4,000 U.S. Marines and hundreds of Afghan security forces are taking up
positions in Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan.
Reports from the battle zone in Helmand province said troops did not encounter much resistance following a night-time air and ground assault that started early Thursday morning.
U.S. military officials say one Marine was killed and several others
were wounded in the assault. There are no confirmed reports of civilian
The offensive is the largest for the U.S. Marines since the battle for the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004. It also marks the first major operation under U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy for stabilizing the country.
The governor of Helmand tells VOA Deewa service that previous offensives in the area often ended inconclusively and Taliban fighters regained territory once troops had left.
U.S. commanders say Operation Khanjar (Strike of the Sword) differs from previous missions both because of its size and its goal of holding on to captured Taliban territory.
Security forces are expected to maintain security ahead of presidential elections on August 20.
Commenting on the new offensive in southern Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Brigadier General Larry Nicholson said troops will build outposts and live among the people in the world's most active poppy-growing region.
The Associated Press says Mr. Obama plans to reassess the possible need for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the country's presidential elections in August. In a White House interview Thursday, Mr. Obama said the U.S. and its allies need to help Afghanistan build up its security forces and help Pakistan protect its borders against terrorists.
Afghanistan's Interior Ministry says Afghan security forces have killed nine militants in the southern province of Zabul. Officials say security forces also discovered a a large cache of explosives.
Also, Britain's Defense Ministry identified as British two soldiers who were killed Wednesday in a bomb attack in Helmand province.