The Afghan government has pledged to hold any territory seized in the Taliban heartland during the assault, codenamed operation Moshtarak.
Combat engineers are on hand to ensure power and water supplies are maintained.
Moshtarak – the Afghan word for “together” – is the first phase of a campaign to impose government control on rebel held areas.
Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said:
“They have mined heavily and also booby-trapped and planted a lot of IEDs, so we have to be slow, slow in the process of clearing that area.”
The operation is centred around a counter-insurgency strategy that aims to seize population centres and avoid combat in built-up areas whenever possible.
But many people have fled leaving their homes and possessions behind.
Across the border in Pakistan on the streets of Peshawar news that the offensive had finally got underway was a cause for concern. Many are worried that the Taliban will simply regroup in Pakistan.
Welfare Association official Hidiyahtullah said:
“This will have a very bad impact on Pakistan. It will impact Pakistan’s economy and the terrorism will increase.”
Peshawar has been the target of several bomb attacks in recent times.
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