US marines, backed by British and Afghan troops are continuing to patrol Afghanistan’s Helmand Valley.They have met strong resistance from the Taliban on the first two days of their operation to seize the lower Helmand Valley, a Taliban stronghold and heart of the opium poppy producing region. The operation marks the first big test of Washington’s new strategy aimed at defeating the Taliban and stabilising Afghanistan before elections in August. Thousands of soldiers have been mobilised in what is one of the biggest operations by foreign troops in the country since the 1989 Soviet withdrawal. Meanwhile, British Forces in the country have been dealt a big blow with the loss of the most senior infantry commander to be killed in action since the Falklands war. 39-year-old Lieutenant-Colonel Rupert Thorneloe was killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand Province. And, as Germany honoured three of its soldiers killed in Aghanistan last week, the country’s parliament approved the deployment of up to 300 troops to assist in airborne surveillance operations. The soldiers will crew and provide maintenance for aircraft when they are deployed.