Watching Olympics? Meanwhile NATO launches major Afghanistan offensive
2010-02-13 0:00

By Michael Georgy and Bryson Hull | Reuters.com

U.S.-led NATO troops launched an offensive on Saturday against the Taliban's last big stronghold in Afghanistan's most violent province and were quickly thrown into a firefight with the militants.


British soldiers from the First Battalion The Royal Welsh mobilize for Operation Moshtarak at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, February 13, 2010.
Credit: REUTERS/SSgt Will Craig/The British Army/Handout

The assault is the first since President Barack Obama ordered a "surge" of extra troops to Afghanistan in December and the start of a campaign to impose government control on rebel-held areas this year, before U.S. forces start to withdraw in 2011.

Within hours of the operation getting underway, U.S. Marines at the tip of the assault battled with Taliban militants in the town of Marjah, the last big militant bastion in Afghanistan's violent Helmand Province.

Reuters reporter Golnar Motevalli saw Marines engaging in a firefight with Taliban fighters after the U.S. troops landed in helicopters near the city.

Marines fired at least four rockets at militants who attacked from compounds. At least one Marine was wounded by shrapnel.

"They are about 300 meters away," Motevalli said as the sound of assault rifles crackled in the background. Moments earlier, two large explosions resounded and a large black plume of smoke rose into the sky.

The offensive began with waves of helicopters ferrying U.S. Marines into the city in the early morning hours. British troops then flew into the northern part of the surrounding Nad Ali district, followed by tanks and combat engineering units.

The first objective of U.S. Marines was to take over the town center, a large cluster of dwellings, despite the risk of being blown up by bombs rigged by the Taliban.

GUNFIRE, EXPLOSIONS

Bursts of gunfire rattled through the area as servicemen anticipated their first contact with the militants.

By mid-morning, a couple of large explosions boomed, with a big plume of black smoke rising skywards. One was apparently an improvised rocket with plastic explosives designed to set off roadside bombs.

The 15,000-troop operation may have been named Mushtarak, or together, to highlight that NATO and Afghan forces were determined to work closely to bring stability to Afghanistan, a country often brought to its knees by one war after another.

Decades ago the Marjah area was home to an Afghan-American development project. Its canals, which criss-cross lush farmland, were built by the Americans.

Now NATO is trying to recapture it from a militant group that is highly unlikely to contemplate cooperation with the West.

"Insurgents who do not accept the government's offer to reintegrate and join the political process will be met with overwhelming force," the joint NATO-Afghan coalition said in a statement announcing the start of clearing operations.

A local Taliban commander, Qari Fazluddin, told Reuters earlier some 2,000 fighters were ready to fight in the densely-populated area.

The safety of civilians may be the vital issue for NATO in one of the eight-year-old war's biggest offensives against the Taliban, which have re-emerged as a powerful fighting force since they were toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Any heavy civilian casualties would make it even more difficult for the American-backed Afghan government to win support in towns that have been held by Taliban insurgents.

NATO forces have decided to advise civilians not to leave their homes, although they have said they do not know whether the assault will lead to heavy fighting.

"JUST MY HOUSE"

Most residents of the area, estimated at up to 100,000, have stayed put. But others have headed 30 km (18 miles) east to the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. "All the walls between the streets and houses are surrounded by bombs. Most people have gone to Lashkar Gah. That's where we want to go today," resident Abdel Aziz, 16, told the Marines through a translator.

Soon after, an old woman emerged from her house and asked the troops not to fire at it.

"This is just my house," she told the Marines.

Unlike previous military operations, the assault on Marjah has been widely flagged for months. Commanders say they hope this will persuade many fighters to lay down their arms or flee.

Residents have been afraid to leave their homes in fear of roadside bombs planted by the Taliban to slow the U.S. advance.

Marjah has been a breeding ground for both insurgents and opium poppy cultivation for years. Much may depend on whether the state can ensure long-term political and economic stability to erase the conditions that have encouraged militancy.

Article from: Reuters.com



Related Articles
What Empires Have Said Throughout History: "One More Surge"
Canadian choppers touch down in largest air assault of Afghan war
US military chief wants more troops for Afghan war
Obama Admin: No Grounds To Probe Afghan War Crimes
Obama (2009 Nobel Peace Prize Winner) Orders 30,000-Troop Boost in Afghanistan
Instead of Fixing the Economy or Creating Jobs, Obama Will Spend The Money in Afghanistan and Iraq
Canada in Afghanistan: Torture and Coverup


Latest News from our Front Page

Vikings Were Pioneers of Craft and International Trade
2015-02-26 23:30
The connections between technology, urban trading, and international economics which have come to define modern living are nothing new. Back in the first millennium AD, the Vikings were expert at exploring these very issues. While the Vikings are "gone" their legacy is remembered, such as at the annual Jorvik Viking Festival in York. The Norsemen's military prowess and exploration are more ...
Just Based on DNA, Scientists Can Construct an Image of Your Face
2015-02-26 22:05
Putting pencil to paper has been the tried-and-true method to illustrate the faces of wanted criminals, but new technology is changing this traditional approach. DNA, rather than an artist’s skill, is an emerging tool to recreate the face behind a crime. The new forensic technique is called DNA phenotyping. It relies on DNA, found for instance in a drop of blood, ...
FCC Votes In Favor Of Obama's Net Neutrality - Has The Slippery Slope To Web Censorship Begun?
2015-02-26 20:14
"An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life," according to President Obama and it appears his perspective on the heavy hand of government regulation inserting itself into the last bastion of freedom and dynamism in the US economy, is how best to achieve "openness." Having pressured FCC's Tom Wheeler, the vote ...
The Endgame: White Genocide
2015-02-25 21:06
Made by youtube.com/ThisisEuropa facebook.com/ThisIsEuropa “There is no place in modern Europe for ethnically pure states. That’s a 19th century idea and we are trying to transition into the 21st century, and we are going to do it with multi-ethnic states.” – Wesley Clark, U.S. general, ex-NATO Supreme Commander, talking about the NATO bombing of Serbia, 1999. What is White Genocide? ▪ Moving millions of ...
Former German Lawyer Sylvia Stolz has been jailed again
2015-02-26 3:28
Sylvia Stolz, the former defence attorney for Ernst Zundel has been convicted today in a Munich court, once again under the tyrannical BRD laws concerning so-called “holocaust denial” and thereby “inciting racial hatred”. She was sentenced to 20 months in prison with no possibility of parole. The case stems from her presentation at the AZK in Switzerland in 2012 where ...
More News »