Operation Dragon Strike Targets Taliban Hometown

Army Staff Sgt. Adam Johnson communicates on a radio during a firefight in southern Afghanistan.
Army Staff Sgt. Adam Johnson communicates on a radio during a firefight in southern Afghanistan.
In southern Afghanistan, U.S. and Afghan troops began a much-anticipated offensive to kick the Taliban out of its hometown.

Special Section: Afghanistan

The launch of Operation Dragon Strike was one of several recent important developments in the war, CBS News Correspondent Mandy Clark reports.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said Monday that Taliban leaders have reached out to the Afghan government to begin reconciliation talks.

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Despite the overture, coalition forces have stepped up their attacks. During the weekend, U.S. helicopters crossed into Pakistan, something they rarely do. The Pakistani government - a key ally - protested the incursion. But the airstrikes reportedly killed more than 70 militants.

Operation Dragon Strike is the most important battle of the Afghan war so far. At least 8,000 U.S. soldiers are involved in this massive new offensive. The aim is to strike right at the heart of Taliban territory, Kandahar.

Some of the fiercest fighting has been in Zhari, a neighborhood to the west of Kandahar. There has been heavy fighting there for weeks as U.S. troops prepared for the assault. Zahri is on the main highway to Kandahar. From there, insurgents can control a major supply route into the city, something U.S. troops want to stop.

It's the first offensive where Afghan troops - as many as 10,000 - outnumber the Americans.

It's also the first large-scale combat operation since Marines went into Marjah last February. Since then, U.S. and Afghan forces have struggled to clear Marjah of insurgents and win over the civilian population.

U.S. commanders warn of more tough fighting ahead. The Kandahar offensive is crucial to President Obama's Afghanistan strategy, clearing the city of insurgents, breaking the Taliban grip in the south and then convincing civilians that coalition troops are in control.