Anti-war campaigners have dismissed the latest military onslaught in Afghanistan as a "propaganda ploy" and reiterated their demand for the immediate withdrawal of all troops from the country.
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth made premature claims that the surge of 1,200 British troops in the Helmand town of Marjah and the surrounding Nad-e-Ali district had been "successful" - even though 12 civilians were killed yesterday along with two soldiers - one British, one US.
In the biggest offensive since the start of the war, Nato forces fired Hellfire missiles at tunnels and other targets from Cobra helicopters and Harrier jets while troops attacking on the ground claimed they faced little armed resistance.
Afghan forces commander General Sher Mohammad Zazai said that at least 20 "insurgents" had been killed.
Mr Ainsworth said "the big test is whether or not we can hold the ground and provide security for the people who live there."
Many of the 80,000 residents in the town of Marjah are believed to have fled.
A Stop the War spokesman said: "It's more in the realm of a public relations attack rather than serving any benefit to the people of Afghanistan, many thousands of whom have been displaced from their own homes.
"This is on a par with the quest for unobtanium in the film Avatar. The sooner the British troops leave Afghanistan, the better," he added.
A British withdrawal is still nowhere in sight.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband said: "I think that two days into this operation it's premature to start talking in those terms."