The Long Haul in Marja

The huge offensive underway in Marja, in southern Afghanistan, is only a scaled-up version of earlier clearing operations in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The offensive is part of the “clear, hold, build” counterinsurgency strategy, and how long this violent part lasts depends on the Taliban’s stamina. Typically the invasion step has lasted less than two weeks, but the intensity of the fighting varies. British forces last had more than a dozen men fighting in Babaji, while just south of there, in Nawa, American Marines met little resistance. Analysts expect a mix of those battles, with Marines dodging many roadside bombs but fighting few Taliban directly. "There are reports from residents who have fled: They have tunnels built, they have bunkers built, they have [explosive devices] strung all over the place," a military analyst said. "But I would be surprised if we saw them really dig in and fight us head-on. We've never really seen that before, and I don't think you're going to see it here." How long the “hold” part takes largely depends on how long the fighting lasts.