U.S. Forces Push Through Taliban Stronghold

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Fierce firefights broke out Monday between U.S. Marines and Afghanistan insurgents as Afghan, U.S., and British forces steadily slog their way through Marjah, a key Taliban stronghold.

The U.S. is leading a major operation in the southern Afghan city, where the insurgents get a lot of their funding. About 15,000 U.S., Afghan, and British troops are moving through the city to root out the Taliban and restore power to the Afghan government.

Their main problem is weeding out numerous sniper teams and disarming the many booby traps and improvised explosives, or IEDs, left behind by fleeing Taliban troops.

Click play to watch this CBN News report followed by an interview with CBN News Military Reporter Chuck Holton, who spent time in Marjah with Special Operations forces last September. 

"All the entry points that we've come in on have faced multiple IEDs, multiple types, in-depth," Col. Randy Newman,, Regimental Combat Team 7, said.

"We did find several IEDs and bombs and things like that," Lt. Ryan Engle, U.S. Army, said.

Afghan leaders  are pleading with remaining Taliban in Marjah to give up.

"There is no way you can win there," Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Afghan Interior Minister, warned.

This is to be a key test of Afghan troops' ability to fight, but some observers are saying that so far, those soldiers aren't doing that well -- that U.S. forces are doing the lion's share of the fighting.

It's also a test of President Obama's strategy of both fighting hard against the enemy, and trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

"So I hope today this is the first meeting of many, because we will be here to stay." Britian's Maj. Ed Hill, B Company, 1st Royal Welsh, said.

"It's the first time American forces have been over here in a while. We are here to get rid of the Taliban and give the people of Marjah their freedom back," Cpl. John Beatley, U.S. Army, said.

"Restoring security and restoring a government to a place where it's not been will just take time," Col. Newman said.

It's also a move to dent the billion-dollar opium drug trade that helps fund the Taliban.

"I think the drugs are going to continue move in and out to a very large extent  but it's gonna fracture the drug trade," former Undersecretary of Defense Bing West said.

With 15,000 troops in the fight, casualties -- mostly Taliban -- have been light, only in the dozens. But as happens in war, civilians often take the brunt of it. One fleeing Marjah resident said townspeople are caught in a crossfire. 

As he put it, "Everyday they're firing from both sides. If this side fires one bullet, they fire 10 bullets." he said.

Twelve civilians were killed by two U.S. rockets Sunday, angering the Afghan government and earning a rebuke from America's British allies. 

"Our aim is to protect the population," Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, British Defence Staff chief, said. "You don't protect them by killing them. So of course it was a serious setback."

Some sources said those rockets were off-target, others that they hit a house filled with Taliban fighters, but that those fighters were holding civilians in the home.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops are complaining about new rules of engagement, some of the tightest under which they've ever fought. They report insurgents are using the rules against them, actively shooting at U.S. troops, then dropping their guns and walking away, suddenly immune from retaliation.

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