Major Military Operation Underway In Afghanistan – Is This WWIII?
Fisnik Abrashi and Lara Jakes / Associated Press – July 1, 2009
Thousands of U.S. Marines and hundreds of Afghan troops moved into Taliban-infested villages with armor and helicopters early Thursday in the first major operation under President Barack Obama’s revamped strategy to stabilize Afghanistan.
The offensive in the once-forgotten war was launched shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday local time in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold in the southern part of the country and the world’s largest opium poppy producing area. The goal is to clear insurgents from the hotly contested Helmand River Valley before the nation’s Aug. 20 presidential election.
Dubbed Operation Khanjar, or “Strike of the Sword,” the military push was described by officials as the largest and fastest-moving of the war’s new phase. British forces last week led similar, but smaller, missions to fight and clear out insurgents in Helmand and neighboring Kandahar provinces.
“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.
Southern Afghanistan is a Taliban stronghold but also a region where Afghan President Hamid Karzai is seeking votes from fellow Pashtun tribesmen. 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. That is double the number of troops in Afghanistan in 2008, but still half of much as are now in Iraq.
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