US Troops Push Further into Southern Afghanistan

KABUL (RPRN) 7/03/2009–U.S. Marines pushed further into southern Afghanistan Friday, meeting little resistance as they moved to capture villages and population centers controlled by Taliban militants. The U.S. offensive is being led by 4,000 Marines who poured into southern Helmand province on Thursday.  The operation is aimed at driving out militants and securing the area ahead of presidential elections August 20.

Marine spokesman Bill Pelletier says U.S. troops have engaged in only sporadic fighting, but he warned that could change.  He said the U.S. is focused one keeping the Taliban militants out and winning the people’s trust.

The U.S. military says one Marine has been killed and several others wounded in the offensive.  Hundreds of Afghan soldiers and police are also taking part in the operation.

Separately, U.S. officials say the military is using all its resources to find an American soldier believed to have been captured by militants in eastern Paktika province on Tuesday.

The offensive in the south marks the first major operation under U.S. President Barack Obama’s revamped strategy to defeat an increasingly violent Taliban insurgency.

Pakistan has re-deployed some of its troops to the border with Afghanistan to stop insurgents who may be fleeing the offensive in Helmand province.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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