Sunday, February 21, 2010

NATO Says Operation Moshtarak is Making Progress

Voice of America Online

NATO officials said Sunday the route clearance offensive by international forces is making progress in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, a Taliban outpost.

The alliance says Operation Moshtarak has improved freedom of movement in the area. British, U.S. and Afghan forces began the ground offensive in the town of Marjah as part of an effort to regain control of one of the Taliban's largest remaining strongholds.

However, NATO officials said in a statement the combined forces have encountered IED (improvised explosive device) strikes, weapon finds, and some small arms fire.

Meanwhile, NATO announced Sunday it has captured two militants, including a suspected Taliban commander. The men were detained Friday.

On Saturday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai renewed his call for the Taliban to accept peace and join with the government.

Reuters news agency quotes a Taliban spokesman Sunday rejecting the president's call for peace, saying Mr. Karzai is only a puppet who cannot represent a nation or a government.

During a speech at the opening session of the Afghan parliament in Kabul, Mr. Karzai also urged international troops to prevent civilian deaths.

NATO says it is committed to reducing civilian casualties as it continues its offensive in Marjah.

The alliance said its troops killed a civilian in Marjah Friday, after a man dropped a box that troops believed was a bomb and began running towards NATO forces. At least 16 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the offensive.

U.S.-led NATO forces and Afghan troops launched a major offensive against the Taliban on February 13.

At least 12 NATO troops and about 120 insurgents have been killed during the fighting. Hundreds of Afghans are fleeing the violence.

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