US to launch major campaign in Afghanistan in next 18 months

US and NATO forces are all set to roll out an "intensive 18-month" ground campaign in Afghanistan to stamp out Taliban and al-Qaeda militants, top US generals have said warning the insurgents that Marjah offensive was just the start.

"Marjah campaign where the Taliban resistance has only been disjointed is just an initial operation of what will be a 12 to 18 month campaign to overun the Taliban," General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command told NBC television's 'Meet The Press' programme.

He said that President Barack Obama and General Stanley McChrystal who leads a 121,000 US and NATO force in Afghanistan, had laid out a comprehensive strategy that was only beginning to unfold.

Petraeus comments come as a strong US, NATO and Afghan army detachments are close to over-running Taliban stronghold of Marjah, whose capture would choke insurgents finances derived from poppy cultivation.

The General who oversaw a similar US forces' surge in Iraq described Taliban resistance as "weak and disjointed" and warned that the campaign so far was only in its initial stage.

His top commander in Afghanistan, McChrystal was quoted by the British newspaper 'Times' as saying that Kandahar would be the coalition forces' next target.

McChrystal said that the Marjah offensive was a model for future campaigns in Afghanistan. He said the military offensive would also be expanded to three other Taliban-dominated provinces.

'Times' said that though the US General did not specify locations of upcoming intensified campaigns, military sources said that US and NATO forces wanted to hit the elusive but powerful Taliban warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani and his network in eastern Afghanistan.

US intelligence forces have so far been pounding the Haqqani networks hideouts in the Pakistani tribal belt targetting them with drone-fired hellfire missiles and apparently were now poised to confront him head-on in his strongholds of Khost, Pakyta, Pakhtiar and Gardez provinces.

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