KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan and international forces gearing up for a major offensive in Helmand province dropped leaflets Friday warning people not to give shelter to the Taliban.
Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman of Helmand province, said the leaflets fell in and around the city of Marjah - a Taliban stronghold.
"Do not allow the Taliban to enter your home," the leaflet said, according to Ahmadi.
The push on Marjah is touted as the largest of the eight-year-old conflict, and commanders want to oust militants and are planning for tough urban warfare in a rugged area expected to be filled with roadside bombs and booby-trapped houses.
"I think some of our units will go into some very heavy contact and I think some of our units will have less contact. We don't know," U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson told American and Afghan forces at Firebase Fiddler's Green earlier this week.
"All I know is that we have done everything we can to prepare, and on the eve of this operation, I think we're ready."
For days, the military has publicized what they call the imminent start of Operation Moshtarak, the Dari word for Together. But commanders have not yet said the push has begun, and that is expected to keep the pressure on fighters in what is being called the last major Taliban presence in Helmand.
Troops also want to confront the region's drug trafficking in Helmand, a major source of opium.
Marjah is surrounded by fertile land where poppies grow easily, and the Afghan government's limited presence allows the drug trade to flourish. The production of opium helps finance the Taliban, the Islamic militia that controlled most of Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion in 2001.
The goal is to separate the Taliban fighters from the rest of Marjah's roughly 80,000 to 100,000 people, establish security and gain the trust of the remaining population - the key objectives of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.
"The population is looking for you, and the enemy is not the population," Nicholson told the Marines and Afghan troops. "But we do have an enemy that will try to hide in that population. That's why we've got to be very careful, and we've got to be very disciplined, and you've got to be very accurate."
The planned offensive is also said to have the largest Afghan National Army presence of any to date.
Afghan Brig. Gen. Mohiyiden Ghori joined Nicholson on his tour of bases in the region Tuesday, telling Americans that U.S. engineers and contractors helped build much of the province's infrastructure in the mid-20th century. "Your forefathers built Helmand. They built Marjah," he said. "Americans built Marjah, and these terrorists destroyed the roads your forefathers built."
One of the reasons the offensive is being well-advertised is to lessen the civilian casualties. The deaths and injuries of innocents have undermined the grass-roots credibility of the international troops. The military is hoping people can hunker down somewhere safe before the fight begins and not get caught in the crossfire.
"Every effort is being made to ensure minimum disruption to the residents during the operation," the NATO command in Kabul said.
CNN's Frederik Pleitgen contributed to this report