Reuters International

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military has carried out its first air strikes against Taliban targets in Afghanistan since President Barack Obama authorized limited, offensive operations against the insurgency earlier this month, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook declined to offer details on strikes, saying they were in southern Afghanistan and that no U.S. forces were in the area at the time. The new powers would allow American troops to accompany conventional Afghan forces.

"I can't get into much more beyond that, in part because, again, these are ongoing operations," Cook told a news briefing.

Obama's decision broadened America's support role in Afghanistan's grinding conflict, more than a year after international forces wrapped up their combat mission and shifted the burden to Afghan troops.

The goal is to put greater pressure on the Taliban, who control or contest more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since they were ousted by a U.S.-backed intervention in late 2001.

The U.S. president, whose second and last term in office ends in January, is also under pressure from former commanders and envoys to Afghanistan to forgo plans for a scheduled reduction in the numbers of U.S. troops to 5,500 from about 9,800 currently before he leaves office.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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