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US Marines launch major operation in Afghanistan
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14:56, July 03, 2009

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The first units of an estimated 4,000 Marines began what was described as a large-scale operation early Thursday, or July 2 against Taliban forces in Helmond Province, southern Afghanistan. More than 600 Afghan soldiers and police officers were also involved.

This was the largest-ever military action in scale taken since the U.S. troop increase in earlier this year. Moreover, the military operation, codenamed Operation Khanjar (Strike of the Sword) was also the largest Marine offensive ever conducted after the end of Vietnam War (1959-April 30, 1975).

US military personnel stationed in Afghanistan disclose that helicopters and heavy transport vehicles carried out the advance, or Operation Kanjar, which lasted for 36 hours.

The southern provinces of Helmond and adjacent Kandahar have been deemed widely as the headquarters of Taliban forces. Helmond province, which has been managed by Taliban forces for many years, produce more than 90 percent of opium or opium poppy in Afghanistan, which in turn accounts for more than 90 percent of the world’s opium output. At present, the province has a deployment of 100,000 U.S. Marines, 8,500 of whom arrived over the last two months, thus forming the biggest wave of an escalation by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The operation of U.S. forces seems to coordinate with the incoming Afghan presidential election, in an attempt to win more support for President Hamid Karzai by means of clearing up Taliban insurgents, as Helmond province is the most crucial “source of votes” for him to seek a second term of office.

In Washington, a senior Pentagon official told CNN Thursday that the size and scope of the new operation, or Operation Khanjar, which the Marines called simply “the decisive op”, was “very significant”. In the meantime, Pakistani military said that it had mustered more troops for complementary operation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in an effort to prevent Taliban forces from entering Pakistan after being attacked or followed.

In late June, U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones visited Afghanistan and Pakistan for reviewing the implementation of Obama administration’s new anti-terror strategy. He said repeatedly on the trip that the new strategy has “three legs”, all of which he said had to be dramatically improved: security; economic development and reconstruction, and improved legislation or governance by the Afghan government.

An imminent presidential election in Afghanistan is set for August 20, when 17 million eligible Afghan voters would go to ballot boxes. So, U.S. forces stepped up military operations with an aim to curb the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and remove obstacles for President Obama’s new Afghan strategy in the political and economic realms.

To date, about 57,000 U.S. servicemen are now deployed in Afghanistan, but security situation there remain grin and stark, according to the U.S. Central Command, a theater-level unified combatant command unit of the U.S. armed forces set up in 1983 under the operation control of the US secretary of defense.

With up to a total deployment of more than 100,000 troops, the US forces could be able to cope with Taliban and al Qaeda insurgent activity, senior American military officers have acknowledged in private. National Security Advisor James Jones, however, made it clear while in Afghanistan that the new U.S. strategy for the country has been shifted to economic development. “If that is not done right, there are no enough troops in the world to succeed,” he said.

Known as a “desert of death” in southern Afghanistan, Helmond province is the area where the Taliban insurgents and al-Qaeda forces have intensified or are beefing up attacks against the U.S. occupiers. Consequently, the stationed U.S. troops have suffered a lot of casualties from incessant attacks by Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents over the past six months owing to the lack of adequate support from Afghan security forces.

By People’s Daily Online


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