First up ... US Marines report on the transition from HOLD to BUILD phase of Operation Moshtarak in Marjah. By Drew Brown, Stars & Stripes, 030710
"We are in the ‘hold,’ and on the edge of the ‘build’ phase," said Lt. Col. Brian Christmas, commander of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, which operates in the northern half of Marjah, referring to the military strategy of "clear, hold and build."Meanwhile the life expectancy for a Taliban leader in Pakistan is in statistical significant decline. An exponentially increase in the UAV Hellfire missile strike rate since 2008, is clear evidence of a major shift in operational tempo by joint CIA/SOCOM and Pakistan special operations teams. Pakistan has dramatically increased it's support for covert operations against senior Taliban leaders in the uncontrolled tribal regions.
According to Marine officers, U.S. troops faced stiff resistance from dug-in Taliban fighters for the first few days of the operation, but then the Taliban melted away.
"We expected they were going to stand and fight for a while, then go to ground," said Maj. Billy Moore, executive officer for 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines. "It’s been a few days since we’ve had contact."[...]
Even though the Taliban are steering clear of the running gunbattles that characterized the first few days of the operation, roadside bombs remain a constant threat.
Marines with 3rd Battalion have encountered more than 100 bombs since the operation began. Although some explosions have caused casualties, most have been found before they could explode.
"Right now, there are a lot of positives," Lowman said. "Lots of locals are pointing out IEDs and threat areas to us. But I wouldn’t say that they’ve totally shifted to our side yet."
Gen. McChrystal on CIA SpecOps Accelerating OPTEMPO Against Taliban in Pakistan
By Dianna Cahn, Stars and Stripes, 030710
"There have been a significant number of leaders arrested [and killed by Predator drone strikes] recently. And that is very detrimental to the strength and stability of the Taliban," McChrystal said. "If I was a young Taliban commander in Helmand right now under pressure, I would feel less confident if my senior leadership was being arrested right now at a high rate."