Profile: A strategic crossroads for commerce and politics in southern Afghanistan, Kandahar is surrounded by fertile farmland in the province of the same name. The province’s population is about 1 million, mostly ethnic Pashtun, and an estimated 324,800 people reside in the city.
History: Legend has it that the city was founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C. It has been conquered by or fought over by Arabs, Persians, Mongols, the British and the Soviets. The Taliban had its headquarters in Kandahar when it ruled Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until the U.S. invasion in 2001. Despite the U.S. and allied military presence in Afghanistan, Taliban guerrillas have continued to operate in the city and the province.
Strategic importance: The rise of the Quetta Shura Taliban has prompted the U.S.-led counterinsurgency effort this year. The family of President Hamid Karzai is another powerful force in the city and is regarded by many locals as corrupt and self-serving.
U.S. Deployments: The top American commander has called this summer's operation a "slow, rising tide." The 101st Airborne Division will work in the provincial areas mainly north and west of the city, searching for Taliban and working with local leaders. The 97th Military Police Battalion, working inside the city, is concentrating on training Afghan police forces.