Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wire: US Marines Storm Taliban-Held Town in Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

Press Reports on Launch of Operation Eastern Resolve II

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that helicopter-borne U.S. Marines backed by Harrier jets stormed into a Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan before dawn Wednesday and exchanged heavy fire with insurgents, killing at least seven.

Associated Press journalists traveling with the first wave said militants fired small arms, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades after helicopters dropped the troops over Taliban lines. Fighting lasted more than eight hours, as Harrier jets streaked overhead and dropped flares in a show of force.

The Taliban put up such fierce resistance that Marines said they suspected the militants knew the assault was coming, AP said.

Other Marines met heavy resistance as they fought to seize control of the mountains surrounding Dahaneh in the southern province of Helmand, AP said. Another convoy of Marines rolled into the town despite roadside bomb attacks and gunfire.

It was the first time NATO troops had entered Dahaneh, a town that has been under Taliban control for years.

AP noted the following details:
U.S., NATO and Afghan troops are working to protect voting sites around the country so Afghans can take part in the country's second-ever direct presidential election on Aug. 20. Taliban militants have vowed to disrupt the elections, and attacks are on the rise.

Marines said they killed between seven and 10 militants in Wednesday's push and seized about 66 pounds (30 kilograms) of opium, which the militants use to finance their insurgency. Troops hope to restore control of the town so that residents can vote in the election.

The new offensive, named "Eastern Resolve 2," is designed to break the monthslong stalemate in this southern valley where the Taliban are solidly entrenched. By occupying Dahaneh, the Marines hope to isolate insurgents in woods and mountains, away from civilian centers.

"I think this has the potential to be a watershed," said Capt. Zachary Martin, commander of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, who led the assault.
The goal of the operation is to cut off the Taliban from a major rear base and reclaim the area's market district.

A combined force of some 500 U.S. and Afghan troops took part in the attack, which included helicopters, snipers, and female Marines brought in to interact with Afghan women during the compound-by-compound search conducted by Afghan forces who accompanied the Americans, AP said.

This is a developing story.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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