News / Asia

General: NATO Controls Marjah's Main Roads and Markets

A U.S. Marine general says U.S.-led forces now control the main roads and markets in the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in southern Afghanistan, but a NATO commander says it will take a month to secure the area.

U.S. Brigadier General Larry Nicholson tells the Associated Press that allied forces are right where they want to be.  He says U.S.-led troops control what he called the "spine" of the town.

British Major General Nick Carter says it will take as long as 30 days to overcome what he describes as "stiff resistance" from Taliban fighters.

NATO and Afghan troops face snipers and hidden bombs.

U.S.-led NATO forces and Afghan troops launched a major offensive against the Taliban in Marjah last week.  

At least 11 NATO troops and 40 Taliban militants have been killed so far, along with 15 civilians.

General Carter says it will take time to convince the local population to trust the Afghan government, after years of being ruled by the Taliban and drug lords.

He says NATO plans to rush in a civilian administration, restore public services, and pour aid into the town to win the loyalty of the population and prevent the Taliban from returning.

Afghan officials say 400 police officers have already begun moving into Marjah, and that a second contingent of police officers is on its way.

Hundreds of Afghans are fleeing the fighting.  

New convoys of displaced villagers arrived in Lashkar Gah, the main city in Helmand province, Friday.  Many took their belongings with them.

The Associated Press says provincial officials believe more than 900 families have left Marjah to escape the violence.

Meanwhile, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan traveled to Uzbekistan to discuss the latest developments.

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent Friday.

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