It could take weeks to reclaim the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, a top Marine commander said Sunday as thousands of U.S. troops and Afghan soldiers fought for a second day in NATO's most ambitious effort yet to break the militants' grip on Afghanistan's dangerous south.
"That doesn't necessarily mean an intense gun battle, but it probably will be 30 days of clearing," Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson said. "I am more than cautiously optimistic that we will get it done before that."
This is a McChrystal operation but it follows standard counterinsurgency procedures. That means that the first step in the process is to clear the bad guys from all their spheres of influence.
The clearing portion will also likely be the easiest part of the process. Holding said territory, the second part of the process, will be toughest part. In Iraq, that meant going house to house in an urban environment. In Afghanistan, the regions are much more rural. It means searching all sorts of land and mountains. When we begin the process of holding territory, that will test the limits of how well this strategy transfers.
The final part of the strategy is the build portion and that's entirely economic. That will also prove extremely challenging since Afghanistan has never seen economic growth.