When some 15,000 US-led troops invaded the tiny farming community of Marjah last month, the strategy was supposed to be simple. Troops would quickly clear the region, an operation expected to take a matter of days, and then turn the region over to Afghan police to “hold.”
But as the operation, presented by officials as a “test” for a much larger offensive against the city of Kandahar, has taken much longer than anticipated and the “hold” strategy seems to be falling apart as well.
Now, Marine commanders say that more than 2,000 US Marines and 1,000 other Afghan troops, part of the force that was supposed to be off to Kandahar by now, are going to have to stay for “several months” to ensure that the Taliban doesn’t simply return to the city.
This was supposed to be the job of the Afghan police, but as the offensive struggles the Taliban seems to have remained largely intact, even as US troops make high profile victory photo ops in the center of town and the Afghan government lauds the offensive’s success. Afghan police, long of limited utility as security forces, let alone law enforcement in the corrupt nation, seem not to be trusted to hold the region in the face of any serious threat, and with weeks of media coverage of the offensive, a quick “victory” and a quick Taliban return is something NATO needs desperately to avoid.