Marjah and the Afghanistan Surge

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Burton Shields, commander of the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry of Task Force Stryker, sits during a meeting, or shura, with village leaders in the Badula Qulp area, West of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010. (AP)

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It’s Day 5 of the biggest allied offensive in Afghanistan since 2001 — some 15,000 U.S., NATO, and Afghan troops working to secure Marjah, a key opium-smuggling base in the Taliban’s heartland.

It’s being called the first big test of President Obama’s troop surge and General Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy. A strategy of holding fire to protect civilians, rolling in a local government to keep the Taliban out, building a nation.

And with the recent capture in Pakistan of the Taliban’s top military commander, there’s hope, justified or not, of turning the tide.

This hour, On Point: We’re looking at the Afghan surge as it plays out on the ground.


Joining us from Kabul, Afghanistan, is Rod Nordland, foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He’s reported on civilian casualities in the Marjah offensive and on the UN’s refusal to participate in the military’s reconstruction efforts there.

From Monterey, Calif., we’re joined by Kalev Sepp, professor of defense analysis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and retired Army lieutenant colonel and special forces officer.  From 2007 to January 2009, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations Capabilities, helping to oversee global counterterrorism policy.

From Washington we’re joined by Peter Bergen, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, where he co-directs the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative.  He’s editor of Foreign Policy magazine’s Af-Pak Channel blog and author of “The Osama Bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader.”

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