Nightly News   |  February 21, 2010

U.S. forces face stiff resistance in Marjah

Marines control the region’s central market and all the main roads, but their progress continues to be hampered by improvised bombs and Taliban snipers. NBC’s Tom Aspell reports.

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

>>> now to other news. the war in afghanistan . today the man overseeing that war, general david petraeus , said that the ongoing battle in marjah is just the beginning of what he called a 12 to 18-month campaign against taliban sanctuaries. an update on the marjah operation, now in its ninth day, from nbc 's tom aspell in kabul.

>> reporter: during week two of operation moshtaraq u.s. marines are encountering stiff resistance from taliban fighters in the town of marjah. today on nbc 's "meet the press" general david petraeus , the overall commander of the afghan war , said his forces were facing a stubborn enemy.

>> well, they're formidable. they're a bit disjointed at this point in time. the way the operation was conducted leaped over some of them. but there's tough fighting going on without question.

>> reporter: in marjah the marines control the central market and all the main roads. but their progress is being hampered by improvised bombs and taliban snipers.

>> you see him?

>> is it two stories? all right. i see it.

>> reporter: they call in attack helicopters and an air strike . two 500-pound jdam bombs. it doesn't work. the marines move closer.

>> get suppression for them. put rounds on that target.

>> reporter: nbc news cameraman sebastian rich is with them.

>> they've just spotted him. so it's just a matter of deploying the missile.

>> reporter: finally-w a shoulder-fired javelin, the taliban sniper is eliminated.

>> right up over --

>> reporter: in a renewed strategy nato forces are stressing protecting civilians over routing insurgents. it means the battle for marjah is slow and costly. more than a dozen coalition soldiers have been killed. more than 60 wounded in nine days of fighting. tonight intelligence reports say about 40 taliban fighters are holed up on the western edge of marjah, vowing to fight to the death. for marines this could be the most difficult and dangerous phase of the battle. tom aspell, nbc news, kabul.