"It has been taken, won and lost again and again by both sides," he said.

"Up until now, for the past three or four years the people of Now Zad have been unable to return to the city because of the fighting."

Signal to the Taliban

Our correspondent said Friday's offensive was aimed at cutting off Taliban supply lines through the region and came three days after Obama announced he would send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan.

In depth


Full text:
 
Obama's West Point speech

Analysis:
 
'Nothing new' in Obama strategy

Videos:
 
Nato struggles to secure troops
 Deadline to defeat the Taliban
  The general's plan in Afghanistan

"There is no question that this is meant to be a signal to the Taliban in terms of what the Taliban can expect in upcoming days in terms of how this strategy will be implemented.

"It is also aimed at letting Nato countries know that this is exactly what Obama wants, which is to protect the urban populations and force the Taliban on to a back foot."

Obama announced on Tuesday that he is sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, but also said they would begin to pull out by mid-2011.

Obama had called on other countries to come up with 5,000 to 7,000 troops to bolster the US surge.

There are currently around 100,000 troops from 43 countries involved in the US-led operation in Afghanistan.