NATO forces will begin their offensive on the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in June, a US military official said on Monday. NATO and US forces earlier this year launched a major offensive against the Taliban in Helmand province.
AFP - NATO forces will begin their offensive on the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in June, a US military official said, to regain ground against the fierce insurgency in their spiritual homeland.
The offensive in the region "has already begun," the official told AFP late Monday on condition of anonymity, saying that in Kandahar "operations will begin (in June)."
NATO and US forces that earlier this year launched a major offensive against the Taliban in Helmand province, near Kandahar, have already announced plans to begin "Operation Omaid" against the insurgent stronghold this summer, but without giving specific dates.
The military and political efforts against the Taliban around Kandahar, Afghanistan's third biggest city and the militia's spiritual capital, are the next step in the US-led strategy to end a war now in its ninth year.
The commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, US General Stanley McChrystal has said the offensive building up to a full operation on Kandahar had begun with initial military and political efforts, including operations to secure key roads and districts.
Speaking by teleconference to reporters in Washington earlier this month, he said the effort would "ramp up in the weeks and months ahead," lasting "a significant time."
Operation Omaid follows Operation Mushtarak, currently under way in neighboring Helmand province, which appears to have largely pushed back the Taliban and given the government a chance to take control.
US President Barack Obama in a surprise visit to Afghanistan at the weekend defended his sweeping new push to flush out Taliban strongholds in Helmand and future targets in the south where the insurgency is concentrated.
"Our strategy includes a military effort that takes the fight to the Taliban while creating the conditions for greater security and a transition to the Afghans," he told US and NATO troops gathered at Bagram Airfield outside Kabul.
The United States and NATO are boosting their military effort to 150,000 troops in Afghanistan in coming months as efforts to eradicate militant strongholds intensify.
McChrystal told Obama by video conference at a war cabinet meeting earlier this month that he would take on Taliban militants in Kandahar when enough reinforcements were in place.
The commander said the military was on course to pour thousands of extra troops into the region in coming months.
A US combat brigade of 4,000 men was already deployed in Kandahar in the summer of 2009 to secure lines of communication leading to the capital of southern Afghanistan, historic stronghold of the Taliban movement.
Upon his return Monday Obama also stressed the immediate need for progress in the country, torn by decades of conflict and over eight years of US-led intervention.
"I think he is listening," Obama said, referring to his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai.
"But I think that the progress is too slow, and what we've been trying to emphasize is the fierce urgency of now," Obama said in an interview with NBC, set to air on US television early Tuesday.
He pressed Karzai, returned for a second five-year term in fraud-riddled elections last year, to step up the fight against corruption and the drugs trade, and invited the Afghan leader to visit Washington on May 12.
Date created : 2010-03-30