US marines lead major crack down against Taliban in Afghanistan

Vinod2070

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US marines lead major crack down against Taliban in Afghanistan

Thousands of American marines taking part in President Barack Obama’s long-awaited surge against Taliban militants in Helmand province are encountering only light resistance, commanders have reported.



By Dean Nelson and Ben Farmer in Kabul
Published: 7:30AM BST 02 Jul 2009

Afghan President Hamid Karzai Photo: AFP


Insurgents were said to be withdrawing in the face of the biggest US marine helicopter landing since Vietnam. Commanders report Operation Khanjar or “sword strike” has met with sporadic small arms fire but there were no reports of casualties on either side.
Coalition forces hope the massive sudden assault will turn the tide of fighting in Helmand, where British troops have been locked in stalemate for three years.

An estimated 4,000 US marines, backed by 600 Afghan soldiers swept into the southern districts of Nowa and Garmsir in the early hours of Thursday.
The force, borne by helicopters and vehicle convoys, was expected to stage a fast and furious clearance of militant strongholds, as part of the US army’s “clear hold and build” strategy.
US marines will then consolidate their hold in the region, trying to provide security in the run up to next month’s Presidential elections.

However commanders admitted that after the apparent initial withdrawal by militants, they were likely to regroup and launch guerrilla attacks.
The operation began with units moving into the southern reaches of the Helmand River Valley in helicopters and a convoy of heavy transport vehicles, supported by fighter aircraft.

Brigadier Gen Larry Nicholson, who commands the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand, said: “What makes Operation Khanjar different from those that have occurred before is the massive size of the force introduced, the speed at which it will insert, and the fact that where we go we will stay, and where we stay, we will hold, build and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces.”

The launch of the operation was welcomed by Helmand governor Gulab Mangal. “The security forces will build bases to provide security for the local people so that they can carry out every activity with this favourable background, and take their lives forward in peace,” he said.
Critics had questioned how a meaningful national election could be held when Taliban militants controlled so much of southern Afghanistan.

Senior American officers have said the operation will also aim to win hearts and minds of Afghans who have been living under Taliban control by explaining why they are there and gaining their trust.

There has been a significant build up of American troops in Helmand since President Obama came into office promising an additional 21,000 troops.

Commanders said they expect to encounter hundreds of Taliban fighters.
The lower reaches of the Helmand river are notorious for opium-growing.
Brig Nicholson admitted the operation was a “big, risky plan”, but said it also offered “amazing opportunities”.

“These are days of immense change for Helmand province. We’re going down there, and we’re going to stay - that’s what is different this time.”
He said: “It involves great risks and amazing opportunities. These are days of immense change for Helmand province. We’re going down there, and we’re going to stay - that’s what is different this time.”
US marines lead major crack down against Taliban in Afghanistan - Telegraph
 

Vinod2070

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U.S. Marines launch Operation Khanjar - largest military offensive since 2004 battle of Fallujah

Raedle/Getty

U.S. Marine takes up a fighting position during the start of Operation Khanjari Thursday in Main Poshteh, Afghanistan.

A major offensive was underway Thursday in southern Afghanistan, with thousands of U.S. Marines mounting their largest operation since the battle of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004.
One Marine has been killed and several others were wounded in Operation Khanjar - or "Strike of the Sword - in the Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold.
Some 4,000 American troops and 650 Afghan soldiers set out in helicopters and Humvees under cover of darkness to clear the region.

"You're going to change the world this summer and it starts this morning. The United States and the world are watching," Lt. Col. Christian Cabaniss, commander of the 2nd battalion, 8th Marines, told his troops.

The ambush was designed to clear, then hold, a province where U.S. troops have been unable to access many areas during the eight-year war.
Despite the early casualties, military commanders said they have seen only sporadic resistance during the operation, which took place in 100-plus degree
weather.

"The enemy has chosen to withdraw rather than engage for the most part," Marine spokesman Lt. Abe Sipe said.
The offensive is part of President Obama's new troop surge in Afghanistan to help secure the area ahead of Aug. 20 presidential elections.

"Where we go we will stay, and where we stay, we will hold, build and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces," Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson said in a statement.

The number of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan is expected to reach 68,000 by year's end - double the number in 2008.

Thousands of U.S. Marines and soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team are stationed in Helmand.

"We are kind of forging new ground here," said Capt. Drew Schoenmaker, of Greene, N.Y., commander of Bravo Co., 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. "We are going to a place nobody has been before."

The operation supports U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal's strategy to focus on securing the Afghan people with the hope they reject Taliban influence.

"The measure of effectiveness \[in Afghanistan\] will not be the number of enemy killed, it will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence,"
McChrystal, the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said last month.
U.S. Marines launch Operation Khanjar - largest military offensive since 2004 battle of Fallujah
 

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