US troops leading one of NATO’s biggest offensives against the Taliban in Afghanistan are facing sporadic resistance in some areas including sniper fire and booby traps.
Marine units have twice tried to reach a bazaar in the town of Marjah, the last militant stronghold in the country’s most violent Helmand province, only to be pushed back. Eventually Harrier jets were called in to assist.
On the whole, Operation Moshtarak is said to be making steady progress and senior Afghan officers said areas around Marjah and Nad Ali were gradually being cleared of insurgents.
But the credibility of the joint NATO and Afghan military action rests on limiting civilian casualties .
Afghan Human Rights commissioner Nadir Nadiri said: “We are requesting both parties in this conflict, be it the Taliban, the international forces of the Afghan National forces that they make the protection of the civilians their prime concern and their prime objective.”
So far coalition rocket fire has killed 12 locals and it has been reported that five more civilians died in an air strike albeit outside of the operation arena.
According to a Taliban website, fighters had pushed back attacks by NATO troops although military intelligence believes the majority of insurgents left the area ahead of the much publicised offensive.
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