US-allied Afghan fighters massed near the mountains of eastern Afghanistan on Monday, rumbling up the desolate peaks in tanks and trucks before a sweeping push to wipe out the remaining al-Qaida fighters hiding out in the region's warren of caves.
At least 12 tanks and about a thousand soldiers moved to the front line to reinforce hundreds of American troops already in the Shah-e-Kot mountains as part of the largest offensive yet in the Afghan war.
U.S. Special Forces were seen operating at the base of the mountains.
Black smoke from Allied fire on al Qaida positions hung over snow-capped peaks.
Afghan troops have been positioned to guard Gardez and surrounding villages where support for the Taliban remains strong.
The leader of Afghanistan's interim government, Hamid Karzai, had ordered the troops to the region, which he called the "last main base" of al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.
He acknowledged, however, that there are areas where smaller groups are likely to be operating.