KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S.-led coalition has launched a new offensive against one of Afghanistan's most virulent militant networks and plans to ramp up operations next year along the eastern border with Pakistan before the American troop drawdown gathers steam, the top commander said Wednesday.
Marine Gen. John Allen told the Associated Press that the "high-intensity, sensitive" operation that began just a few days ago targets the Haqqani group, a Pakistan-based militant network that attacks Afghan and coalition forces. The United States has been urging the Pakistanis to clamp down on Haqqani fighters, who have ties to both the Taliban and al-Qaida and have been blamed for most of the high-profile attacks in Kabul.
Allen would not discuss details of the operation, saying only, "Every now and again, one of these organizations that has been able to manifest itself on this side of the border is going to have to get some special attention, and that's what's happening now."
In a wide-ranging interview, Allen also said the process of handing off security to Afghan forces was going to move faster than initially planned. Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants the Afghan army and police to be in the lead in protecting and defending the nation by the end of 2014.
Allen commands more than 130,000 international troops in Afghanistan, including about 98,000 from the United States.
SOLDIERS KILLED: Two U.S. soldiers and seven Afghan troops were killed Wednesday in three incidents, Afghan and Western officials said.
The two U.S. soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device, or IED, in the east, military officials said. The region, near the Pakistan border, has been the scene of some of the year's heaviest fighting.
Information from Los Angeles Times was used in this report.