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Coalition offensive claims more civilians in Afghanistan

There has been little sign of a fierce Taliban response to the NATO and Afghan offensive as Operation Moshtarak enters its fourth day, according to Afghan General Sher Mohammad Zazai.

NATO troops led by the US have launched the largest military assault in southern Afghanistan since the Taliban was toppled in the 2001 invasion.

More than 15,000 American Marines and Afghan troops have started attacking the Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province.

US airstrikes rain down on Marjah, where 1,000 Taliban fighters are believed to be hiding.

The assault is the first phase of an operation to loosen the militants’ grip on the area, and is seen as a key test of President Barack Obama’s recent troop surge.

However, as military action continues in southern Afghanistan, the death toll among civilians has risen to 17. The huge offensive against the Taliban in the south has suffered a major blow, after two US rockets missed their targets, killing 12 civilians. It has been reported five more were killed when they were hit by an air strike unrelated to Operation Moshtarak.

Also, two NATO soldiers and at least 27 militants have died since the beginning of the operation.

NATO's top commander in Afghanistan has apologized to President Hamid Karzai, who earlier said the safety of civilians during the operation is paramount.

Afghan officials say local residents have helped coalition troops detect explosives hidden by the Taliban.

According to war veteran Jack Diliberto, the difficulty in distinguishing militants from locals will always result in the deaths of innocent people.

“If you try to figure out who the bad guys are in an environment where the Taliban is deeply embedded into the population – you are going to kill innocent civilians,” he noted.

Americans started from the wrong foot, claims RT military analyst Evgeny Khrushchev.

“It’s been more than four months they have been leaking information about an upcoming operation,” he said. “The idea was that they were playing a dangerous gambit that they could scare off the Taliban and separate them from the populace.”

RT’s military analyst Evgeny Khrushchev said there are many problems between NATO and their Afghan partners which make their cooperation difficult.

“Even the Secretary of Defense, who is himself a cold war veteran of the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan, Robert Gates, the former top brass at the CIA, even he admitted that in NATO they have a second tier, meaning there is a cultural gap between the US forces and NATO club,” he said. “Now, can you imagine the abyss between the US forces and Afghans – it is a cultural eternity.”

“Check the metrics – there were two casualties among the US forces, none of the Afghan soldiers were wounded or killed. You know why? Because Americans don’t trust Afghan forces to take responsibility,” he added.

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