Helicopter-borne US Marines and Afghan troops swooped down on the Taliban-held town of Marjah before dawn on Saturday, launching a long-expected attack to re-establish government control and undermine support for the militants in their southern heartland.
The attack on Marjah climaxed the biggest joint Afghan-international offensive of the war and is the largest combat operation since US President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 U.S. reinforcements here last December to turn the tide of the war.
Marine commanders said they expect between 400 to 1,000 insurgents to be holed up inside this southern Afghan town of 80,000 people in Helmand province, including more than 100 foreign fighters. Marjah is the biggest southern town under Taliban control and the linchpin of the militants' logistical and opium-smuggling network.
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