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Marines, Afghan troops to stay in Marjah for awhile

MARJAH, Afghanistan - More than 2,000 U.S. Marines and about 1,000 Afghan troops who stormed the Taliban town of Marjah as part of a major NATO offensive against a resurgent Taliban will stay several months to ensure insurgents don't return, Marine commanders said yesterday.

Meanwhile, insurgents are striking back by attacking resupply convoys moving in and out of Marjah with roadside bombs, Marines said Sunday. Four convoys have been hit in the last two days, Marines said on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information. There was no word on casualties.

Two Marine battalions and their Afghan counterparts will be stationed in Marjah and help patrol it as part of NATO's "clear, hold, build" strategy, which calls for troops to secure the area, restore a civilian Afghan administration, and bring in aid and public services to win the support of the population, commanders said.

On Sunday, the 1,000 Marines with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines Regiment were fortifying positions to the north and west of the town, taking over compounds and building others from scratch to create a small garrison, known as a Forward Operating Base, as well as combat outposts and a network of temporary patrol bases, said Capt. Joshua Winfrey, head of Lima Company.

Another battalion was doing the same to the south of Marjah, Winfrey said. About 1,000 Afghan troops will accompany the Marines, he added. In addition about 900 Afghan paramilitary police are already patrolling Marjah.

Marine spokesman Capt. Abe Sipe said a more permanent military outpost will facilitate a long-term NATO presence in the town. "We are going to have a presence in Marjah for some time," he said.

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