Up to 150 Taliban killed in eastern Afghan offensive

Afp June 29, 2010

KABUL: A force of about 700 US and Afghan troops has killed up to 150 Taliban insurgents in a major offensive along eastern Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The US-led operation, which began on Sunday, was one of the largest yet in the region around Kunar province, said the newspaper, which cited US officials as calling it "one of the most intense battles of the past year" in Afghanistan.

In a statement on Sunday, Nato's International Security Assistance Force said more than 600 ISAF and Afghan troops were pursuing al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Kunar and that "a number of insurgents" had been killed.

Two US troops had been killed in the battle, according to ISAF, which had no immediate update to offer on Tuesday.

The Washington Post said the offensive was designed to flush out growing numbers of Taliban militants bidding to open up a second front in Kunar, as the US-led ISAF battles to root out insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

"The Taliban know we are bringing our surge of forces, and they realise they can't just let that happen, so they are pursuing their own surge," Major General John Campbell, the senior commander in eastern Afghanistan, told the newspaper.

In addition to Afghan Taliban trying to spread the war from the south, loosely affiliated fighters with the Pakistani Taliban had gone into Kunar to escape a military offensive across the border, the report said.

"Once the battle began, others from the area tried to manoeuvre into the area," US Colonel Andrew Poppas was quoted as saying. "This was a tough fight."

The US-led force in Kunar gave no prior warning of the offensive, unlike before an onslaught in Marjah in southern Afghanistan earlier this year. "We needed the element of surprise in that terrain," Poppas said.

The US and Afghan troops were flown in pre-dawn on Sunday on Black Hawk helicopters and seized mountainous high ground in Kunar's Marawara district, and soon came under attack from as many as 200 insurgents, the report said.

It said the heaviest fighting had ended by Monday morning, and the US and Afghan forces were now trying to restore Afghan government authority in Marawara's main village. "The tough part is still ahead," Poppas said.


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