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U.S. Launches Offense Against Taliban In Afghanistan; Pakistan Blocks Militants At Border

With this escalation, the mess in Afghanistan becomes the Democrats' war - and Obama's. Good luck with that, fellows: American marines and Afghan

With this escalation, the mess in Afghanistan becomes the Democrats' war - and Obama's. Good luck with that, fellows:

American marines and Afghan troops poured into southern Afghanistan today in the first major test of Barack Obama's strategy to wrest the initiative from the Taliban.

Daybreak brought the sporadic crackle of gunfire but no immediate heavy fighting as the offensive in Helmand province began shortly after 1am local time near the village of Nawa, about 20 miles south of the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. Insurgents in Helmand – a Taliban stronghold – have for years put up stubborn resistance against British troops.

Waves of helicopters landed marines in the valley, a crescent of opium poppy and wheat fields crisscrossed by canals and dotted with mud-brick homes. The marines disembarked and fanned out into the fields as the sun rose. Hundreds more arrived in convoys through a barren area known as the desert of death.

In a simultaneous operation, Pakistan deployed troops on its border to stop militants fleeing into its territory.

As the offensive began the US military said one of its soldiers had been captured in Paktita province, in eastern Afghanistan. He was not involved in the operation. The Ministry of Defence reported the deaths of two British soldiers in Helmand; six other Nato soldiers were injured by the same improvised explosive device (IED).

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