US troops enter Taliban stronghold

New offensive aims to gain control of strategic area in southern Helmand province.

    US, Nato and Afghan troops are working to protect voting sites around the country [Reuters]

    In video


    In video: Taliban target Afghan polls

    In video: Tribal voting plea in Afghan election

    The US army said they had captured several suspects in Wednesday's offensive and seized about 30kg of opium.

    Casualty figures have not been reported due to security restrictions.

    Attacks on security forces have increased as Afghans gear up for a presidential election scheduled for August 20.

    However, the attacks have come mainly in the south where Taliban fighters have their strongest presence.

    New offensive

    The new offensive, named Eastern Resolve 2, aims to gain control of strategic areas within the southern valley, where the Taliban are solidly entrenched.

    By occupying Dahaneh, US forces hope to isolate the Taliban in woods and mountains, away from civilian centres.

    Captain Zachary Martin, the US army commander leading the assault, said: "I think this has the potential to be a watershed".

    He quoted by the Associated Press said the goal is to cut off the Taliban from a major rear base, and reclaim the area's main market district.

    It is hoped this would have a ripple effect through neighbouring villages, making civilians more willing to co-operate with Nato forces.

    "In the long term, it could have tremendous effects for the entire province," Martin said.

    'Proportional response'

    Dahaneh serves as a main trading route through northern parts of Helmand, which produces 60 per cent of the world's opium.

    The Taliban has vowed to disrupt the forthcoming presidential election [AFP]
    A combined force of 500 US and Afghan troops took part in Wednesday's attack.

    Compound-by-compound searches were also conducted by Afghan forces that accompanied the Americans.

    Martin said the US forces had devised tactics to minimise civilian casualties in the densely populated area.

    He said troops would strictly limit the type of weapons they used and would stick to a "proportional response" when under fire.

    Thousands of Nato troops are conducting offensives in Helmand an area where roadside bombs are frequently used to attack foreign and Afghan forces.

    At least 14 Nato troops, including at least seven Americans, have died in bomb blasts this month.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.