01 June 2008

Give the Marines 96 hours...

...and they'll give you optimism.

Optimism Grows as Marines Push Against Taliban

GARMSER, Afghanistan — 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.

But... (this is the NYT, after all)

It was their first major combat operation since landing in March, and it stood in stark contrast to the events of a year earlier, when a Marine unit was removed in disgrace within weeks of arriving because its members shot and killed 19 civilians after a suicide bombing attack.

It was decided - after an inquiry and 3 days before this article was published - not to charge the Marines with any wrongdoing. The Times doesn't mention that until the 12th paragraph of the article, where they bring up the incident again adding the decision was "greeted with dismay in Afghanistan". (By whom? The Taliban?)

Anyway, back to the point of the story, if you can wade through the rest you'll find other unmistakable signs of progress like the one below, so it's worth a read.

“They [the Marines] 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.”

The Marines were originally tasked with securing a single road through the district, but decided to change their plans after realizing how important the area was to the Taliban. The impact of their operations has been twofold - they've disrupted a major Taliban transportation artery and source of income, and the locals have been "unexpectedly welcoming to the American forces and eager for security and development."

No comments: