U.S. claims win against Tal­iban

The Kansas City Star (Sunday) - - AFGHANISTAN UPDATE | - The As­so­ci­ated Press

Mil­i­tary of­fi­cials say re­sis­tance has been cleared in the Afghan town of Mar­jah.

U.S. Marines and Afghan troops on Satur­day cleared the last ma­jor pocket of re­sis­tance in the for­mer Tal­iban-ruled town of Mar­jah.

It was part of an of­fen­sive that was the run-up to a larger show­down later this year in the most strate­gic part of Afghanistan’s danger­ous south.

Marines said their work in Mar­jah wasn’t done, and the com­bined forces ex­pect to face in­ter­mit­tent at­tacks for at least two more weeks.

But Afghans al­ready were brac­ing for a big­ger, more com­pre­hen­sive as­sault in neigh­bor­ing Kandahar prov­ince, the birth­place of the Tal­iban.

Of­fi­cials in Kandahar are talk­ing to aid or­ga­ni­za­tions about how to han­dle up to 10,000 peo­ple who could be dis­placed by fight­ing.

The two-week-long Mar­jah of­fen­sive has been the war’s big­gest com­bined op­er­a­tion since the 2001U.S.-led in­va­sion to top­ple the Tal­iban’s hard- line regime. It was the first ma­jor test of NATO’s coun­terin­sur­gency strat­egy since Pres­i­dent Barack Obama sent 30,000 new Amer­i­can troops to Afghanistan to try to re­verse Tal­iban gains.

The op­er­a­tion in Mar­jah was the tac­ti­cal pre­lude to the big­ger op­er­a­tion be­ing planned in Kandahar, the largest city in the south and the for­mer Tal­iban head­quar­ters, said se­nior of­fi­cials with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

It was from in and around Kandahar that Tal­iban over­lord Mul­lah Omar ruled Afghanistan be­fore the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks in New York and Wash­ing­ton.

Bring­ing se­cu­rity to the city of Kandahar is a chief goal of NATO op­er­a­tions this year, said the of­fi­cials, who spoke to re­porters in Wash­ing­ton on Fri­day. They spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity so they could dis­cuss na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues.

If this year’s goal is to re­verse the Tal­iban’s mo­men­tum and give Afghan gov­ern­ment an op­por­tu­nity to take con­trol, then NATO-led forces have to get to Kandahar this year, one of­fi­cial said.

DAVID GUTTENFELDER | THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

On Fri­day, Marines un­loaded sup­plies from a he­li­copter in Mar­jah, Afghanistan. On Satur­day, U.S. of­fi­cials said the last rem­nants of re­sis­tance had been cleared from the town.

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