U.S. claims win against Taliban
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.
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.