US Marines launch major new offensive in Afghanistan
About 4,000 soldiers are flooding into the southern Taliban stronghold of Helmand Province in the first test of new US strategy.
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Dubbed Operation Khanjar, or "Strike of the Sword," it's the first major military operation under President Obama, and will test his strategy of shifting the US military focus away from Iraq and toward stabilizing Afghanistan. US marines aim to move in and hold a swath of territory that is a Taliban stronghold and the world's largest opium poppy producing area, according to the Associated Press.
Coalition forces hope the massive sudden assault will turn the tide of fighting in Helmand, where British troops have been locked in stalemate for three years....
The force, borne by helicopters and vehicle convoys, was expected to stage a fast and furious clearance of militant strongholds, as part of the US army's "clear hold and build" strategy.
US marines will then consolidate their hold in the region, trying to provide security in the run up to next month's Presidential elections.
The Associated Press reported that the offensive began around 1 a.m. local time. It quoted US commanders as saying that the marines will remain in the province until the Afghan government can provide security itself.
"Where we go we will stay, and where we stay, we will hold, build and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces," Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson said in a statement....
The Pentagon is deploying 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in time for the elections and expects the total number of U.S. forces there to reach 68,000 by year's end.