Afghanistan: Nato to Launch Kandahar Assault in June
Nato forces will launch in June a long-planned assault on the Taliban's spiritual home in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, a senior military official has said.
The goal is to rid the city of Taliban forces before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins in August, according to the official.
US officials previously have disclosed plans for a Nato-led offensive in the area this year but have not said when it might happen. The two-month offensive will be a major test of President Barack Obama's new strategy in Afghanistan and a bellwether of the war in general.
Until the start of major military operations, US troops are working on securing transit routes and persuading the leaders of districts surrounding Kandahar to co-operate with Nato forces.
As the Taliban's governing capital before the US-led invasion in 2001, Kandahar remains the spiritual heartland of the insurgency and a stubborn holdout in NATO'S efforts to transfer control to Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.
In an effort to reverse gains made by the Taliban, Mr Obama has ordered the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
Military officials say they expect several thousand of those troops to be sent to Kandahar, mostly to partner with local police and provide a security presence in the region.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, said this month that the operation in Kandahar will be different from Marjah, where US and Afghan forces stormed the farming town to purge Taliban forces.
"Unlike a Marjah operation, where there was a D-Day and an H-hour for part of the operation, it is more likely that (Kandahar) will be a series of activities that target different parts of it to increase that security," McChrystal said.
The military terms he used would imply the massing of forces for a major operation against entrenched enemy forces.