U.S. Marines in Afghanistan and other American forces began staging in Pakistan and Uzbekistan on the border of Afghanistan as early as October 2001 in preparation for Operation Enduring Freedom. The 15th and 26th Marine Expeditionary Units were the first conventional forces into Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in November 2001, and in December, the Marines seized Kandahar International Airport. Since then, Marine battalions and squadrons have been rotating through, engaging Taliban and Al-Qaedaforces. Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit flooded into the Taliban-held town of Garmsir on 29 April 2008, in Helmand Province, in the first major American operation in the region in years. In June 2009, 7,000 Marines with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigadedeployed to Afghanistan in an effort to improve security, and began Operation Strike of the Sword the next month. In February 2010, the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade launched the largest offensive of the Afghan Campaign since 2001, the Battle of Marjah, to clear the Taliban from their key stronghold in the Helmand Province. After Marjah, Marines progressed north up the Helmand River and cleared the towns of Kajahki and Sangin. Marines remained in the Helmand Province until 2014.