When US Marines invaded the largely fictional city of Marjah as part of an ill-conceived attempt to install a Karzai-friendly governor, the invasion was supposed to be the first in a series of “clear and hold” operations in which US troops stormed areas en masse and transferred power immediately to Afghan security forces to hold the area.
Officials were even talking at the time as though the operation would take a matter of hours, with the overnight invasion coming with promises that residents would wake up to a village transformed by sheer force of arms. The handover was to take no more than a few days.
Fast forward to today, and eight months later the US Marines responsible for the initial invasion are still bogged down, and the insurgency is getting worse, not better. Officials say the situation if “beginning to improve” but with several battles a day, Marjah has become, as all of Afghanistan, an endless quagmire.
And if the Marjah fiasco has shot holes in the “clear and hold” strategy it has also been disastrous for the district’s residents. Many were urged to stay by the US, with promises of quick and decisive victory, and have found themselves living in an open-ended battleground.
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