Marines Lead Offensive to Secure Southern Afghan Town - Richard A. Oppel Jr., New York Times. In the first major military operation since President Obama's call this week for a troop escalation, about 1,000 United States Marines and Afghan and British forces swept into a rugged valley in southern Afghanistan in an effort to finally secure what was once a bustling village but what years of fighting have turned into a ghost town. Yet the offensive in the village of Now Zad in Helmand Province could prove a harbinger of a wider and more significant effort in Helmand, a Taliban stronghold whose huge opium crop provides a large portion of the insurgency's financing. After a 10,000-strong Marine brigade began operations throughout Helmand this summer, commanders found that they had enough American and Afghan troops to take control of only limited areas. In many places Taliban fighters simply pulled back to safe havens, undermining the largest Marine operation since the 2004 invasion of Falluja, Iraq. Now, commanders are preparing to assault Taliban sanctuaries in Helmand, relying on an American force in the province that is expected to nearly double next year as part of Mr. Obama's decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
Marines Launch Offensive in Taliban Stronghold - Alfred de Montesquiou, Associated Press. US Marines swooped down behind Taliban lines in helicopters and Osprey aircraft Friday in the first offensive since President Obama announced an American troop surge. About 1,000 Marines and 150 Afghan troops were taking part in "Operation Cobra's Anger" in a bid to disrupt Taliban supply and communications lines in the Now Zad Valley of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, the scene of heavy fighting last summer, according to Marine spokesman Maj. William Pelletier. Hundreds of troops from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines and the Marine reconnaissance unit Task Force Raider dropped by helicopters and MV-22 Osprey aircraft in the northern end of the valley while a second, larger Marine force pushed northward from the main Marine base in the town of Now Zad, Maj. Pelletier said. A US military official in Washington said it was the first use of Ospreys, aircraft that combine features of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, in an offensive involving units larger than platoons. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to detail the operation, said that Ospreys have previously been used for intelligence and patrol operations.
Marines, Afghan Soldiers Attack Taliban Stronghold - Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times. Hundreds of US Marines and Afghan soldiers descended on a nearly empty city in southern Afghanistan on Friday to cut off supply routes for Taliban fighters who have taken refuge in the area. The troops want to starve out the insurgents holed up around Now Zad, which was once a vibrant city of 30,000 but now is a virtual ghost town because years of fighting. The assault in Helmand province, named Cobra's Anger, may prove to be a warmup for a larger, more complex and more dangerous assault on Marja, a town to which many Taliban fighters and narcotics middlemen fled after Marines descended on nearby villages this summer. In Now Zad, Marines had to contend with roadside bombs that Taliban militants buried in anticipation of the Americans' arrival. Even more such bombs are expected to await troops in Marja. "Marja is that last major sanctuary in Helmand province, the last place where the enemy has freedom of movement," said Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. "We're going to take that away from him." Nicholson compared the prospective battle in Marja to the fight in late 2004 to clear barricaded insurgents from the Iraqi city of Fallouja.
NATO, Afghan Troops Launch Major Offensive - Voice of America. The US military says more than 1,000 NATO troops, mostly from the United States, have launched a new offensive against a key Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. Military officials say Afghan forces also are participating in the operation (known as "Cobra's Anger") in the Now Zad valley of Helmand province, which is aimed at clearing insurgents, and locating roadside bombs and other explosives. The provincial governor's spokesman (Daud Ahmadi) told reporters four Taliban militants were killed in fighting, and hundreds of landmines and explosives were seized Friday. Now Zad was once the second biggest town in Helmand, but is now nearly empty, after residents fled ongoing violence. Taliban forces now use the area to transport drugs, weapons and fighters. In an interview with the Associated Press, US Central Command Chief General David Petraeus said Friday the offensive lays the groundwork for the arrival of some 30,000 additional US troops, many of whom will be deployed in the south. General Petraeus says the military has been working for months to extend security around key towns in southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban influence is strong.
US Marines Advance in Southern Afghanistan - Golnar Motevalli, Reuters. US Marines pressed into a remote Taliban stronghold on Saturday with their first major assault in Afghanistan since President Barack Obama earmarked 30,000 more troops to try to turn the tide on the Taliban insurgency. Operation "Cobra's Anger," which involves 900 US Marines and sailors, British troops and 150 Afghan soldiers and police, pushed into the Now Zad district of southern Helmand province, an insurgent stronghold depopulated after years of heavy fighting. The advancing Marines killed several militants and seized bombs and weapons in the first day of the operation, which begin with an airborne assault on Friday, said Major Bill Pelletier, spokesman for the Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand. "Among other things found yesterday evening ... two or three weapons caches and IED-making materials, mortars, small arms machine guns and light weapons were seized," he said. "The operation is continuing today in an area that had an enemy presence. We are going to disrupt that presence."
Marines Fire Opening Salvo to Retake Helmand - Bill Roggio, Long War Journal. US Marines backed by Afghan forces have launched the opening salvo in an operation designed to dislodge the Taliban from central and northern Helmand province. More than 900 US Marines, sailors and British troops, backed by 150 Afghan soldiers and police, have launched operation Cobra's Anger in the northern district of Now Zad, according to the US military. Tribal militias are also playing a role, a US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. US Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, and the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion air assaulted behind Taliban lines into the northern Now Zad Valley. Another force pushed northward from the city of Now Zad. The district of Now Zad is considered to be under the control of the Taliban. The city of Now Zad is largely deserted and has a company of Marines and Afghan forces facing off against a dug in Taliban force. Four Taliban fighters have been killed in Cobra's Anger, while US and Afghan troops have discovered more than 300 roadside bombs, The Associated Press reported. Marines put off the operation until they could confirm additional forces would be deployed to the province to capitalize on any potential gains. President Barack Obama settled on a surge of more than 30,000 US forces, of which 9,000 Marines are heading to Helmand. NATO is expected to send more than 7,000 additional troops.