Fighting intensifies across Afghanistan

Fighting intensifies across Afghanistan
07 May, 2008 02:21:00 James Cogan

Fighting is escalating in Afghanistan as weather conditions improve for combat operations by both the US-NATO occupation force and the Afghan guerillas fighting to drive them from the country.

The 2,300 troops of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which only arrived in Afghanistan seven weeks ago to reinforce the NATO-commanded International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), were hurled last week into a major assault on insurgent strongholds near the town of Garmser in Helmand province. The guerillas in that area are primarily supporters of the Taliban Islamic fundamentalist movement, which was overthrown by the 2001 US invasion.
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The operation, codenamed “Azada Wosa” or “Be Free” in Pashtun, has considerable tactical importance for the occupation forces. Garmser is believed to be one of the main assembly points for Taliban fighters moving from mountain bases along the Afghan-Pakistan border to link up with insurgent units across the rebellious ethnic Pashtun provinces of southern Afghanistan. It is also a key transit route for the smuggling of Afghan opium and heroin to Pakistan, one of the principal ways in which the insurgency finances itself. British troops, who are responsible for NATO operations in Helmand, have fought desperate battles to hold a base in the town, but have been unable to either control it or prevent Taliban movements.

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