Backed by U.S. air strikes, Afghan government forces are on the offensive in 20 provinces including Ghazni, Takhar, Kandahar, Helmand and Baghlan. Reports indicated heavy casualties among Taliban ranks that included fighters from Pakistani madrasas. Security operations have expanded to cover four key highways including Hairatan-Kabul-Torkham and Spin Boldak-Kandahar city-Lashkargah. Local militias are being drawn in with a Shia cleric issuing a fatwa calling his co-religionists to arms.
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