Kabul: International and Afghan troops have
begun a key combat phase against insurgents in southern
Afghanistan and expect heavy fighting, officials said,
in an operation that is crucial to the US strategy to turn
around the nine-year war against the Taliban.
The allied forces were moving into two or three areas
around Kandahar city in southern Afghanistan at once to
pressure the Taliban "so they don`t get the chance to run
away," Shah Mohammad Ahmadi, chief of Arghandab district
northwest of the city, said today.
"Before, when we have tried to get rid of the Taliban,
when we cleaned one area we found more Taliban in a different
one," he said.
A top NATO officer said yesterday that the alliance a few
days ago had launched its "kinetic," or combat, phase of
"Operation Dragon Strike," a joint military push with Afghan
forces around Kandahar intended to rid the area of insurgents
and interrupt their ability to move freely and stage attacks.
"It is a significant ground operation with air support,``
German Brig Gen Josef Blotz, a NATO spokesman, said at a news
conference. "We expect heavy fighting."
"Afghanistan and coalition forces are destroying Taliban
positions so they will have nowhere to hide," Blotz said.
"Once this is done, insurgents will be forced to leave the
area or fight and be killed."
NATO said militants have fought back with
rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.
It said no Afghan or coalition troops have been killed in
The push in Kandahar is seen as key to the Obama
administration`s strategy to turn around the nine-year war as
insurgents undermine the ability of an Afghan government to
rule much of the country.
Kandahar remains particularly dangerous; seven US troops
have been killed in Kandahar this month. Another three have
been killed in the south, but no further details have been
"First, they are clearing the area of Taliban and then
they are searching the area for mines," said Kareem Jan,
district chief of Zhari, west of Kandahar.