A joint U.S.-Afghan military operation has begun in the troubled
Helmand province against Taliban fighters who have vowed to disrupt the
August 20 presidential election.
U.S. Marines say a new
operation has begun to thwart the insurgents in southern Afghanistan,
who pose the most serious challenge to conducting this month's national
The Marine Expeditionary Brigade says 400 Marines
and sailors and 100 Afghan soldiers have launched "Operation Eastern
The poppy-rich Helmand region is a primary route
for Taliban fighters coming from Pakistan to participate in the
insurgency in Afghanistan. The focus of the offensive is a southern
valley, where the insurgents have been well-entrenched. The troops
hope to push the Taliban outside towns so civilians can go to the polls
during the August 20 election.
In Kabul, Canadian Brigadier
General Eric Tremblay of the NATO-led International Security Assistance
Force says Afghan and foreign troops will be operating, across the
country, to provide security for the first presidential election in
"So our focus remains on preparing the way for the
elections by confronting the insurgents, denying them the freedom to
operate, isolating them from the population and degrading their
capability," he said.
International organizations, including the
United Nations, say Taliban violence and intimidation are disrupting
election preparations and there is a fear they will prevent significant
numbers of Afghans from voting.
President Hamid Karzai,
running for re-election, has encouraged the public to not let such
threats deter them from going to the polls.
palace confirms insurgents carried out a pre-dawn attack on a
government compound in northern Kunduz province, where the Taliban have
become increasingly active in recent months. Mr. Karzai issued a
statement praising the "patriotic sacrifice" of the police chief of the
Archi district, who died repelling the attack.
the police chief managed to kill and wound some of the attackers.
And in Paghman district of Kabul
province, about 20 kilometers west of the capital, a remote-controlled
bomb late Tuesday killed five policemen and wounded the district police
chief and two other officers.
Meanwhile, two foreign journalists
have been wounded near Kandahar. The Associated Press crew was
traveling with a U.S. military unit, when its vehicle was struck by a
roadside bomb. A Spanish photographer, based in Islamabad, lost a foot
as a result of leg injuries. His colleague, an Indonesian
videographer, suffered leg and rib injuries.
including women and children, were reported killed Tuesday in Kandahar
when a mini-bus they were riding in was hit by a bomb. The Taliban are
also blamed for that attack.