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 In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail 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.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More