Afghan and Allied Forces Begin to Secure Taliban Stronghold

Matthew Rosenberg in Kabul
Michael M. Phillips in Marjah, Afghanistan
Wall Street Journal
2/13/2010

MARJAH, Afghanistan — U.S., Afghan and British troops were in the early stages of securing the town of Marjah Saturday, with thousands of infrantrymen moving in on foot after helicopter-born soldiers seized two central shopping bazaars.

The airborne troops landed before dawn, opening the first major military push in the latest surge of U.S. and allied forces into Afghanistan. So far, the troops have encountered only hit-and-run resistance from Taliban fighters, who have been taking potshots from compounds before moving out as the allied troops returned fire. Afghan officials said five Taliban had been killed; there was no word on coalition casualties.

The ground troops took several hours to breach the town limits, with an exercise that included constructing two tank-mounted bridges to cross a canal and sweeping for improvised explosive devices, or IEDS, the major threat to allied troop. Commanders believe the town is wired with booby traps and mines.

“The operation went without a single hitch,” British Maj. Gen Nick Carter, the top North Atlantic Treaty Organization commander in southern Afghanistan, told reporters hours after the assault began.

“We’ve caught the insurgents on the hoof, and they’re completely dislocated,” he said in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, where Marjah is located.

The article, with embedded video, continues at the Wall Street Journal.

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