Initial phase of military offensive begins in Afghanistan

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London, Feb. 14 (ANI): In the first phase of the largest military offensive against the Taliban since the Afghanistan invasion in 2001, more than 6,000 American, Afghan and British troops have begun taking position in the war-torn country.

As the troops began to fan out on searches, fighting with Taliban insurgents grew in frequency and intensity across a wide area, the pattern suggested that the hardest fighting lay in the days to come.

The New York Times quoted American commanders as saying that the troops had achieved every first-day objective. That included advancing into the city itself and seizing intersections, government buildings and one of the city's main bazaars in the center of town.

Mohammed Dawood Ahmadi, a spokesman for Helmand Province's governor, said Afghan and NATO forces had set up 11 outposts across Marja and two in the neighboring town of Nad Ali.

"We now occupy all the strategic points in the area," he said.

From those posts, Marines and soldiers began to go on patrols, searching door to door for weapons and fighters.

Dozens if not hundreds of insurgents probably fled Marja in the days leading up to the assault, according to military officers and local residents.

"Actually, the resistance is not there. Based on our intelligence reports, some of the Taliban have left the area. But we still expected there to be several hundred. Just yesterday, we received reports that reinforcements had arrived from neighboring provinces," Abdul Rahim Wardak, the Afghan defense minister, said in a news conference in Kabul.

But it seems likely that many Taliban were still in Marja, lying in wait. One resident interviewed by telephone said that many insurgents had stayed behind.

"I don't have any information on the Taliban, neither where they are nor where they have gone. I don't think they have gone anywhere, because Marja has been surrounded by Afghan and foreign forces on every side," said Palawan, a farmer in Marja. (ANI)

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