KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – U.S. and Afghan forces began advancing slowly Wednesday through the insurgent-filled district in southern Afghanistan that gave birth to the Taliban movement, treading ground where guerrilla fighters have operated freely for years, the British general in charge of NATO troops here said.

Maj. Gen. Nick Carter said the latest push in Zhari district is part of a crucial strategy aimed at reducing violence in the provincial capital Kandahar by stemming the flow of fighters and weapons there and connecting civilians estranged from their government.

But he downplayed the extent of the latest troop movements headed by the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, which mans outposts with Afghan troops.