Wire: US Marines Suffer First Casualties in Operation Khanjar
Off the Wire:
WASHINGTON, July 2, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that U.S. Marines suffered their first casualties in in Operation Khanjar Thursday as they engaged in sporadic firefights along 55 miles of Taliban-controlled heartland in southern Afghanistan.
The Associated Press reported that one Marine was killed and several others were injured or wounded on the first full day of the assault, the largest military operation in Afghanistan since the fall of Taliban government in 2001.
An immediate goal, the military says, is to clear away insurgents before the nation's Aug. 20 presidential election. Southern Afghanistan is a Taliban stronghold but also a region where Afghan President Hamid Karzai is seeking votes from fellow Pashtun tribesmen. Without such a large Marine assault, the Afghan government would likely not be able to set up voting booths to which citizens could safely travel, AP said.
The Pentagon is deploying 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan before the elections and expects the total number of U.S. forces there to reach 68,000 by year's end. That is double the number of troops in Afghanistan in 2008 but still half as many as are now in Iraq.
This is a developing story.
(Report from newswire sources.)
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