May 27, 2008

IF ONLY THE BRITS HAD A MILITARY...:

Optimism Grows as Marines Push Against Taliban (CARLOTTA GALL, 5/27/08, NY Times)

For two years British troops staked out a presence in this small district center in southern Afghanistan and fended off attacks from the Taliban. The constant firefights left it a ghost town, its bazaar broken and empty but for one baker, its houses and orchards reduced to rubble and weeds.

But it took the Marines, specifically the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, about 96 hours to clear out the Taliban in a fierce battle in the past month and push them back about 6 miles. [...]

The marines’ drive against the Taliban in this large farming region is certainly not finished, and the Taliban have often been pushed out of areas in Afghanistan only to return in force later. But for the British forces and Afghan residents here, the result of the recent operation has been palpable.

The district chief returned to his job from his refuge in the provincial capital within days of the battle and 200 people — including 100 elders of the community — gathered for a meeting with him and the British to plan the regeneration of the town.

“They have disrupted the Taliban’s freedom of movement and pushed them south, and that has created the grounds for us to develop the hospital and set the conditions for the government to come back,” said Maj. Neil Den-McKay, the officer commanding a company of the Royal Regiment of Scotland based here. People have already started coming back to villages north of the town, he said, adding, “There has been huge optimism from the people.”

For the marines, it was a chance to hit the enemy with the full panoply of their firepower in places where they were confident there were few civilians. The Taliban put up a tenacious fight, rushing in reinforcements in cars and vans from the south and returning repeatedly to the attack, but they were beaten back in four days by three companies of marines, two of which were dropped in by helicopter to the southeast.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 27, 2008 8:01 AM
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