NATO forces launched their biggest land offensive, Operation Medusa, last weekend to crush the Taliban in their southern heartland, and claim to have killed more than 250 guerrillas as fighting in the country hits the worst since the 2001 war.
''The ongoing violence in some areas of the country, as we are experiencing and witnessing today, will not deter NATO from carrying out its mission,'' Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told parliament during a three-day tour of the country.
NATO forces have run into stiffer-than-expected resistance from the Taliban leading up to and following their July 31 takeover of the south from U.S. troops. The alliance is due to take control of the east, near Pakistan, by year-end.
But de Hoop Scheffer said there remained tough challenges which could not be overcome by force alone and would also require reconstruction, economic development and extending the writ of President Hamid Karzai's government.
DRUGS CRISIS De Hoop Scheffer said the illegal drugs industry, centred mainly in the south and expected to reach record crop levels this year, was also a huge challenge.
Analysts say drug lords anxious to limit the reach of the army and police are supporting the Taliban and other militants to maintain instability.
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