News / Asia

US Marines: Taliban Insurgents Mostly Cleared from Marja

Meredith Buel

Three weeks after U.S. Marines and Afghan Army soldiers launched the largest military offensive in Afghanistan since 2001, a top American commander said Thursday that most of the insurgents have been cleared from the Taliban enclave of Marja.

On February 13th, thousands of U.S. Marines and Afghan Army troops began the battle for Marja, an area of about 400 square kilometers that is considered to be a stronghold of the Taliban and a drug-trafficking hub in southern Afghanistan.

Speaking to reporters via satellite from the region, Marine Corps Brigadier General Lawrence Nicholson said 2,500 of his men who are partnered with about 1,500 Afghan Army soldiers have largely secured Marja.

"While we still continue to find IEDs [improvised explosive devices], I think we're very pleased with how things have settled down," said General Nicholson. "[This] doesn't mean it's over by any stretch [of the imagination].  And again, the IED threat is real and formidable.  And we'll continue to work in terms of clearing it."

Nicholson said the people of Marja remain deeply skeptical, adding that they have been "tainted" by previous bad experiences with the Afghan government.

The general said gaining the trust of the local population is crucial to the success of the mission.

"And at the end of the day, I think all of us understand that in a counterinsurgency operation, the people are the prize and the people are going to vote," he said. "We are in competition every day for the confidence and support of the population.  We're in competition with the Taliban."

With the Afghan flag now flying over Marja, officials say plans call for NATO and the Afghan government to quickly establish a civilian administration, restore public services, and pour in aid to win the loyalty of the population and prevent the Taliban from returning.

General Nicholson said security is a top priority.

"I can tell you right now that there is no short-term plan to withdraw the Marines or the Afghan battalions that are in there," said Nicholson. "We're very conscious of the fact that this is a very fragile area."

Nicholson said soldiers are working with local elected, religious and tribal leaders to stabilize the area.

He said local roads have reopened, commerce has resumed and families who fled the fighting are returning.

The general added that his men are consulting with local elders in an effort to recruit honest police officers.

"I do have real concerns, though, about the quality of the police overall.  And we've been very public to say I'd rather have no police than bad police because bad police - they just kill you," he said. "I mean, they turn the population against you."

Nicholson noted that members of the Afghan Army involved in the Marjah operation range from seasoned veterans to recent recruits just out of training.

Nicholson says he is impressed by the actions of the Afghan soldiers.

"These guys run to the sound of gunfire," said General Nicholson. "And when I talk to the young Marines, they tell me how very happy they are to have them there."

Afghan and NATO troops continue to fortify their positions in Marjah.

Commanders say the capture of the town is the first step in a broader offensive that will extend to neighboring Kandahar Province, the birthplace of the Taliban.

The operation is considered a key test of U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy for reversing the rise of the militant group, while protecting the Afghan population.   

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid