US troops, backed up in a small way by British troops, have launched a big offensive in the Helmand district of southern Afghanistan.
The offensive is part of US president Barack Obama’s military build-up in Afghanistan. He has sent 21,000 extra troops already this year, and by the end of 2009 US forces are due to number 68,000, double the 2008 level.
The immediate objective of the offensive is to secure the area so that voting for the scheduled Afghan presidential election can take place on 15 August.
According to press reports, Taliban fighters in Helmand have mostly ducked the blow,