As the Grey Lady recently reported…

MARJA, Afghanistan — The black, red and green flag of Afghanistan was hoisted over the center of this onetime Taliban stronghold on Thursday, as Afghan officials symbolically claimed control after a major American-led military offensive.

Symbolic indeed! The clear phase is over, somewhat, and at a high cost!

As today’s Daily Outlook notes the GoA’s dog and pony show rolled into town…

Khalili Visits Helmand, Invites Taliban to Join Reconciliation
The second deputy president Karim Khalili on Monday invited the Taliban to join the peace and reconciliation process and play their role in the reconstruction of the country. Khalili said this during his visit to the southern province of Helmand. Civilian representative of the NATO alliance to Afghanistan Mark Sedwil, deputy Interior Minister Munir Mangal and other senior government officials were accompanied him to the restive province. The delegation met the elders and officials in the provincial capital of Lashkargah and expressed grief ove the loss of civilians in the recent operation in Marjah district of the province. Talking to the people, he said the government was trying to avoid civilian casualties in such operation. He said areas vacated from Taliban would be manned by the security forces and they would not allow the miscreants to return there again. On this occasion, he urged upon the Taliban to start talks with the government to win peace for the people of the country. He said they were ready for all possible cooperation if the Taliban agreed for peace and reconciliation. Governor of Helmand province Muhammad Gulab Mangal, on this occasion, told journalists that the recent visit of the deputy president and the earlier visit of the president proved that the government was taking serious interest in improvement of the situation in the province.

More dog and pony… McChrystal visits Marjah

Ironically, the Taliban are crowing…

Qari M. Yousaf Ahmadi, Spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, on The Marja Operation: ‘The Enemy Has Now Been Entangled in Battles in Accordance With Our Tactical Plan And The Enemy Losses Have Been Spiralling Up With The Passage of Time’

…From the first day of operation February 13, 2010, the enemy troops have not been able to extend their writ to other areas of Marjah except areas, which were evacuated by Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate at the beginning of the operations as per a tactical plan to encircle the enemy forces.

When the enemy new strategy faced fiasco, they ludicrously announced to have cleared the areas. However, the ground realities are contrary to what they are claiming.

Here’s Joshua Foust deconstructing the rampant rhetoric on Marjah and Operation Moshtarak…

A Children’s Treasury of breathless media coverage, in non-rhyming couplet/quotation form.

Before:

The man with the most sway in Marja is Abdul Rahman Jan, the former police chief in Helmand. His officers in Marja were so corrupt and ruthless — their trademark was summary executions — that many residents welcomed the Taliban as a more humane alternative.

After:

“There has been very little progress,” said Haji Abdurrahman Jan, the head of the Marjah shura and a former police chief in Helmand. “The foreign and Afghan forces have advanced only 2 kilometers from their descent point. This is very little in relation to their numbers.”

Before:

However that turns up, by this point in the game we have a pattern very firmly established: in the next month or two, there will be a major attack inside Afghanistan in retaliation. And it will kill a lot more innocent people. And we will rinse and repeat and wonder why we’ve made so little progress.

After:

A crew of suicide bombers armed with grenades and Kalashnikov rifles attacked two guesthouses frequented by foreigners here early Friday, setting off a gun battle with Afghan police and killing at least 16 people.

Before:

In other words, opium behaves like any other agricultural commodity: responsive to demand and supply, with a fairly normal price elasticity and a fairly normal elasticity of demand. Yet, neither the UNODC nor most Western governments seem willing to discuss this in any great detail.

After:

A record flow of Afghan drugs is shifting toward Russia’s North Caucasus on the back of a number of anti-drug trafficking operations in Pakistan, Russian drug control chief Viktor Ivanov said on Thursday.

Alright, you get the point.

More Joshua on the build phase that we’ve now entered! Death and Taxes in Marjah, Afghanistan.

Now in an update on this prior post: Rolling Up The Taliban? It does appear that Pakistan and ISI is truly cracking down on the Taliban and others! As Memri Urdu-Pashtu reports today…

Pakistani Daily Reveals Details Of Nine Remaining Members Of Quetta Shura Who Have Yet To Be Captured, Says Pakistan Has Not Disclosed All Recent Arrests Of Top Militant Commanders.[...]

Five Taliban militant commanders, including Maulvi Alim Binori and Maulana Shamsul Haq, were killed on Monday in the Madain area of the Swat district in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP), according to a Pakistani website.[...]

Pakistan’s Crackdown Forces British Security Firms To Pack Up

Several U.S. contractors who have been at the center of a controversy over the presence of foreign security companies in Pakistan appear to have survived, while the British firms have left, according to a Pakistani daily.

The report noted that Pakistani law-enforcement agencies fear that these American entities may be part of an attempt to establish ‘‘a parallel security and intelligence network’’ in Pakistan.

The survival of the U.S. firms, including Catalyst Services considered by many as a front organization for Blackwater/Xe and the DynCorp, continues to pose a challenge to the country’s law-enforcement agencies, according to a report in the Dawn newspaper.

According to a Pakistani government report, other U.S. security firms in Pakistan include Sallyport Global Services, which has a security contract with an embassy in Islamabad, and RSM Consulting.

However, all of the British companies have packed up and left the country.

Why just the Brits? The American Firms are the worst perpetrators!

I do believe the jury is still out on the ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Marjah…!