, Afghanistan -- More than 2,000 NATO and Afghan troops began an operation before dawn Monday to drive Taliban fighters from another swath of their opium-producing heartland in southern Afghanistan.
The British-led Operation Silicon is the latest attempt to extend the shaky control of President Hamid Karzai's government in Helmand province, officials said.
Military officials said the effort involved some 1,100 British troops, 600 U.S. soldiers and more from the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia and Canada. More than 1,000 Afghan government troops also were taking part.
The troops were targeting Helmand's Sangin Valley, an area near Afghanistan's strategic ring road that has "for too long been under the semi-control of the Taliban," said Lt. Col. Stuart Carver, a British commander.
"It is all part of a longer-term plan to restore the whole of Helmand to government control," Carver said. "You have to do it a piece at a time."
In western Afghanistan, U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces battled with Taliban insurgents over three days, leaving at least 136 suspected militants dead, a coalition statement said Monday.[snip]
Acting on intelligence about Taliban activity in Herat's Zerkoh Valley, coalition and Afghan forces attacked the insurgents and called in an airstrike, destroying seven Taliban positions and killing 87 fighters during a 14-hour engagement on Sunday, the statement said.
Another 49 Taliban were killed two days earlier by a combination of gunfire and an airstrike, it said, adding that a U.S. soldier also was killed in the engagement.
The coalition statement said there were no reports of civilians wounded in the two battles. It was not immediately possible to confirm the casualty figures independently.
You never hear the dems complaining about Afghanistan and we have been there longer! We are still fighting in Afghanistan and we need to keep at it, just as we do in Iraq. The two countries are of extreme strategic importance. We need to be there until there is no strategic purpose for us to be in the countries.
The Hezbocrats never talk about the mega bases we have built in Iraq either. We spent billions creating bases that are small cities. What do we do with them when we pull out? Leave it for the terrorists to use as training bases?
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