Afghan general says Kandahar offensive to end within weeks
A major NATO offensive aimed at driving Taliban militants from their spiritual home of Kandahar will end within weeks, a Defence Ministry spokesman said Wednesday, DPA reported.
"When the area is cleared of enemies, that means they are defeated," General Zahir Azimi said.
"We hope that within the upcoming weeks the Kandahar operation will come to an end."
Thousands of US, Canadian and Afghan troops are taking part in the offensive which in began in August.
The highly publicized offensive, which was slated to begin in June, was repeatedly put off because of objections by some senior Afghan officials concerned about high civilian casualties.
Following intensive debates about the nature of the operation, Afghan and NATO officials decided to implement a softer approach of civil-military efforts, by increasing targeted assaults against Taliban leaders and beginning reconstruction projects to win over local residents.
President Hamid Karzai, accompanied by NATO officials and top US diplomats, travelled to the volatile region at least three times since June to urge support for the operation.
Thousands of US soldiers, who were part of 30,000 additional troops that President Barack Obama ordered to Afghanistan this year, were deployed to Kandahar.
Obama sent the fresh troops in the hope of turning the tide of nine-year war, before his administration begins its planned gradual drawdown of forces from next summer.
The US military and Afghan officials claim to have cleared Kandahar city and the adjacent district of Arghandab of militants. Operations are still under way in Panjhwayee and Zharai districts.
Kandahar governor Tooyalai Wessa has also traveled to several remote districts in recent weeks in an attempt to show that the province was no longer too dangerous to visit.
However, the Washington Post newspaper on Tuesday cited US defence and intelligence officials as saying the military campaign has so far failed to inflict more than fleeting setbacks on the insurgency.
The insurgents appeared confident that they could outlast a US troop buildup set to subside beginning next July, the officials said in assessing the status of the war.
Progress in the Kandahar offensive is believed to be important for the Obama administration's December review of its military strategy.