The Marjah Offensive

February 16, 2010

U.S. marines are leading a massive NATO effort to drive Taliban insurgents from Southern Afghanistan so that power in the region can be transfered to the Afghan government.

NATO forces have so far been facing the most resistance in the Taliban haven of Marjah. U.S. troops have been plagued by sniper fire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). However, British and Afghan troops are reported to be making better progress in the neighboring district of Nad Ali.

The aim of the Marjah offensive is to rid the area of militant insurgents and drug traffickers before a handover of security to Afghan police.

The Marjah offensive is part of a larger strategy known as Operation Moshtarak (Operation Together in the Dari language) which is the largest coalition attack in Afghanistan since the Taliban fell in 2001. Moshtarak is considered the first major test of U.S. President Barack Obama’s new “surge” strategy. Afghan officials have said that the offensive appears to be working.

Many experts credit the Obama administration for its current counter-insurgency strategy where an emphasis is being put on protecting civilians as opposed to the former strategy in Afghanistan of focusing only on the mantra of clear, build, and hold.

The current NATO effort in Afghanistan is designed to provide an atmosphere where President Hamid Karzai’s federal government can successfully come in and install itself in the region. General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, was quoted last week saying that when the military phase of this current operation is concluded, Afghanistan has “a government in a box ready to roll” indicating that the Afghan government is ready to start providing services to Southern Afghanistan’s population. An efficacious transfer of power in the region could go a long way towards keeping the Taliban from returning to the area.

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