US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates has told troops in southern Afghanistan they will soon be taking part in a “decisive phase” of the war.
Over the next few months NATO is deploying thousands of extra soldiers in an effort to finish the job of denying the Taliban control of its traditional strongholds.
After driving the insurgents out of Helmand province, Kandahar province is the next target. This time the offensive will be gradual, unlike last month’s air and ground assault on Marjah.
The US currently forms 55 per cent of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan with 47,000 troops. That number will rise to 60,000 by November.
By that time, NATO hopes to have restored full Afghan government control in Kandahar, the country’s second largest city.
Roughly 85 per cent of the extra 30,000 troops promised by President Obama as part of the so- called “surge” have arrived in Afghanistan so far.
The Obama administration is aiming to hand over control of internal security to the Afghan National Army so that US forces can begin withdrawing from Afghanistan by the middle of next year.