Canadian troops begin major offensive against Taliban

Canadian soldiers have embarked on their most ambitious operation against the Taliban in nearly two months.

Canadian soldiers have embarked on their most ambitious operation against the Taliban in nearly two months.

Operation Hoover saw Canadian tanks and infantry push overnight into Zhari district, a volatile region on the western edge of Kandahar province.

The operation includes Canadian, Portuguese and Afghan infantry, with support from the tanks, British air power and distant howitzer positions manned by gunners from the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.

Within minutes of one convoy of vehicles pulling out, a loud explosion echoed off the mountains as a Canadian tank struck an improvised explosive device or IED. No casualties were reported.

Theoperation istaking place just west of the Panjwaii district, the scene of Operation Medusa— one of Canada's most significant battles in Afghanistan.

The mission is being led by soldiers from the Afghan National Army who have been trained by Canada's Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team.

They were to lead Friday's charge, part of a conscious coalition effort to put local security forces in a leadership role.

"They're literally fearless," said Maj. James Price, of the Royal Canadian Regiment who's attached to the mentoring team.

With the ANA troops involved, it's the largest and most ambitious offensive for Canada in more than six weeks, said Col. Mike Cessford, deputy commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

In addition to the armour and the ANA, the two-pronged offensive also included a significant contingent of soldiers from the 2 RCR battle group massing just north of the Arghandab River to prevent insurgents from escaping as the column of armour punched south.

"This is the anvil and this is the hammer," Cessford said, punching a fist into his open palm.

Also on the ground Friday were members of Canada's CIMIC team— Civilian Military Co-operation— to assist forces in their interaction with local civilians, who have been repopulating the region in recent months.

"It's all about the people— our chance to interact and provide security to the people but as a means to an end: development and governance, demonstrating that there is an alternative to a return to the harshness and the cruelty of the Taliban," he said.