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GIs Hunt Taliban Ahead of Afghan Elections

CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark is embedded with U.S. soldiers trying to secure eastern Afghanistan ahead of next month's presidential elections.

Filed at 4:50 a.m. Eastern.

Operation Champion Sword is a pre-election surge of U.S. and Afghan forces in the country's volatile eastern border region. The goal is to disrupt insurgents planning attacks during the elections scheduled for August 20.

(AP Photo/Ahmad Masoud)
At left: Election workers carry ballot boxes to load onto trucks for transport to polling stations throughout the country, July 28, 2009, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

It's all happening around Khowst, one of Afghanistan's biggest cities along the border with Pakistan and a key target for suicide attacks by Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants.

The daily operations consist of precisely targeted, in-and-out missions by small groups of soldiers. The targets are pinpointed by intelligence agencies and can include militant safe-havens, weapons caches or bomb-making facilities.

This afternoon, aircraft will drop a platoon of about 60 lightly-armed soldiers within 50 to 100 yards of their intended target. Like most of these missions, it's all meant to be over in just a few hours.

Champion Sword is being run by Task Force Yukon, 2nd battalion, 377th parachute field artillery regiment.

As they continue their work to protect Afghanistan's budding democracy, many minds among the 3,000-soldier-strong Task Force Yukon will be preoccupied with Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, a colleague kidnapped several weeks ago by the Taliban.

Thus far, the operation has been effective, with no American causalities, two suspected Taliban militants arrested and a cache of weapons uncovered.

But this is only the beginning. Missions like today's are planned right up until just days before the elections.

Note: Clark will file an update to this story upon returning from today's mission on the outskirts of Khowst with the platoon. Please check back later for the latest on Operation Champion Sword.