On Thursday ISAF and Afghan forces raised the Afghan flag over the central market in Marjah (the town in Helmand province that has been the focus of this latest operation). This symbolic act means relatively little in itself, as a U.S. brigadier general obliquely acknowledged in an interview on the NewsHour Friday evening when he said that more remains to be done to clear the area of IEDs etc.
The real question, though, is whether Operation Moshtarak will eventually be able to claim some kind of long-term success, or whether the Taliban will just return to the area after the 'surge' begins to wind down in 2011. (This is one of a number of questions raised by V. Yadav at DofM a while back.) The operation so far has cost the deaths of 14 ISAF soldiers and twice that many Afghan civilians. Especially in view of this, it will be regrettable, to say the least, if it turns out that this operation does not have lasting effects. I'm not necessarily arguing it won't, I'm saying the overall situation is such that one has to worry about this.
Let's hope that those who have lost their lives in this operation have died for something more lasting and significant than the raising of a flag over a town's central market. Let's hope that the Afghan 'surge' will turn out to do what its proponents claimed it would. The jury is still very much out.