A major attack on Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, enabled by the injection of 20,000 more American troops to the region, materialized over the weekend. It is the result of a promise by U.S. President Barack Obama to help bring peace to the war-torn region and return control of the area to the Afghan people.
Some 15,000 NATO soldiers, including a force of some 4,000 from Britain, joined troops from the U.S., Denmark, Estonia, and Afghanistan to attack Taliban strongholds in Operation Moshtarak -- a word that means “togetherness” in the local Dari tongue.
The operation being carried out in the city of Sharjah is part of what has been dubbed the most comprehensive military campaign since the war against the Taliban began nearly ten years ago.
Even before the operation began, warning messages were dropped from the skies to the 85,000 inhabitants of the city, advising them to evacuate until the fighting had ended.
At least 1,000 Taliban fighters were in the area up to a week ago, but it is thought that many fled. However, NATO officials warned it was likely the Taliban would return within a matter of days.
The attack began Saturday at 2:00 a.m. local time on Taliban strongholds in the Marjah and Nad-e-Ali areas of the Helmand province. U.S. fighter pilots softened up the militant positions with helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft missile fire ahead of the ground assault. An attack on the area of the Chah-e-Anjir Triangle was also deemed successful.
At least 20 Taliban guerrillas were killed in the fighting thus far, and other 11 were captured, according to the British Daily Mail. Four U.S. troops and one British soldier have reportedly been killed in action as well.
Background of the Taliban Movement
The Taliban movement, a Sunni Islamist faction headed by Mullah Mohammed Omar, governed Afghanistan from 1996 to late 2001, when they were overthrown with the aid of U.S. troops in Operation Enduring Freedom.
The guerrillas regrouped in 2004, and have since grown stronger, fighting against the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO forces.
Considered one of the most extreme Islamist factions in that area of the world, the Taliban operates 15 Sharia law courts in southern Afghanistan. While it maintained a grip on the government, the Taliban gained diplomatic recognition from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.