– The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – NATO forces in June will make a long-planned assault on the Taliban’s spiritual home in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, a senior military official said Monday.

The goal is to rid the city of Taliban forces before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins in August, according to the official.

U.S. officials have previously disclosed plans for a NATO-led offensive in the area this year, but have not said when it might happen. The two-month offensive will be a major test of President Obama’s new strategy in Afghanistan and a bellwether of the war in general.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the operation, discussed the operation on condition of anonymity.

Until the start of major military operations, U.S. troops are working on securing transit routes and persuading the leaders of districts surrounding Kandahar to cooperate with NATO forces.

As the Taliban’s governing capital prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, Kandahar remains the spiritual heartland of the insurgency and a stubborn holdout in NATO’s efforts to transfer control to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.