkey and move those operations elsewhere. And, yes they can be moved elsewhere, Turkey is not the center of the modern world. Then, quietly, the US or Israel should provide the Kurdish "freedom fighters" with hand carried / shoulder launched surface to air missiles and anti-tank missiles and teach them how to use them. We will then see what happens to the vaunted Turkish army units (or their air support) when they invade the mountain passes of the Kurdish area of western Iraq.

      Yourself(s) and the other supporters or radical Islamic regimes always forget or ignore their barbaric and murderous ways exemplified by the Turks murdering in the 1980's of 30,000+ Kurdish civilians in occupied Kurdistan, that country's hired murdering of Armenian Christians, their killing and stealing the property of Greek Christians living on the Anatolian Peninsular, the invasion and occupation of part of Cyprus, their current support of murdering terrorist groups such as Hamas, etc.

      The only reason Turkey joined NATO was their fear, at that time, that the Russian Army might have moved South. We should have acknowledged Turkey was in their sphere of influence and let them take it over. Absent the now declining influence of Ataturk's secularism on that country, there are no ethical, religious, cultural, or other meaningful ties between the west and Muslim Turkey other than some business relationships. Countries like that will do business wherever they can get money to prop up their society, and if not in Turkey's case who cares. The choice lies with the Turkish people, remove Erdogan and Company remove their veils, and return their face to the west – as Ataturk commanded or continue to ally themselves with Iran, Syria and the like and see where it takes them.

      Israel will not bomb Iran. It would be strategically pointless. They lack a sufficient number of aircraft for the required number of tasks – absent employment of nuclear weapons which will not happen. The US could handle the job, and yes it can be completed successfully with great cost to the Iranians. If, or perhaps one should say when, the Iranians build an A-Bomb, Israel should announce what is its policy – a nuclear attack on Israel by a Muslim nation will be treat as a nuclear attack on its country by all Muslim nations requiring the appropriate response. Then we can all enjoy the hereafter – and you can let us know if you actually receive 70 virgins – and what you do with them. You have to love sane religious beliefs.

      June 29, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      We can do more damage to Turkey than they can to us!!! It just shows how stupid they really are...

      June 30, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |

    If we can't use "nukes" then wht don't we just run over all those mud huts with bulldosers.

    June 28, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel-2

      As if they don't have enough to worry about with the Predator drones watching their every move you now want them bulldosed, how barbaric i feel for them they must be fretting all of the time wondering if their next breath will be their last. They need a strong woman looking out for them keeping an eagle eye open for 'enemies' so they can sleep at night or 'cracking one off' to relieve the pressure...

      June 28, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
      • Onesmallvoice

        How disgusting you are,Funny boy!When are you going to start blogging on our side??? You know we're right,don't you?Beides,how would you feel if your own family were to be on the receiving end of those ungodly drones and would those filthy creeps who just killed your family still be the great heroes that you make them out to be???

        June 28, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Onesmallvoice

      What's wrong with you??? Have you absolutly no sense of decency in you at all???

      June 28, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
      • Daniel-2

        No I don't!!!! Ha ha!

        June 29, 2010 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
      • Daniel-2

        I will "start blogging on our side" when hell freezes over and i can skate over your anguished soul.

        June 29, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      We be better off to use the un-man planes to drop the fire bombs we have on the enemy!! That way you get all of them at one time...

      June 30, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Daniel-2

    I prefer to describe it as a bleeding haemorrhoid. caused by irritating @ss holes.

    June 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |

      What's wrong with you? Never mind,I should have known that you're one of those foul speaking Tea Partiers,but must you use your choice of words while blogging in here??????

      June 28, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  17. bangash

    Yesterday Americans had made Afghanistan a bleeding wound for the than USSR, TODAY a small portion of Marjah in Helmand province of Afghanistan has proved a bleeding Ulcer for Americans. Here how history has repeated itself. There is nothing wrong in accepting when the wrong has been done. Occupation of Afghanistan was wrong decision and time has also proved it wrong. So take back all your guns and fighters send your Engineers, Doctors, Teachers, social workers and build Afghanistan the way you have destroyed during last three decades. This is the only solution to get out of this quagmire.

    June 28, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel-2

      If any "Engineers, Doctors, Teachers, social workers" were sent they would be kidnapped for ransom by the taliban.

      June 28, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
      • Onesmallvoice

        Is that right,Funny boy?

        June 28, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.

        You got that right!!!

        June 30, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  18. ImNoExpert

    Its all the fault of those right wing thugs in Washington

    June 28, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      That is for sure... But the People still vote the Republicans into office!!! Figure that one out...

      June 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  19. OMMS

    No matter we like it OR not, If we want to end this conflict in Afghanistan, we have to get help from Pakistan, so they can force Afghan Taliban to get on with negotiations with USA.

    We have already tried alone for 9 years alone and its not working..

    We will have to accept the fact that Pakistan Army / ISI will never let India get into any role in Afghanistan..because they do not want to get encircled by india from both sides..

    As soon as we realize above, we can we out of this mess in Afghanistan..

    June 28, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Jester

      I think you have just struck bullseye sir. India- Pakistan thing has caused lots of problems for US-NATO in Afghanistan. None of them least concerned about Afghansitan or Taliban. India wants to establish in Afghanistan to make problems for Pakistan and Pakistan just is not going to let that happen. India has opened serveral counslates , which actually act as base for their operations inside Pakistan. Both countries have Militia were working for them , these Militia are shadowed under war on terror thats why nobody has ever seen them.

      The point is why should Pakistan be concerned about Afghanistan stability when India will get a bigger share ,courtsy USA

      June 29, 2010 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Sandra

      As long as lobbyists supporting the interests of foreign countries, such as Israel, are allowed to siphon money out of our political system for their country, we will be doing their dirty work. They will bankrupt US. They are not acting in the best interest of this country, they are protecting Israel. We have no allegiance to Israel. We have allegiance to the US. Write to your representatives for protection from lobby groups that support foreign agencies. Make them register as foreign agents so they are transparent to the actual citizens of this country.


      June 29, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.

        More money goes to Haiti than goes to Israel!!! We have sent more money to a lot more Countries too... But the only one you complain about is Israel... Both wars are costing times more money than we send there!!!

        June 30, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
      • Morshed

        The Earlier ordinary American understand the better is for AMERICA. But the concerned lobby will not allow the people to wake up.

        July 4, 2010 at 4:58 am | Report abuse |