Nato says it has launched its biggest offensive in Afghanistan since the invasion of 2001 which drove the Taliban from power. The extremist Islamic movement is again the target but the country’s drugs lords are also in the firing line. Operation Achilles is expected to eventually involve 4,500 NATO soldiers and 1,000 Afghans troops.
The alliance says it will also help with the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The military action is focused on the southern Helmand Province where the Taliban has strengthened its position recently. It is also one of the world’s main opium producing areas.
Nato believes the Taliban has been planning its own Spring offensive. It is said to have overrun a major town in Helmand in the past month. Nato also hopes that driving the militants out will improve life for people in the province, and help it win over hearts and minds. The organisation’s standing among Afghans is at a new low following the recent killings of civilians by US forces. Afghan leaders say foreign troops need to work more closely with local soldiers and police.