Marines stationed in Afghanistan have helped the Afghan army retake a key Helmand district from the Taliban.
Using F-16 fighters and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, the Marines assisted the Afghan army in a two-day operation beginning Saturday to seize the Nawa district in southern Helmand province, AFP reports.
Afghan forces officially flew the national Afghan flag in Nawa on Monday following the successful operation referred to as Operation Maiwand Four. According to Long War Journal, the Taliban had held Nawa for about nine months after a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle and accompanying Taliban forces took control of government buildings.
Afghan officials believe that about 38 Taliban fighters were killed in the operation, which included ground forces and air support. U.S. Marines in Helmand issued a release Monday stating that F-16s and Apaches “set conditions, conducted air strikes and covered the flanks of the maneuver elements to decrease the amount of friction felt by the ground forces and allowed freedom of maneuver.”
Afghan police Lt. Col. Mohammad Omar said the U.S. air support was an important part of the operation.
“The air support provided by the coalition forces increased the morale amongst the Afghan uniform police personnel,” Omar said in a statement.
Whether the Afghan Army can keep control of the district remains to be seen, as in the past year alone, Nawa has gone back and forth between Afghan forces and the Taliban a total of four times.
As noted by Afghan Army Corps Operations Chief Lt. Col. Abdul Latif in a New York Times story published Friday, Nawa will be difficult to hold because of a lack of manpower.
“It is easy for us to take Nawa, but difficult to hold,” Latif said.
“We need at least 300 police, but they cannot provide that,” he added. “They have a lot of guys on paper, but in reality not enough guys.”
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