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The clearing phase of operation Moshtarak continued yesterday. The combined force continues to face sporadic fire fights. The combined forces have incurred casualties.
A press conference held yesterday in Lashkar Gah included General Abdul Rahim Wardak, minister of Defense; Mohammed Hanif Atmar, minister of Interior; Mohammed Gulab Mangal, governor of Helmand province; Brig. Gen. Sher Mohammad Zazai, ANA 205 Corps commander; and General Stanley McChrystal, ISAF commander.
Gen. Wardak said the objective of Operation Moshtarak is not to kill insurgents, but to provide security, governance and development for the people of Helmand. He called on insurgents to put down their weapons and join the reintegration process. He also said that sufficient security forces will remain following the clearing operation to provide an environment conducive to development.
During the press conference, Minister Atmar provided an update on the tragic incident that occurred Sunday. He indicated according to the initial report insurgents held civilians captive in a compound. The insurgents used this location to deliver accurate, direct fire at combined forces. Not knowing there were civilians present, the combined forces responded using a heavy weapon, resulting in a tragic loss of civilian lives. Atmar said there was a meeting with people in the area and an apology has been made. The village elders voiced their support for the Afghan government.
Gov. Mangal said he appreciated the good coordination between the ANSF and ISAF troops during the operation. He said the government does not currently have control of three (Baghran, Washir and Deshow) out of the 13 districts in Helmand province, indicating he was optimistic that the government soon would take charge in these areas. He also appealed to insurgents to join the peace process.
Indicating there is still resistance from insurgents in Marjah, Gen. Zazai expressed confidence they will soon be defeated. Local elders in Nad-e Ali have expressed their support for the Afghan government during shuras held in the area, he said.
Gen. McChrystal said the Afghan-led Operation Moshtarak has highlighted a special partnership of which he is very proud. He asked media to watch the bravery of the ANSF and coalition partners, stating he is himself exceptionally proud of how they have performed.
The goal of Moshtarak - Dari for "together" - is for the combined force (ANA, ANP, ISAF and the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team) to support the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in asserting its authority in central Helmand, thereby demonstrating the government's commitment to the people living there.
The operation is being conducted at the request of the Afghan government and the governor of Helmand. The security forces involved are serving side-by-side, representing partnership in strength.