Hit and run shootings and improvised explosive devices (IED) comprise most of the remaining threats in the city of Marjah, the largest Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, as Operation Moshtarak “together” moves forward.
By Feb. 16, all but the southern portion of the city was under control by U.S. and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces, and “three successful ‘shuras’ (meetings) were held with influential community members, and other meetings with Helmand residents also took place,” according to an ISAF press release.
“The size and scope of this operation has not yet been seen in the history of the war in Afghanistan,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Feb. 16.
U.S. Marines took the city in the early morning on Feb. 13, and Afghan and U.K. troops moved in later in the day. Sporadic fire fights continued on Feb. 15, two days after the offensive began, according to an ISAF press release. By Sunday, the Afghan flag flew over the city.
Involved in the offensive are American, U.K., and Afghan troops, including newly-trained operatives of the Afghan National Police and Afghan national army. They bring with them a fully staffed “government in a box,” complete with its own police force that will take control of the city once the Taliban have been chased out.
The force of 15,000 was met with less resistance than expected. It is believed that most of the Taliban fighters fled prior to the offensive, when plans of the attack were announced. It was announced that three U.S. and U.K. troops were killed in the offensive. An estimated 20 militants were killed and 11 others were taken prisoner.
The purpose of the offensive is to bring the city under the control of the Afghan government and to establish its authority in the Taliban haven of Helmand province, near the Pakistan border.
At least 15 civilians have been killed in the offensive.
Several Taliban fighters were firing at troops without effect as they fled the city. The Taliban spokesman said concern over “civilian casualties” are the reason for their withdrawal, yet vowed to continue their “hit and run tactics,” according to geopolitical intelligence company Stratfor.