Central & South Asia
US Marines arrive in Afghanistan
Hundreds of soldiers begin deploying to assist Isaf and Afghan forces.
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2008 08:36 GMT
Canada is particularly concerned that its forces are exposed to Taliban-led fighters [AFP]
Part of a 3,600-strong US marine contingent set to deploy in southern Afghanistan has arrived in the country and is preparing for its mission against Taliban-linked fighters, a military spokesman has said.
The "majority" of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit of 2,300 soldiers had arrived during the last week, Staff Sergeant Robert Piper said.
The unit will "conduct full-spectrum operations to capitalise on recent Isaf and Afghan National Security Force successes," Piper said.
The marines will be commanded by the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), and not by the separate US-led force.
The announcement came as Nato said that it killed 12 suspected Taliban-led fighters in an air raid in southern Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported.
The raid targeted a group of fighters riding in three pickup trucks who had opened fire on Isaf troops, Nato said.
Taliban battle
Piper said the deployed marines are preparing facilities for when other troops arrive, as well as familiarising themselves with the area.

Another battalion from the 7th Marine Regiment will make up the other 1,300 personnel.

"These marines will bring the total number of marines deployed to Afghanistan to approximately 3,600," Piper said.

The marine contingent is due to have deployed fully by the end of April, to coincide with an expected surge in Taliban-linked unrest as the weather improves.

Nato leaders have called on their partners to send more troops and equipment to fight the Taliban and their allies.

Some nations under pressure from the Taliban-led fighters in the south, particularly Canada, have threatened to leave Isaf unless they recieve support.

More than 8,000 people, most of them fighters but including 1,500 civilians, were killed in 2007 during the continuing Taliban-led insurgency, according to a UN estimate.

About 47,000 soldiers from nearly 40 nations are serving in the Isaf force, while a separate US-led coalition consists of about 20,000 soldiers, the majority American.

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