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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid