Nightly News   |  February 15, 2010

Marines on edge in Afghanistan offensive

Three days of intense fighting has left its mark in Marjah, Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold where Marines say locals are cooperating — but too scared to tell them where insurgents are hiding. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> question for another day.

>>> we are following another major story tonight in afghanistan. one of the biggest battles of the war in its third day, a tough fight to pry the strong hold in helmand province .

>> reporter: for u.s. marines in marjah, the fight got tougher today. the battle for this taliban strong hold erupting all around them. three days of intense fighting have left their mark. at first sight, no one is trusted. but with a break in the fighting today, the critical battle for hearts and minds has begun. the marines promise medical attention to this man's sun who was wounded in a crossfire. sebastian rich embedded with the marines for nbc news says the strategy is already paying off.

>> after three days of intensive fighting, the locals of marjah are coming out and telling the marine corps the location of ied's and opium.

>> reporter: tips led them to 70 million ounces of drugs. the effort to win over the afghans suffered a serious setback sunday when a rocket attack killed nine innocent civilian civilians. the top american commander apologized today but despite the coalition's best efforts, u.s. military officials and analysts see it as a regrettable cost of war.

>> it was a tragic accident. but these people need to be free of a taliban redoubt and a major drug production center.

>> reporter: tonight there are still pockets of fierce taliban resistance, meaning the battle for marjah could drag on for weeks. but it's likely to take even longer than that, before we know for sure if president obama 's new military strategy for afghanistan has passed this first critical test. brian?

>> jim miklaszewski at the pentagon for us tonight.

>>> we move to huntsville, alabama