Washington (AFP) Feb 18, 2010
US-led forces will need about 25 to 30 days to secure the Marjah area of Afghanistan as they face "stiff resistance" from Taliban insurgents to an allied assault, a British general said Thursday.
British Major General Nick Carter, commander of the NATO-led force in southern Afghanistan, said coalition forces had to move carefully through Helmand province to spare civilian lives and avoid numerous roadside bombs planted by the Taliban.
"In Marjah itself there remains stiff resistance from the insurgents," Carter told reporters via video link, adding that US Marines and Afghan forces were still fighting an "intense series of actions to clear Marjah as a whole."
"I guess it will take us another 25 to 30 days to be entirely sure that we have secured that which needs to be secured," he said.
Carter said he was "reasonably confident" that the operation would be successful in pushing out the Taliban but the overall outcome of the offensive would not be clear for about three months.
"Looking downstream, in three months' time or thereabouts we should have a pretty fair idea about whether we've been successful. But I would be very cautious about any triumphalism just yet."
The operation had cleared the way for Afghan special police to deploy to southeastern Marjah even as fighting continued elsewhere in the area, he said.
The offensive, which entered its sixth day Thursday, is seen as the first major test of US President Barack Obama's new strategy to end eight years of war which he announced in December along with 30,000 more US troops.
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