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US Marines launch major new offensive in Afghanistan

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Thousands of US marines backed by Afghan troops poured into Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province early Thursday, in a major operation designed to break the Taliban's hold on the troubled area.

Dubbed Operation Khanjar, or "Strike of the Sword," it's the first major military operation under President Obama, and will test his strategy of shifting the US military focus away from Iraq and toward stabilizing Afghanistan. US marines aim to move in and hold a swath of territory that is a Taliban stronghold and the world's largest opium poppy producing area, according to the Associated Press.

The UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph described the operation as the "biggest US Marine helicopter landing since Vietnam." It included an estimated 4,000 marines, backed by 600 Afghan soldiers.

Coalition forces hope the massive sudden assault will turn the tide of fighting in Helmand, where British troops have been locked in stalemate for three years....
The force, borne by helicopters and vehicle convoys, was expected to stage a fast and furious clearance of militant strongholds, as part of the US army's "clear hold and build" strategy.
US marines will then consolidate their hold in the region, trying to provide security in the run up to next month's Presidential elections.
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