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U.S. Military In New Offensive Against Taliban

11 December 2004 -- The U.S. military has begun a new operation in Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban militants in their winter hideouts.

A U.S. Army spokesman, Mark McCann, said today he did not know exactly when Operation Lightning Freedom started and gave no details of any specific moves against militant targets.

He said the operation is going throughout the whole country and involves the entire 18,000-strong U.S.-led force.

The spokesman said operations like the one currently under way will establish security conditions necessary for holding parliamentary elections in the spring. He said it will also help persuade Taliban militants to accept an Afghan government amnesty offer.

He said the military will also help Afghan security forces to combat the country's drug industry, by sharing intelligence and offering other assistance.