First Marjah, Then What?
With NATO forces on their way to securing the city of Marjah, questions remain about the strategic importance of the city and its place in a war to promote democracy. "The Taliban put up a stiff resistance Sunday, as a coalition assault against the militant group entered its second day in southern Afghanistan. Officials said they did not know how many Taliban fighters remained in the Marjah region of Helmand province but think they may be in the hundreds -- some of whom are holed up in civilian compounds.
Dawoud Ahmadi, the provincial spokesman, said 27 Taliban fighters have been killed. Afghan and international forces also discovered 2,500 kilograms (5,500 lbs) of explosives. The Taliban spokesman for the Marjah area claimed six Taliban casualties and said militants had killed 192 Afghan and coaltion troops. In the past, the Taluban has often inflated casualty fighures. 'NATO forces have not captured any areas in Marjah from the Mujahadeen,' said Qari Yousif Ahmadi, the Taliban spokesman. Dubbed Operation Moshtarak, the offensive was launched early Saturday by an international coalition of 15,000 troops including Afghans, Americans, Britons, Canadians, Danes and Estonians. Hours into the offensive, small-arms fire killed a U.S. Marine, and an explosion killed a British soldier, according to a U.S. military official."