U.S. Marines pushed deeper into Taliban areas of southern Afghanistan on Friday, seeking to cut insurgent supply lines and win over local elders on the second day of the biggest U.S. military operation here since the American-led invasion of 2001, Associated Press reported.
On the other side of the border, U.S. missiles struck a Pakistani Taliban militant training center and communications center, killing 17 people and wounding nearly 30, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
Both U.S. operations were aimed at what President Barack Obama considers as the biggest dangers in the region: a resurgent Taliban-led insurgency allied with al-Qaida that threatens both nuclear-armed Pakistan and the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan.
The 4,000-strong U.S. force met little resistance Friday as troops fanned out into villages in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, although one Marine was killed and several others were wounded the day before, U.S. officials said.
Despite minimal contact, the Marines could see militants using flashlights late Thursday to signal one another about American troop movements.
Military spokesman Capt. Bill Pelletier said the goal of the Helmand operation was not simply to kill Taliban fighters but to win over the local population - a difficult task in a region where foreigners are viewed with suspicion.
Marines also hope to cut the routes used by militants to funnel weapons, ammunition and fighters from Pakistan to the Taliban, which mounted an increasingly violent insurgency since its hard-line Islamist government was toppled in 2001 by an international coalition.