Four hundred U.S. Marines and 100 Afghan soldiers stormed into a
Taliban-held area of southern Afghanistan Wednesday as part of a new
operation to gain control of the area ahead of next week's presidential
Military forces flew by helicopter to the Nawzad district of Helmand province to begin what the military is calling operation "Eastern Resolve 2." U.S. officials said they want to make sure the Independent Election Commission and Afghan national security forces "have the security to do their jobs."
The U.S. military gave no details about casualties.
Taliban militants have vowed to disrupt the August 20 elections with attacks on polling stations and threats against voters.
A roadside bomb wounded two Associated Press journalists who were embedded with the U.S. military in southern Afghanistan. One of the journalists (Indonesian Andi Jatmiko) suffered leg and rib injuries, while the other (Spaniard Emilio Morenatti) suffered a leg wound that resulted in the loss of his foot.
AP President Tom Curley said their injuries reflect the risks that journalists encounter every day as they report from the "front lines of the most dangerous places in the world."
In northern Afghanistan, meanwhile, Taliban fighters attacked a police compound in the province of Kunduz, killing the district police chief and a guard. And near Kabul, Interior Ministry officials said Taliban militants planted a bomb that killed five policemen and wounded four others.
The Pentagon has called on NATO allies and other countries with troops in Afghanistan to maintain their current higher troop levels even after next week's vote.
Several allied countries have increased their troop presence in Afghanistan to help provide security for the election, but those troops are expected to go home once it is over.