Marjah offensive, Day 13: Afghan flag raised over the town
Marjah: The Afghan flag was raised Thursday over a town at the centre of a US-led military assault to drive the Taliban from one of their key strongholds, a report said on Thursday.
Mohammad Gulab Mangal, Governor of Helmand province, raised the green, red and black flag in Marjah, watched by Brigadier General Larry Nicholson, the commander of the US Marines in southern Afghanistan, the report added.
"It`s a very historical day, a new beginning," Nicholson told a crowd of about 300 residents, watched over by US Marine snipers stationed on the roofs of surrounding buildings.
In what had characteristics of a victory celebration, Nicholson said of the assembly: "I am so moved by this, so very thrilled by the turnout.”
"They are voting with their eyes, and they believe there is a fresh start for Marjah under the government of Afghanistan."
Around 15,000 US, Afghan and NATO forces launched Operation Mushtarak ("Together") on February 13 in what has been billed the biggest military operation since the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban regime.
Their mission was to capture the Marjah area in Helmand from the Taliban and drug lords is a major test of US President Barack Obama`s troop surge battling to end the eight-year Afghan war.
After the assault, the mission is to reassert Afghan government’s authority so that the next phases -- consolidation and development -- can begin.
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