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Operation uncovers signs of weakening insurgency in Marjah

KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers and members of International Security Assistance Forces from 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment launched Operation Integrity Jan. 15.
The goals of the operation were to cordon off a suspected hotspot for Taliban activity, search for weapon and improvised explosive device caches, disrupt enemy logistical operations and gather census data on local citizens in the region of Sistani.
“Our primary task is to disrupt Taliban activity by searching suspected bed-down locations and possible weapons caches,” said Capt. Ronald Diefenbach, commanding officer of Weapons Company, 2/9. “Even if no insurgents or weapons are captured, we’ll keep the enemy on his toes and have the opportunity to engage with the local population on a number of issues.”
The Afghan army took the lead in the operation.
“The ANA conducted the searches,” said Diefenbach. “They were the ones dealing with the local citizens primarily and getting a feel for the local populace, since they are the future of Afghan security.”
“The abilities of our ANA partners are increasing every day, so one of the goals of this operation was to get the ANA out there and have them execute the mission with little help from the Marines,” said Capt. Jason M. Quinn, officer-in-charge, Operation Integrity.
After searching several compounds and talking to local citizens, Diefenbach noticed the majority of the villagers had no problem talking about the Taliban. He found that most of the Taliban had left the area and known hiding spots for insurgent contraband turned up empty.
Diefenbach suggested that locals have been more willing to cooperate after seeing the effectiveness of recent coalition operations that brought numerous Taliban fighters and commanders into custody.
“The capture of Taliban leaders genuinely increases people’s positive sentiment about the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and their Marine partners,” said Diefenbach. “Their willingness to speak out has to do with the increase in security. If you’re not worried about someone threatening your family, you’re more likely to provide information and side with the government.”
Cpl. Nicholas Kovarik, an intelligence analyst with 2/9, said that the partnership between the ANA and 2/9 managed to search over 200 compounds and gather census information on nearly 300 individuals.
In an area that was once ravaged by daily firefights, officials said the lack of Taliban presence during this operation could be another indication of the weakening insurgency in the region.
“Overall from start to finish everything was a success,” Quinn said. “We managed to collect a lot of census data and a lot of intelligence that is going to help us and other units in the future.”

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