NATO/Taliban Braced For Battle Of Marjah

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In southern Afghanistan, Taliban militants are digging in for a fight against NATO forces preparing a massive assault on a key insurgent stronghold. NATO commanders in Afghanistan say a planned military offensive in a southern Taliban stronghold is meant to defeat the militants and win the support of the population. The fight for Marjah will be the first major operation by coalition forces since Emptysuit ordered 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan. Thousands of US and UK soldiers and marines, backed by Afghan army units, are preparing to seize the town of some 80,000 people. A Taliban officer who says he commands 145 men, said fighters had been bolstering their defenses of the town, believed to include mines and booby traps hidden in surrounding irrigation ditches. Taliban fighters are bringing in weapons supplies and digging in around Marjah.

The assault will target the Afghan town of Marjah in southern Helmand province. It is a major producer of narcotics and a stronghold of Taliban militants in the region. The U.S commander of the international force in Afghanistan, General Stanley McCrystal, says the offensive is meant to send a strong signal to the local population that the Afghan government is expanding its security control. Nato commanders have been signaling their intention to take Marjah for weeks warning civilians of the impending offensive. Hundreds of civilians have fled the region. The general says the estimated 80,000 people has very little freedom and choice while living under Taliban control and opium trafficking.

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