More than eight years into the war, the offensive marks the opening battle in a new military campaign designed to replace Taliban control in southern Afghanistan with a pro-U.S. power structure, and thereby weaken anti-U.S. Islamist forces in the region. The U.S.-NATO force is being reorganized and reinforced with thousands of more U.S. soldiers in preparation for the next stage: a summer assault on Kandahar Province.
This is a 12-18 month campaign we are embarking on, Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, said March 2. This is going to be a hard year.
Imperialist forces captured Marjaha key center of wealth and heroin productionthree times before: in 2001, 2007, and March 2009. This time Washington plans to hold the 80-square-mile farming community of 80,000 people with a force of more than 2,000 U.S. marines, along with 1,000 Afghan soldiers and a comparable Afghan police force.
Many local residents are weary of or oppose the foreign troop presence, while others openly back the new authority. A major challenge for Washington and the Afghan government remains convincing the local population that the Taliban will not return and that they wont be worse off under the authority of the U.S.-backed central government.
Afghan army soldiers looted the market in Marjah after it was taken by U.S. marines, according to the New York Times. The soldiers reputation for extortion, theft, and brutality is exceeded by that of the Afghan police. Local residents recently told Times reporter C.J. Chivers that they supported the U.S. troops. But if you bring the cops, they said, we will fight you till death.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani government has, for the first time, arrested a number of key leaders of the Afghan Taliban and, over the last few weeks, has conducted military operations against al-Qaeda and Taliban strongholds in several tribal agencies along the Afghan border.
In exchange for such cooperation, Washington is increasing military aid to Pakistan, including some 1,000 laser-guided bomb kits, surveillance drones, and F-16 fighter jets. Direct U.S. military aid to Pakistan is set to nearly double in 2011 to $1.2 billion.
The arming of Pakistan is of concern to its more powerful rival to the east. New Delhi has dramatically stepped up its weapon purchases from Russia, the United States, and Israel.
While the two sidesboth nuclear powershave recently begun foreign-minister level talks, they have major unresolved conflicts and are gripped in a contest for influence in Afghanistan.
Iraq: U.S. troop reduction scheduled to start in May
Iraqi govt conducts 2nd parliamentary election
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