March 29th, 2010
01:50 PM ET

Behind the scenes of the battle for Marjah

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

March 19th, 2010
07:59 AM ET

Behind the scenes in Marjah

Go behind the scenes of filming in Marjah with CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman, as show originally on CNN International's BackStory.

March 18th, 2010
08:16 PM ET

Around the Web: Taliban waging intimidation campaign in Marjah, reports say

Rod Nordland of The New York Times reports that the Taliban are fighting back in Marjah with a “campaign of intimidation.”

“The Taliban tactics have included at least one beheading in a broader effort to terrorize residents and undermine what military officials have said is the most important aim of the offensive: the attempt to establish a strong local government that can restore services,” Nordland writes.

FULL POST

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 9th, 2010
05:47 PM ET
March 9th, 2010
09:00 AM ET
March 8th, 2010
05:20 PM ET

Around the Web: McChrystal addresses Kandahar

U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, says his next target is Kandahar.
 
He declined to comment specifically on when the Kandahar offensive will begin, but said "our forces will be significantly increased around there by early summer."

"There won't be a 'D-Day' that is climactic," McChrystal said. "It will be a rising tide of security as it comes."

FULL POST

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Filed under: Around the Web • Karzai • Marjah
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 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
01:17 PM ET

Photo spotlight: Marjah street

While reporting in Marjah this weekend, CNN producer David Harding captured this street scene - a photographer setting up the shot, soldiers patrolling the area and shopkeepers and residents beginning to return to somewhat normal life. Marjah is the focus of Operation Moshtarak, a massive military offensive by Afghan and international troops to wrest control of the southern Afghanistan city from the Taliban.

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Filed under: Marjah • Photo Spotlight