Kabul: The Taliban vowed on Thursday to fight
back with a "hit and run" guerrilla campaign against Western
and Afghan forces preparing to storm one of their key
strongholds in southern Afghanistan.
Thousands of US Marines and NATO and Afghan soldiers
have massed around the town of Marjah, a Taliban bastion in
Helmand province, poised to launch one of the biggest
operations against the Taliban since the 2001 US-led invasion.
The assault, dubbed Operation Mushtarak ("Together" in
Dari) and expected to begin within days, aims to drive out the
Taliban and replace their harsh rule with Western-backed
Afghan government institutions.
In a defiant statement on their website, the Taliban
vowed to defend the town in the poppy-growing region of the
central Helmand River valley, which they have controlled for
years in tandem with drug traffickers.
"From what we see on the ground this operation is no
different to the invading forces` day-to-day activities,"
Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, was quoted as saying.
"The enemy is making a big deal of it. They try to
sell it to the media as a big offensive in spite of the fact
that Marjah is a small place," he said, adding: "The operation
is not as big as they claim."
Nevertheless he vowed that Taliban gunmen would stand
against the offensive, using "hit-and-run" tactics and the
improvised explosive devises, or IEDs, that have become a
staple of their arsenal.