Real challenge of Marja offensive lies ahead: Top NATO commander

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Marja (Afghanistan), Feb. 21 (ANI): Even as thousands of US and Afghan troops remain engaged in the first phase of the gruelling fight against Taliban in southern Marja, top commanders believe that "real challenge" lies ahead, and the offensive is just in its "opening act."

A week after the launch of Marja offensive, NATO commanders and civilian stabilization advisers are facing an even more daunting task: how to establish basic local governance and security in a place where there are no civil servants, no indigenous policemen and apparently no public buildings.

"The real challenge is still ahead of us. We're just in the opening act," the Washington Post quoted John Kael Weston, the State Department representative to the Marine brigade conducting the Marja operation, as saying.

Their efforts will prove to be a litmus test for President Obama's new counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

If Marines and their civilian advisers succeed in pacifying Marja with a new local government and reconstruction projects, it could provide a model of sorts for other areas, US commanders believe.

The commanders said the fighting so far has been intense -- eight Marines and hundreds of insurgents have been killed. (ANI)

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