Marines Dodge Snipers, Seize Taliban Compound in Marjah

BY Larisa Epatko  February 19, 2010 at 5:26 PM EDT

U.S. Marines fought and captured a closely guarded compound in the southern Afghanistan town of Marjah Friday, and discovered inside dozens of Taliban identification cards, photos of fighters posing with weapons and diplomas from an insurgent training camp in Pakistan.

As the Marines advanced south from the town center to the compound, they came under continuous fire but never saw the gunmen, who appeared to be using sniper “hit-and-run tactics,” reported the Associated Press.

The sniper threat is relatively new in Afghanistan, and has been moving from urban to rural areas, said Todd Bowers, a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserves, who served three tours in Afghanistan.

“The most difficult thing in operating in Marjah … is all of those houses — the sort of mud hut compounds if you will — that are on the outskirts and the stronger structures are inside. Basically, you have a bunch of little miniature fortresses everywhere. It really gives the enemy an advantage to be able to fight us,” he said.

He describes more here in his interview with deputy senior producer for foreign affairs Daniel Sagalyn:

 

Another challenge in the Helmand province is the terrain, said Jacob Wood, who served with the Marines as a sniper in Helmand from April to November 2008. “A lot of times we found ourselves traveling through cornfields that NATO had convinced the … locals to plant,” which reduced their visibility to near zero, he said. The desert plateaus in the area posed the opposite problem, providing limited cover as the Marines tried to move around.

Listen to more of his interview here:

 

Tonight on the NewsHour, watch a report on how allied soldiers in Afghanistan are faring in their fight against the Taliban.