Operation Launched Against Taliban Amid Election

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U.S. Marines have launched their largest-ever military operation against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The move is part of a joint effort by NATO and Afghan forces hoping to protect voters in advance of Thursday's elections in the country.

The Marine attack on a Taliban stronghold Saturday is just part of the effort to prevent the radical Islamic group from gaining a larger foothold in Afghanistan.

The Taliban says it will disrupt Thursday's national elections, and has warned Afghans to expect violence if they try to go to the polls.

To underscore the threat, the Taliban unleashed a suicide bombing, Saturday, just outside NATO headquarters in Kabul.  Seven died and nearly 100 were wounded.

"When you strike right before the elections, the image can resonate," said Canadian Brigadier Gen. E. Tremblay, spokesman of the NATO-led force.  "But what needs to resonate is not the success of the attack because it was not successful.  The attack was broken. It was a complete attack.  It was an isolated attack."

While the Afghan Air Force patrols from the skies, election officials are distributing ballots to the country's 7,000 polling places.  Crowds are still gathering to hear the candidates.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is the leading candidate among nearly 40 trying to win a five-year term in the country's second direct election for president.

The coming week could be costly for American and NATO forces, who will stay on the offensive against the Taliban.

At least 22 U.S. troops have died this month in the fight to prevent jihadists from dictating who will be the next leader of Afghanistan.

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