The most recent assessment of the security situation in Afghanistan is grim, but U.S. Marines continue to beat back Taliban insurgents when they encounter them. An embedded journalist reconstructs one of the hardest-fought battles, at a place called Jugroom Fort.
In the spring of 2008, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), the first elements of a 2,400-strong Marine Air-Ground Task Force, arrived at Kandahar Air Field to begin preparations for an operation intended to push Taliban insurgents from Garmsir District Center in southeast Helmand Province. The operation, code named Azada Wosa—"Be Free" in the local Pashto language—would begin on 28 April and span more than a month amid the poppy fields and mud villages of the lower Helmand River. In the end, it would deal a crushing defeat to the Taliban, and echoes of the Marines' final blows would reverberate against the crumbling walls of Jugroom Fort.