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Afghanistan war: Battle for Kandahar as much political as military

The battle to regain control of Kandahar from the Taliban this summer will depend more on evolving political negotiations than on a decisive military campaign. In Afghanistan, war will be conducted differently than in Iraq, say NATO officials.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Admiral Mike Mullen gestures during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday. The Pentagon's top military officer said wresting control of the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan is a key to stopping the Taliban's growing influence.

Ahmad Massoud/AP

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After a smoother-than-expected military operation to take the southern Afghan town of Marjah from the Taliban, the U.S. military is aiming to quash Taliban resistance in the Islamist group's spiritual home of Kandahar by the fall, two senior NATO officials said Tuesday.

They added, however, that success in Afghanistan's second-largest city would depend more on evolving political negotiations than on a decisive military campaign like the one that ousted Sunni Muslim militants from the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

"This is not Fallujah. This is not Baghdad," one senior NATO official said. "There is not going to be house-to-house clearing."

Instead, military officials are looking to minimize urban fighting by encouraging political leaders to lead the way.

"The solution to Kandahar will not be done through security," said the other NATO official, who's a senior U.S. military official in Kabul. "It will be enhanced through security. But the change, the real dramatic change for Kandahar, will have to happen politically."

The officials briefed reporters in Kabul in part to counter reports Monday out of Washington that the coalition will start an intense two-month Kandahar military offensive in June.

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