"The reality is that it is hard, but we are there for a very important reason."

General Petraeus on our fight in Afghanistan:

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The head of US Central Command has said the current offensive around the southern Afghan town of Marjah is the initial operation of a long campaign.

Gen David Petraeus told NBC that the offensive was part of a revised strategy for combating insurgents that would probably last “12 to 18 months”.

He said Taliban resistance to Operation Moshtarak, which is in its second week, had been “formidable” but “disjointed”.

Nato commanders have said it may take another month to fully secure Marjah.

Gen Petraeus said the US public should expect further losses, much like there were following the so-called troop surge in Iraq.

“When we go on the offensive… they are going to fight back. And we are seeing that in Marjah. We will see that in other areas. But we are going after them across the spectrum,” he told NBC’s Meet The Press programme.

“The reality is that it is hard, but we are there for a very important reason.”

The general, who oversees the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, said that in Marjah there had been “tough fighting going on without question”.

“[The Taliban] are formidable. They are a bit disjointed at this point in time. The way the operation was conducted leaped over some of them.”

He said it was important to realise that Operation Moshtarak marked the beginning of what would be a 12 to 18-month campaign, as mapped out by the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal.

“We have spent the last year getting the inputs right in Afghanistan, getting the structure and organizations necessary for a comprehensive civil-military campaign, putting the best leaders we can find in charge of those,” he said.

“Now we are starting to see the first of the output. The Marjah operation is the initial salvo,” he added.

If you’re a praying person, say a prayer for our men and women over there, say a prayer for their leaders, ask for God’s guidance and protection and that His purposes be fulfilled.

And if you’re not a praying person, then know that you damned well ought to be.

Crossposted(*).

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