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Taliban Insurgents Reemerge

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Taliban fighters who evaded a major Marine Corps thrust into insurgent-held towns along the Helmand River valley this month are now probing Marine positions and using roadside bombs to impede U.S. troop movements, according to senior Marine officers.

Several hundred Taliban had been occupying the populated agricultural lands, known as the “green zone,” where the Marines are now setting up positions. Many of the Taliban fighters laid low during the offensive, the officers said.

In recent days, however, insurgents throughout the area have reemerged to mount fresh attacks, said Col. George S. Amland, deputy commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which has some 4,000 troops operating in central and southern Helmand.

The Taliban, Amland said, is looking “for weak points or points that he thinks he can exploit and come back and reclaim the territory that he has left.” While usually unwilling to attack the Marine units head on, the Taliban is instead relying on “hit and run” tactics, said another officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he had not been authorized to speak on the record.

After observing the Marines, the Taliban fighters have attacked with makeshift bombs known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

“The use of IEDs has proliferated,” Amland said. The bombs are relatively unsophisticated and made of readily available agricultural materials, but are nevertheless lethal.

Two Marines on a road-clearing crew were killed Monday in Helmand’s Garmsir District, after they traced the wire of a suspected bomb into a house that was rigged to explode, according to an officer with their unit. Since the U.S. launched its Helmand operation, Western troops in Afghanistan have been dying at a rate of three a day, far higher than the normal rate.

The bomb attacks have slowed or obstructed the Marines’ use of the network of narrow, unpaved dirt roads that link farming villages in the river valley. The bombs have already disabled several vehicles which are further hampered by their bulk in navigating the primitive roads. The Marines’ mine-resistant armored protection vehicles “are just too big for those roads,” said Col. Eric Mellinger, operations officer for the Marine
brigade.

Commanders have made some roads off limits, instead requiring slow-going travel through adjacent deserts, or foot marches through fields and canals. Many of the supplies for the troops are being flown in by helicopter.

Taliban insurgents, meanwhile, have lost some freedom to operate as the Marines have pushed deep into areas that have not been occupied by coalition forces since the U.S-led invasion of Afghanistan overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.

Still, the Taliban are able to hide in plain view by blending in with the population. U.S. officers say local residents continue to receive threatening notes from the Taliban warning them not to cooperate with coalition forces. “They are still intimidated, still getting night letters saying ‘don’t meet with the coalition,’” said Mellinger.

At the same time, large swaths of the river valley remain without coalition forces, including Marja, which is near the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. Insurgents are known to be taking refuge there, Amland said. U.S. military reports indicate that senior Taliban leaders are not employing their best-trained fighters, and as a result the attacks are not highly sophisticated, officers said. “The Taliban senior leadership is husbanding their assets. They know the guys who choose to fight us will be killed,” one officer said.

Overall, officers say they expect a drawn-out campaign against the Taliban in the Helmand River valley, with Marine deployments expected to continue here for years.

“We know the Taliban are going to come back and challenge us and lay IEDs, terrorize the population and try to make us cause civilian casualties,” said Mellinger. “They’ll do all these things for the battle of influence, and we have to continue to convince the population that we are here to help.”

By By Ann Scott Tyson  |  July 15, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
 
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Comments

This is crazy- just get Osama and get out. There's a reason Afghanistan is called the graveyard of empires- the British and Russians learned the lesson the hard way. How many billions are we going to waste re-learning it? For lots more info see a review of the new book "In the Graveyard of Empires- America's War in Afghanistan" at this link- http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/14/books/14kaku.html

Posted by: hairguy01 | July 15, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse


They are going to have to loosen the RoE. The person with whom they are shaking hands during the day is probably installing and IED at night.

Kill them before they can kill you. Semper Fi!

Posted by: mortified469 | July 15, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Okay, repeat after me:

Search and Destroy mission
Free Fire Zone
Battle for the hearts and minds
We had to destroy the village to save it
Counter insurgency

And finally...
We now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

When you hear the great Obama utter those last words you will know we have repeated history and we have lost.

Posted by: krankyman | July 15, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

No one has ever - ever - conquered Afghanistan...

They are a resolute people.

Obama's just a Spokesmodel for MURDER INC.

Like all the other presidents!

America and the Western nations will reap the WHIRLWIND.

USA has always been evil.

Since the first psychopathic freak came over on the Mayflower.

So no big loss.

The indigenous people of the region were in the "grind an 'empire' to dust" business long before the u.s. was conceived.

Posted by: Rubiconski | July 15, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Things have changed dramatically since my time in Afghanistan beginning early 2003. That said, with the manpower and technology available, in the short run, we will kill alot of bad guys..absolutely. What is difficult to "kill" is the ideology, which in part, is the political dimension.

Some would ask..where is the Afghan Army...well, ask the former Bush people and the contracted US companies why progress is slow to nil. We have to place an Afghan face within the villages..and the Taliban have to fear the Afghan Army like they fear Dostum and his Northern Alliance soldiers...(who fought extremely well under really tough circumstances).

The Marines and the Army troopers will begin to identify a specific area with bad buys..surround the area and encircle the combatants until all are either POW's or KIA.

The old adage of "victory is measured by the length of the boot.." is in some way applicable, but in the long run, the Afghan people must be active players rather than 20 year old from Ohio or elsewhere....

Posted by: LTC-11A | July 15, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Good Post by LTC-11A. That's exactly right. This should have happened long ago instead the years wasted in Iraq. I'm not buying the graveyard theory though. The Russians couldn't fight like our soldiers and Marines can. The Taliban were routed by a small force and the Northern Alliance. Most of the World was with us. The problem is there weren't enough troops and treasure put into the recovery of Afghanistan. Protect the people, feed the people and help the people. Don't sit on their faces like we've done these years. Poverty breeds terror and Nazi's - look it up.

Posted by: billm32 | July 15, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Problem with Af-Pak is Islam

Posted by: rabjitha | July 15, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

To learn more about Afghanistan, Pakistan, The Taliban etc., please refer to books by Ahmed Rashid: "Taliban"; "Jihad"; and especially his most recent book "Descent into Chaos" (2008). Mr Rashid was born in Pakistan and knows his subject really good.

Posted by: gaetano49 | July 15, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Of course they will reemerge. Confronting a marine offensive in a stand-up battle would be suicidal. These people may be religious fanatics but they clearly aren't stupid. Eventually they will prevail and like the Russians a quarter century ago the US will make a hurried exit after paying an enormous cost. Those who fail to heed the lessons of history, Vietnam for instance, or Algeria and Vietnam in the case of the French are doomed to repeat.

Posted by: slim2 | July 15, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

hairguy wrote:

"This is crazy- just get Osama and get out..."

Yup! That was the mission on 9-12-02001 but the decider-in-chief decided to abandon Afghanistan, allow OBL to escape in Tora Bora so cheney could plan the invasion of IRAQ for their oil!

No one knows for sure if OBL is alive but we do know that neglecting Afghanistan allowed the Taliban and Al Qiada to use the time to regroup and infiltrate Pakistan.

Heck of a job bushie!!!

Posted by: The-Historian | July 15, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

If Chicken Cheney, Dumbsfeld and the idiot had not tucked tail and ran from Afghanistan at the very moment US Troops were 2000 yards from Bin Laden's cave with it in their Laser Designator sights and with Stealth Bombers and B52s overhead; we would not still be stuck in Afghanistan with American troops trying to clean up another GOP mess.

And yet we still have the Amerca hating Limbaugh sycophants whining. One has to seriously question who these peoples loyalties are with.

Posted by: walker1 | July 15, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Those who are saying Afghanistan has never been conquered are right. We aren't conquerers, we are liberators. We liberated the country in late 01 and now we are cleaning up the rat's nests out in the provinces. But LTC-11A has it right: the Afghans need to be brought in to bear the brunt of the fight.

Karzai was a good early choice for President, but he's not the leader I thought he might turn out to be. Not dominating or inspiring enough to lead his people against the Taliban and al Qaeda fanatics.

Posted by: theduke89 | July 15, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm not buying the graveyard theory either - the Brits suffered from overweening colonial arrogance (as they also did in South Africa against both Shaka Zulu and the Afrikaners). The Russians lost the war when our CIA provided the Stingers needed to whittle away at their helicopter gunships. We need the Afghans to step up with US help and capture thgeir own people's hearts and minds. The vast majority of Afghans do not want a return to the Taliban yesteryear.

Posted by: sundog2 | July 15, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

A nit:

"Many of the Taliban fighters laid low during the offensive" should be "fighters lay low". Lie, lay, lain -- intransitive. Not lay, laid, laid -- transitive. The latter would be used in 'fighters were laid low by the force of the explosion' which is also in passive voice.

Just want the Management to know that editing is still valued by some readers...

Posted by: elizh1 | July 15, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

There seems to be a difference betwen the Cheney-type guy who huffs and puffs and bombs and tortures but doesn't scare anyone, (cause any way you cut it, the guy screams dumb wussy), and the REAL tough guys who don't torture and don't bomb and don't abuse but are able to succeed none the less -- (they don't go after civilians, either, in some modern day screwed up parody of the whole Iran-Contra game plan).

And maybe that's what they fear, our WW2 military, for lack of a better word.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | July 15, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

From what i read I strongly suggest the US army contact the Colombian army that has more than 40 years of experience in fighting the kind of war that seems to be going on there. I very much doubt anyone has more practical experience on this type of war ( IED´s, House bombs, "wait an re-emerge tactics,etc.) than the Colombian army

Posted by: velezs | July 15, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

The one thing I can say about liberals is that they are very good at being sarcastic. Every time I read their comments I am reminded of the scene from Hannibal where Ray Liotta continues to be a Smartazz while his brain is being fed to him by Hannibal Bon Appetite, Libs!

Posted by: C17_Bear | July 15, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

The stupidest human on 2 feet on earth, today.

I've never seen anything, anywhere like it.

Absolutely no ability whatsoever to visulalize an abstract, much less wage war against and within one.

You just gotta bomb 'dem terrorists, fight like they do, and ya win -- It's the US, not a banana republic, banana republics fail for a reason, count the contingencies and the doors you open to harm when you do that -- economically, poltiically and militarily -- D'OH!

And to top it off, they're massively chickench*t behind those manicures and waxes, and they think no one knows...

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | July 15, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Rather than criticize, demagogue, or demoralize, while hiding behind cowardly usernames like "hairguy01," "krankyman," "The-Historian," and "walker1," it'd be nice if a few who have the luxury to sit around reading the internet all day said a simple thank you. Thank you to 2/8, the 4,000 Marines who are putting their lives on the line to bring peace and ensure a democratically-elected Afghanistan government. Thank you to the reporters and photographers bringing us this story. And thank you to all their families for lending these brave men and women to this cause.

Posted by: Kyle9 | July 15, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Those who claim that we will lose because we fail to study history have themselves failed to study history. You must study ALL of history, not just the parts that support your position. Afghanistan hasn't been conquered for two reasons. First, it is a sparsely populated country with rough terrain, a haven for defensive guerilla warfare. And second, and most important, Afghanistan has never previously had anything of enough value to make conquest worth the effort. Conquering armies fight for something worthwhile. There is nothing worth the massive effort necessary for conquest in Afghanistan.

Another item neglected by those claiming we failed to study history is the history of the US. And I don't mean limiting that study to Vietnam. The US was, and continues to be, built by people from overseas who are willing to give up everything they have; home, family, friends, to come to the US for a better life. Afghanistan is populated by the ones who choose to stay behind. The US conquered Japan, another country which had not been defeated in millennia. The US conquered half a continent for its own existence. The original 13 US states defeated the British Empire at its peak, when the US was nothing more than a handful of people along a small strip of land on the US east coast. The US was the ONLY rebelling colony in that period to have a successful separation from Britain.

Historians who claim the US will lose, study ALL of history of both the US and Afghanistan, not only the small parts you use to justify your defeatist attitude. There is much more that you fail to mention, and that much more you don't mention says you are wrong. But you don't want the world to know the whole truth, because the whole truth makes you look like the defeatist idiots you are.

Posted by: hollygarfield | July 16, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Ah yes the troops are short of everything but the 20 Billion dollar Osprey helo-plane that cant be used due to all the problems might show up "later this year" in the war zone,,wait,,,,its also obamas fault ,,ask rush

Posted by: gonville1 | July 16, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

no mention of the fate of our trooper captured by the taliban. these thugs do not have a gitmo,so no problem guessing what is going to happen. GET US OUT OF THIS DISASTER

Posted by: pofinpa | July 16, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

The difference between the US presence in Afghanistan and that of the Russians or British is that we are not there to build an empire. Empires may die in Afghanistan, but no honest attempt to build a self governing country has ever been made. How can you compare the current situation in Afghanistan with those of the past? I returned from service there earlier this year, in our office we kept an old Soviet map of known minefields placed around villages and at road crossings throughout the country killing and maiming thousands of Afghans of all ages. We by comparison were building schools and providing security for the upcoming elections. Do the writers really believe that trotting out this tired old phrase of the "death of empires" is sufficient justification for turning tale and running from this country? Do they really mean to compare U.S. and Allied operations with the murderous occupation by the Soviets? I hope that all well meaning people will hope for the success of our mission in Afghanistan, and for the freedom of choice, irrespective of what choice they make, of the Afghan people.

Posted by: Seabee43 | July 18, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

You are learning the hard way, as did the British and the Russians, that conventional military tactics are futile when employed against guerillas. Too the Afghan tribes never have and never will submit to foreign domination in any shape or form. They may smile to your face but will cheerfully stab you in the back. Cut your losses and get out; you are in a no-win situation. International opinion will not countenance the mass slaughter that you have used in other similar conditions.

Posted by: octomann | July 21, 2009 4:16 AM | Report abuse

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