March 1, 2010 in Nation/World

Troops will stay several months

Marjah strategy: ‘Clear, hold, build’
Alfred De Montesquiou Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

U.S. Marines 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment look out at a rain storm Sunday from a room in an Afghan compound in Marjah where they stayed for the night.
(Full-size photo)

MARJAH, Afghanistan – More than 2,000 U.S. Marines and about 1,000 Afghan troops who stormed the Taliban town of Marjah as part of a major NATO offensive against a resurgent Taliban will stay several months to ensure insurgents don’t return, Marine commanders said Sunday.

Meanwhile, insurgents are striking back by attacking resupply convoys moving in and out of Marjah with roadside bombs, Marines said Sunday. Four convoys have been hit in the last two days, Marines said on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information. There was no word on casualties.

Two Marine battalions and their Afghan counterparts will be stationed in Marjah and help patrol it as part of NATO’s “clear, hold, build” strategy, which calls for troops to secure the area, restore a civilian Afghan administration, and bring in aid and public services to win the support of the population, commanders said.

On Sunday, the 1,000 Marines with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines Regiment were fortifying positions to the north and west of the town, taking over compounds and building others from scratch to create a small garrison, known as a Forward Operating Base, as well as combat outposts and a network of temporary patrol bases, said Capt. Joshua Winfrey, head of Lima Company.

Another battalion was doing the same to the south of Marjah, Winfrey said. About 1,000 Afghan troops will accompany the Marines, he added. In addition about 900 Afghan paramilitary police are already patrolling Marjah.

Marine spokesman Capt. Abe Sipe said a more permanent military outpost will facilitate a long-term NATO presence in the town.

“We are going to have a presence in Marjah for some time. There’s no plans for anyone to pull out,” Sipe said.

“The idea is to live among the local nationals because we found that’s the best way to partner with local security partners to make Afghans feel safe and not under threat.”

Marjah residents had told government officials that they preferred NATO troops to be based in the town itself, instead of being outside, to provide better security.

Winfrey said he has been told that the entire battalion expects to be stationed in Marjah until the end of its deployment in August.

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