The U.S. general who oversees the war in Afghanistan says the current battle around the southern Afghan town of Marjah is the opening confrontation in a long campaign.
General David Petraeus told NBC television's "Meet The Press" that the campaign probably will last 12 months to 18 months and is part of the revised U.S. strategy for fighting insurgents in Afghanistan.
Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command, gave no estimate for how long the Marjah operation might last.
At least 12 soldiers with NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have so far been killed in the assault, which is the biggest offensive against the militants since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime.
Three more NATO soldiers were reported dead February 21 in eastern and southern Afghanistan in incidents unrelated to Operation Mushtarak in Marjah, ISAF said.
Afghan authorities said six militants were killed on February 20 in Nad Ali, taking the reported Taliban death toll in Operation Mushtarak to over 50.
compiled from agency reports