After sitting and stewing in one military base after another for six days, we were finally going to Marjah.
We all awoke of our own accord around 1:30 AM, quickly packed our things and made our way to the transport area of Fiddler’s Green, an absurdly idyllic name for a Marine base that was neither green nor anything to fiddle about. FULL POST
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai made an unannounced visit to Marjah on Sunday to see the gains made after a massive military offensive by Afghan and international troops to wrest control of the southern city from the Taliban.
Karzai toured the city in Helmand province with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON – Citizens of Marjah remain very skeptical of U.S. troops and the Afghan government that has moved in and taken over the southern Afghanistan town, according to the U.S. general in charge of the operation.
U.S. Marine Corps Brig. General Larry Nicholson said on Thursday that 20 days into the operation to rid the area of Taliban influence, the public is concerned about what the new Afghan government is going to be able to do for them.
"We are in competition every day for the confidence and support of the population – we're in competition with the Taliban," Nichols told reporters at the Pentagon during a video-teleconference briefing from Helmand province. "We have a very narrow window of opportunity here in Marjah to make that first impression and you get one shot at it," he said. FULL POST
Many stories about Afghanistan today and during the weekend focus on the battle in Marjah and the rebuilding effort that lies ahead.
“After the declaration this weekend that the battle for the Taliban enclave of Marja had been won, for the Marines standing behind sandbags and walking patrols, the more complicated work has begun. With it will be a test of the strategy selected by President Obama and the generals now running the Afghan war,” writes C.J. Chivers of the New York Times.
Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post reports that dangers still exist in Marjah, despite coalition and Afghan forces now largely in control of the city.
“The farmlands of Marja, once a Taliban stronghold and drug-trafficking hub, remain a treacherous place. Over the course of the two-week offensive, 5,000 Marines and Afghan soldiers have encountered hundreds of mines and homemade bombs, and the troops still plan another detailed, house-by-house clearing of the ground they've already passed through,” Partlow writes.
Authorities raised the Afghan flag over the battle-scarred enclave of Marjah on Thursday, a ceremony symbolizing the presence of the Afghan government in the Taliban stronghold. The red, black and green banner was hoisted over an area where U.S. and other troops have been fighting the Taliban in Operation Moshtarak - the biggest offensive of the war. Full Story
As the top NATO commander in Afghanistan publicly apologized for the latest civilian deaths in the war, one of his former advisers said Tuesday the Afghan people have "crystallized their frustration" on the issue of civilian casualties.
"It's crystallized a disappointment with the international intervention that's been growing since about 2003," said Sarah Chayes, who just completed one year of service as an adviser to Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff in Kabul.
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.”