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thedrifter
04-30-08, 07:46 AM
US Marines move into Taliban-held area of Afghanistan

By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer
Tue Apr 29, 8:38 AM ET

U.S. Marines exchanged gunfire with militants Tuesday after pouring into a Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan in the first major American operation in the region in years.

Several hundred Marines, many of them veterans of the conflict in Iraq, pushed into the town of Garmser in pre-dawn light in an operation to drive out the insurgents, stretching NATO's presence into an area littered with opium poppy fields and classified as Taliban territory.

U.S. commanders say Taliban fighters were expecting an assault and planted homemade bombs in response. The British have a small base on the town's edge but Garmser's main marketplace is closed because of the Taliban threat.

Marines moved into town by helicopter and Humvee for Tuesday's assault in the southern province of Helmand, the first major task undertaken by the 2,300 Marines in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which arrived last month from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for a seven-month deployment. Another 1,200 Marines arrived to train Afghan police.

Maj. Tom Clinton, the American commander at Forward Operating Base Dwyer, a British outpost 10 miles west of Garmser, said militants and Marines exchanged fire in two parts of Garmser on Tuesday. There was no immediate word on casualties.

"We haven't seen anybody who isn't carrying a gun," Clinton said of the mostly deserted town. "They're trying to figure out what we're doing. They're shooting at us, letting us know they're there."

Clinton, 36, of Swampscott, Mass., said Marines had also found bomb-making material and rockets in town. He said he was worried about the possibility of attacks using homemade bombs.

The Marines' mission is the first carried out by U.S. forces this far south in Helmand province in years. An operation late last year to take back the Taliban-held town of Musa Qala on the north end of Helmand involved U.S., British and Afghan forces.

Helmand province is the world's largest opium poppy growing region and has been a flash point of the increasingly violent insurgency in the last two years. British troops — who are responsible for Helmand — have faced fierce battles on the north end of Helmand.

Most U.S. troops operate in the east, along the border with Pakistan, but Britain, with 7,500 troops, and Canada, with 2,500 troops in neighboring Kandahar province, have not had enough manpower to tame the south.

More than 8,000 people died in insurgency-related violence last year. Militants set off more than 140 suicide bombs. Taliban fighters have been increasingly relying on roadside bombs and suicide attacks after being routed in force-to-force battles in the past.

The Marines had prepared on Monday by cleaning weapons and handing out grenades. The leader of one of the three companies involved — Charlie Company commander Capt. John Moder — said his men were ready.

"The feeling in general is optimistic, excited," said Moder, 34, of North Kingstown, Rhode Island. "They've been training for this deployment the last nine months. We've got veteran leaders."

Many of the men in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit served in 2006 and 2007 in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province in western Iraq. The vast region was once the stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq before the militants were pushed out in early 2007.

Moder said that experience would affect how his men fight in Afghanistan. "These guys saw a lot of progress in Ramadi, so they understand it's not just kinetic (fighting) but it's reconstruction and economic development."

But on the initial assault, Moder said his men were prepared to face mines and homemade bombs and "anybody that wants to fight us."

One Marine in Charlie Company, Cpl. Matt Gregorio, 26, from Boston, alluded to the fact the Marines had been in Afghanistan for six weeks without carrying out any missions. He said the mood was "anxious, excited."

"We've been waiting a while to get this going," he said.

Ellie

thedrifter
04-30-08, 07:47 AM
Marines assault Taliban-controlled town


'We haven't seen anybody who isn't carrying a gun'

By Jason Straziuso
ASSOCIATED PRESS

April 30, 2008

OUTSIDE GARMSER, Afghanistan – Marines stormed into a Taliban-held town before daybreak yesterday, trading gunfire with insurgents on the ground and using helicopter gunships to destroy a militant compound in one of Afghanistan's most violent regions.

Several hundred Marines, many of whom have fought in Iraq, reportedly met light resistance in the assault, which is the farthest south in years that American troops have operated in Helmand province.

The goal is to stretch NATO's presence into an area where illegal opium poppy fields are plentiful and the Taliban are strong. British troops man a small base on Garmser's northern edge but insurgents rule the countryside south of the outpost all the way to the Pakistan border.

No Marines suffered injuries, said their commander, Maj. Tom Clinton Jr. There was no immediate word on whether any insurgents were killed or wounded.

An 11-year-old Afghan boy suffered a chest wound from the explosion of a rocket that insurgents apparently fired at Marines, Clinton said. The boy was flown to a British base for surgery. His condition wasn't immediately known.

“We haven't seen anybody who isn't carrying a gun,” Clinton said of the mostly deserted town. “They're trying to figure out what we're doing. They're shooting at us, letting us know they're there.”

The assault on Garmser was the first major task undertaken by the 2,300 Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which arrived in April from Camp Lejeune, N.C., for a seven-month deployment.

Clinton, the American commander at Forward Operating Base Dwyer, a British base 10 miles west of Garmser, said militants and Marines exchanged fire in two parts of the town.

Attack helicopters “obliterated” a compound used as a base by the insurgents, said Clinton, 36, of Swampscott, Mass. He said he didn't know if anyone was killed by the airstrike.

Many of the men in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit served in 2006 and 2007 in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province in western Iraq. The vast region was once the stronghold of al-Qaeda in Iraq before the militants were pushed out in early 2007.

Capt. John Moder, 34, a company commander from North Kingstown, R.I., said before the assault began that the experience in Iraq would affect how his men fight in Afghanistan.

“These guys saw a lot of progress in Ramadi, so they understand it's not just kinetic (fighting), but it's reconstruction and economic development,” he said.

Separately, the United States took issue with Iran's continued support of the Taliban.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday in Mexico City that sending a second U.S. aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf could serve as a “reminder” to Iran, but he said it's not an escalation of force.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Mexican leaders, Gates said heightening U.S. criticism of Iran and its support for terrorist groups is not a signal that the administration is laying the groundwork for a strike against Tehran.

“I do not have a sense at this point of a significant increase in Iranian support for the Taliban and others opposing the government in Afghanistan,” Gates said. “There is, as best I can tell, a continuing flow, but I would still characterize it as relatively modest.”

Gates played down the addition of a second carrier to the Gulf, saying that the number of ships there rises and falls continuously.

Asked if the carrier move went hand in hand with the rising U.S. rhetoric against Iran, Gates said, “I don't see it as an escalation. I think it could be seen, though, as a reminder.”

Gates said that the Taliban are changing tactics there – from large-scale firefighters to a “significant increase in terrorist acts,” including roadside bombs and suicide attacks, similar to the one that unsuccessfully targeted Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday.

At least one police officer has been arrested in connection with the assassination attempt, deepening concerns about the Taliban's infiltration of Afghan security forces.

Ellie

thedrifter
04-30-08, 08:11 AM
Article published Apr 29, 2008
NATO extends reach in Afghanistan


April 29, 2008

By Jason Straziuso - OUTSIDE GARMSER, Afghanistan (AP) — Marines stormed into a Taliban-held town before daybreak today, trading gunfire with insurgents on the ground and using helicopter gunships to destroy a militant compound in one of Afghanistan's most violent regions.

Several hundred Marines, many of whom have fought in Iraq, reportedly met light resistance in the assault, which is the farthest south in years that American troops have operated in Helmand province.

The goal is to stretch NATO's presence into an area where illegal opium poppy fields are plentiful and the Taliban is strong. British troops man a small base on Garmser's northern edge but insurgents rule the countryside south of the outpost all the way to the Pakistan border.

No Marines suffered injuries, said their commander, Maj. Tom Clinton Jr. There was no immediate word on whether any insurgents were killed or wounded.

An 11-year-old Afghan boy suffered a chest wound from the explosion of a rocket that insurgents apparently fired at Marines, Clinton said. The boy was flown to a British base for surgery. His condition wasn't immediately known.

"We haven't seen anybody who isn't carrying a gun," Clinton said of the mostly deserted town. "They're trying to figure out what we're doing. They're shooting at us, letting us know they're there."

The assault on Garmser was the first major task undertaken by the 2,300 Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which arrived in April from Camp Lejeune, N.C., for a seven-month deployment.

Clinton, the American commander at Forward Operating Base Dwyer, a British base 10 miles west of Garmser, said militants and Marines exchanged fire in two parts of the town.

Attack helicopters "obliterated" a compound used as a base by the insurgents, said Clinton, 36, of Swampscott, Mass. He said he didn't if anyone was killed by the airstrike.

The wounded boy was brought to Marines by the boy's father and two Afghan men who wouldn't identify themselves, which Clinton labeled "suspicious." Much of Garmser has been abandoned by civilians, and up to 100 Taliban fighters were in the town or outlying areas, he said.

The Marines reported finding rockets and bomb-making material and detonated a roadside bomb. Commanders said they expected insurgents to plant more bombs.

Many of the men in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit served in 2006 and 2007 in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province in western Iraq. The vast region was once the stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq before the militants were pushed out in early 2007.

Capt. John Moder, 34, a company commander from North Kingstown, R.I., said before the assault began that the experience in Iraq would affect how his men fight in Afghanistan.

"These guys saw a lot of progress in Ramadi, so they understand it's not just kinetic (fighting),but it's reconstruction and economic development," he said.

The Marines' mission is the first carried out by U.S. forces this far south in Helmand province in years. An operation late last year to take back the Taliban-held town of Musa Qala in northern Helmand involved U.S., British and Afghan troops.

Helmand is the world's largest opium poppy-growing region and has been a flashpoint of the increasingly violent insurgency the last two years. British troops, who are responsible for Helmand, have fought in fierce battles in Helmand's north.

Most U.S. troops operate in eastern Afghanistan, along the border with Pakistan. Britain, with 7,500 soldiers, and Canada, with 2,500 in neighboring Kandahar province, have not had enough manpower to tame the south.

More than 8,000 people died in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan last year, according to a United Nations tally. Taliban fighters have increasingly relied on roadside bombs and suicide attacks since being routed in ground battles.

Ellie

thedrifter
04-30-08, 08:56 AM
Marines Battle Insurgents During Major Operation in Taliban Territory in Afghanistan

Tuesday , April 29, 2008

Several hundred U.S. Marines engaged in a dramatic firefight Tuesday with an army of rebels in a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan.

The battle against insurgents came during the first large-scale American operation in the area in years.

Hundreds of Marines charged into the Taliban-held town of Garmser before dawn Tuesday, reported FOX News' Dana Lewis — who is embedded with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit that led the mission.

Many of the 2,300-member unit who conducted the operation are Iraq war veterans. Their goal: to drive out militants and expand NATO's reach to cover a region that's been classified as Taliban territory and is blanketed with opium poppy fields.

U.S. commanders said Taliban fighters were expecting an assault and planted homemade bombs in response.

The British have a small base on the town's edge but Garmser's main marketplace is closed because of the Taliban threat.

Marines moved into town by helicopter and Humvee for Tuesday's assault in the southern province of Helmand, the first major task undertaken by the 2,300 Marines in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The unit arrived last month from Camp Lejeune, N.C., for a seven-month deployment. Another 1,200 Marines also came to train Afghan police.

Maj. Tom Clinton, the American commander at Forward Operating Base Dwyer, a British outpost 10 miles west of Garmser, said militants and Marines exchanged fire in two parts of Garmser on Tuesday. There was no immediate word on casualties.

"We haven't seen anybody who isn't carrying a gun," Clinton said of the mostly deserted town. "They're trying to figure out what we're doing. They're shooting at us, letting us know they're there."

Clinton, 36, of Swampscott, Mass., said Marines had also found bomb-making material and rockets in town. He said he was worried about the possibility of attacks using homemade bombs.

The Marines' mission is the first carried out by U.S. forces this far south in Helmand province in years. An operation late last year to take back the Taliban-held town of Musa Qala on the north end of Helmand involved U.S., British and Afghan forces.

Helmand province is the world's largest opium poppy growing region and has been a flash point of the increasingly violent insurgency in the last two years. British troops — who are responsible for Helmand — have faced fierce battles on the north end of Helmand.

Most U.S. troops operate in the east, along the border with Pakistan, but Britain, with 7,500 troops, and Canada, with 2,500 troops in neighboring Kandahar province, have not had enough manpower to tame the south.

More than 8,000 people died in insurgency-related violence last year. Militants set off more than 140 homicide bombs. Taliban fighters have been increasingly relying on roadside bombs and homicide attacks after being routed in force-to-force battles in the past.

The Marines had prepared on Monday by cleaning weapons and handing out grenades. The leader of one of the three companies involved — Charlie Company commander Capt. John Moder — said his men were ready.

"The feeling in general is optimistic, excited," said Moder, 34, of North Kingstown, Rhode Island. "They've been training for this deployment the last nine months. We've got veteran leaders."

Many of the men in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit served in 2006 and 2007 in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province in western Iraq. The vast region was once the stronghold of Al Qaeda in Iraq before the militants were pushed out in early 2007.

Moder said that experience would affect how his men fight in Afghanistan. "These guys saw a lot of progress in Ramadi, so they understand it's not just kinetic (fighting) but it's reconstruction and economic development."

But on the initial assault, Moder said his men were prepared to face mines and homemade bombs and "anybody that wants to fight us."

One Marine in Charlie Company, Cpl. Matt Gregorio, 26, from Boston, alluded to the fact the Marines had been in Afghanistan for six weeks without carrying out any missions. He said the mood was "anxious, excited."

"We've been waiting a while to get this going," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ellie