Officials in Afghanistan expect “hard fighting” in the days ahead, as U.S. and Afghan troops begin a new combat mission in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and its strongest center of operations. Operation Dragon Strike, as it’s named, has a mission of “destroying Taliban fighting positions so they will not have anywhere to hide,” said NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz. U.S. troops in the area have been reporting increased interaction with Taliban insurgents, and with troop numbers peaking this month at 100,000, the mission will be the first multiple-objective large-scale combat mission in Kandahar. Winning over Kandahar is a key part of President Obama's strategy of diminishing the Taliban's influence.