EXCLUSIVE: FOX News' Greg Palkot is the only reporter traveling with a combined force of 500 Marines and Afghan soldiers who have begun an air and ground assault called Operation Eastern Resolve. The operation is aimed at liberating a key town in Northern Helmand province of Taliban control and to secure a strategic pass used by Taliban fighters. What follows is Palkot's dispatch.
The Taliban took an explosive hit in the northern Helmand province today. Gulf Company marine 2/3 is leading a joint U.S. and Afghan force of some 500 in Operation Eastern Resolve, aiming to clear out the Taliban from the town of Dahaneh - a crucial resupply and regrouping base for the militants.
It is a town coalition forces have long avoided, for good reason. Just as the marines reached Dahaneh and set up a commend center in a compound they were hit by a barrage of Taliban fire: small arms, rpg's mortars, even IEDs. The marines answered back, fighting relentless sniper fire and the searing heat.
The Marines have been on the ground for about four hours. They say they've neutralized at least some of the Taliban but there are more out there and the marines are ready for the kill.
According to the marines the Taliban are victimizing locals in town, threatening and extorting them. If the Taliban can be removed, the hope is that Afghan government and security can be established, maybe even a polling station for next week's presidential election here.
Estimates on the ground are that several Taliban have been killed in fighting today. There have been no U.S. or Afghan causalities. What is hard to estimate is the exact reaction of the people of the town. They remain holed up in their houses. The fighting here is not over yet.