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Marja

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OPINION
February 17, 2010 | By Andrew J. Bacevich
What you see depends on where you sit. My seat at present is in Marfa, a small town in rural West Texas. Yet Marfa turns out to be an oddly instructive vantage point from which to contemplate the latest developments in far-off Afghanistan. On Saturday, U.S. Marines and other coalition troops launched the largest allied offensive since Operation Enduring Freedom began nearly nine years ago. The target of that assault is Marja, a mostly Pashtun city in the heart of Helmand province.
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OPINION
December 16, 2010 | By Peter Mansoor and Max Boot
The Obama administration's Afghanistan assessment, due out Thursday, reportedly indicates uneven but real progress. Fed a steady diet of gloom and doom, including Wednesday's headlines about negative intelligence assessments, many Americans will be surprised at this finding. But in any far-off guerrilla war, perception back home often lags battlefield reality by several months. It certainly did in Iraq during the "surge" in 2007. So too in Afghanistan, where the buildup of U.S. forces, completed only this fall, is already having a considerable impact, although public opinion hasn't caught on yet. Even with the recent increase in U.S. troops, bringing the NATO force to 140,000, there are not enough forces to conduct a comprehensive campaign across the entire country.
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WORLD
February 28, 2010 | By Tony Perry
Just a few dozen yards from the bullet-riddled government building, Marine Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson found more proof Saturday that the battle for Marja was over. "A popcorn vendor on the streets of Marja," Nicholson said in a gleeful voice as he found some coins in his pocket and bought a bag of freshly popped corn. "None of those tourist prices now," Nicholson joked as the vendor, understanding not a word of English, nodded in agreement. Two weeks ago, the same government building was the hub of fighting as Marines and Afghan soldiers battled Taliban insurgents who held sway in this town in southern Afghanistan.
WORLD
August 28, 2010 | By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
If Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin Oratowski was intimidated about briefing three visiting generals as he headed out on another overnight patrol chasing the Taliban, he didn't show it. "We're ready to go," the 23-year-old from Camp Pendleton said brightly, his enthusiasm seemingly undimmed by the fact that he had spent most of the last 60 days in the heat, danger and uncertainty of Helmand province. A few hours later, he was dead from a Taliban roadside bomb. As the three generals watched the next day, Oratowski's casket was loaded aboard a C-130 to begin its journey home.
WORLD
February 20, 2010 | By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Reporting from Nawa, Afghanistan — With the military offensive to drive Taliban fighters from their sanctuary in Marja continuing, the Marines are moving to prevent the Taliban from returning to other communities in Helmand Province. Lt. Col. Matt Baker, commander of the 1st battalion, 3rd Marine regiment, said that intelligence reports and the sudden change in the placement of roadside bombs suggest that the Taliban are trying to return to the places from which they fled last year when Marines descended on the sprawling province in southern Afghanistan.
WORLD
February 25, 2010 | Laura King
In wind-whipped tents, makeshift shelters and overcrowded family compounds, Afghans who fled the battleground town of Marja are asking themselves and one another: When will it be safe to go home? Since the start this month of a massive assault by U.S. Marines and British and Afghan troops on the southern Afghan town, nearly 4,000 families have sought shelter in nearby Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. By the calculation generally used by aid agencies -- six people per family, though many are far larger -- that would add up to at least 24,000 people, nearly one-third of the town's population.
WORLD
April 12, 2010 | By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
The safety situation for Afghan villagers remains precarious in Marja, where U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers mounted a massive assault in February to oust the Taliban from control, the Marine general who led the assault said late Sunday. Speaking by telephone to reporters in the U.S., Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson said that while there are hopeful signs in Marja -- schools reopening, Afghan police patrolling, farmers signing up to grow crops other than opium poppy -- it will be months before the Marja mission can be considered a success.
WORLD
February 14, 2010 | By Tony Perry
Hundreds of Afghan men walked for miles over dusty roads Saturday to hear the Marines explain those angry sounds of war coming from the Taliban stronghold of Marja. Nearly 400 elders, farmers and tradesmen attended the open-air meeting called by their tribal leaders. In the distance, artillery boomed and Hellfire missiles exploded as the Marine-led assault on Marja entered its first full day. For the U.S., the meeting was part of a strategy to move quickly from the fighting to the establishment of at least the beginnings of a government that answers to President Hamid Karzai, not the Taliban.
WORLD
August 28, 2010 | By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
If Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin Oratowski was intimidated about briefing three visiting generals as he headed out on another overnight patrol chasing the Taliban, he didn't show it. "We're ready to go," the 23-year-old from Camp Pendleton said brightly, his enthusiasm seemingly undimmed by the fact that he had spent most of the last 60 days in the heat, danger and uncertainty of Helmand province. A few hours later, he was dead from a Taliban roadside bomb. As the three generals watched the next day, Oratowski's casket was loaded aboard a C-130 to begin its journey home.
OPINION
December 16, 2010 | By Peter Mansoor and Max Boot
The Obama administration's Afghanistan assessment, due out Thursday, reportedly indicates uneven but real progress. Fed a steady diet of gloom and doom, including Wednesday's headlines about negative intelligence assessments, many Americans will be surprised at this finding. But in any far-off guerrilla war, perception back home often lags battlefield reality by several months. It certainly did in Iraq during the "surge" in 2007. So too in Afghanistan, where the buildup of U.S. forces, completed only this fall, is already having a considerable impact, although public opinion hasn't caught on yet. Even with the recent increase in U.S. troops, bringing the NATO force to 140,000, there are not enough forces to conduct a comprehensive campaign across the entire country.
WORLD
May 6, 2010 | By Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times
The U.S.-Afghan military operation in Marja succeeded in securing the town, but American officials said Thursday that steep challenges remain to improving local government functions throughout Afghanistan. Senior U.S. diplomats and military officers said developing stronger governments would require a greater number of capable Afghan officials. The assessment of the Marja operation, which began in February, came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai prepared to travel to Washington next week.
OPINION
April 18, 2010 | Doyle McManus
Our V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft touched down next to a field of bright pink opium poppies in Afghanistan's Helmand province, and soon we were hiking across a wheat field, over a muddy irrigation ditch and into the center of Marja, a village U.S. Marines and the Afghan army wrested from the Taliban in February. The operation that ousted the Taliban from Marja was a kind of pilot project for the coming offensive in next-door Kandahar province, and its successes and shortcomings are important for U.S. military commanders to understand.
WORLD
April 12, 2010 | By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
The safety situation for Afghan villagers remains precarious in Marja, where U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers mounted a massive assault in February to oust the Taliban from control, the Marine general who led the assault said late Sunday. Speaking by telephone to reporters in the U.S., Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson said that while there are hopeful signs in Marja -- schools reopening, Afghan police patrolling, farmers signing up to grow crops other than opium poppy -- it will be months before the Marja mission can be considered a success.
WORLD
April 12, 2010 | By Tony Perry and Laura King
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and San Diego -- Security for Afghan villagers remains precarious in the Marja district of Helmand province, where U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers mounted a massive assault in February to oust the Taliban from control, according to the Marine general who led the assault. Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson said late Sunday that while there are hopeful signs in Marja, with Afghan police patrolling and farmers signing up to grow crops other than opium poppy, the mission's success or failure may not be known for months.
WORLD
March 7, 2010 | By Jeffrey Fleishman
As soon as a U.S. Marine-led offensive swept the Taliban from Marja recently, a new civilian leader was rushed in, vowing to "bring back dignity" to the town. Turns out, he had served time in a German prison for stabbing his son, international officials said Saturday. Keeping Abdul Zahir in Marja's top post may complicate NATO's aim of urging people in southern Afghanistan to move beyond their violent past. "It's a concern," said a U.S. official, who asked not to be named because of the matter's sensitivity.
WORLD
March 1, 2010 | By Tony Perry
The Afghan troops who supported the U.S. Marines in the battle to end Taliban control of this town in Helmand province showed marked improvement over last summer's performance in a similar fight but still need much more training, Marine commanders say. Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the top Marine here, said that overall the Afghan battalions exceeded his expectations. Nicholson said he would give some Afghan units an A-minus or B-plus but that others, particularly those with soldiers fresh from basic training, would get a C-minus or D. The lead Afghan commander, Brig.
WORLD
February 28, 2010 | By Tony Perry
Just a few dozen yards from the bullet-riddled government building, Marine Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson found more proof Saturday that the battle for Marja was over. "A popcorn vendor on the streets of Marja," Nicholson said in a gleeful voice as he found some coins in his pocket and bought a bag of freshly popped corn. "None of those tourist prices now," Nicholson joked as the vendor, understanding not a word of English, nodded in agreement. Two weeks ago, the same government building was the hub of fighting as Marines and Afghan soldiers battled Taliban insurgents who held sway in this town in southern Afghanistan.
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