U.S. Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, 1st Battalion 5th Marines takes positions along a tree line in the Nawa district in Afghanistan's Helmand province Friday, July 3, 2009. U.S. forces have encountered little resistance in the initial phase of a massive operation by some 4,000 Marines in Taliban-controlled areas of southern Afghanistan, but that's a common tactic by insurgents. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
DAHANEH, Afghanistan (AP) - It's tough going for the U.S. Marines as they try to bolster security ahead of next week's Afghan presidential election.
They're meeting heavy resistance as they fight to gain control of a strategic Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan.
Members of the combined force of some 500 U.S. and Afghan troops have exchanged heavy fire with insurgents, killing at least seven in an offensive they hope will also cut Taliban supply lines and isolate their fighters.
It's the first time NATO troops have entered Dahaneh, which has been under Taliban control for years.
Other Marines are meeting heavy resistance as they fight to seize control of the surrounding mountains.
Afghan officials are also reporting that separate roadside blasts in southern Afghanistan have killed 14 civilians, including three children.