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Afghan Taliban hone hit-and-run tactics, assassination campaign

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But the Taliban are conducting their own surge. Rebel fighters are flowing in from Helmand Province and Pakistan. They attack at night – unusual against US forces equipped with night-vision and thermal imaging equipment. They are burying bombs ever closer to the pocket fortresses that mark the line where government control, if it ever existed, peters out completely. Not only is the Taliban's history bound up intimately with this area, but Pashmul, sloping off the country's most important road, Highway 1, is also a staging point for Kandahar City.

This is where US troops try to disrupt Taliban infiltration routes, intercepting fighters and materiel heading east toward southern Afghanistan's de facto capital.

The idea is that the cordon they provide – or even more simply, the extra mile they make insurgents travel to avoid their bases and patrols – will help NATO and Afghan forces behind them bring stability and economic development in more populous areas, undermining the insurgency's very existence.

Frequent attacks on Charlie Company's combat outposts with small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and antitank guns testify to the fact that the terrain is perfectly suited to the Taliban's brand of hit-and-run tactics. The explosive blossoming of vines and marijuana fields along Kandahar Province's main river, the Arghandab, allows insurgents to come within close range of their targets without breaking cover.

Echoes of old conflicts

Since Soviet times, foreign soldiers have unfondly called this ribbon of vegetation the "green hell."

Back then, there was bloody fighting here between the Russians and the mujahideen, including members of the fledgling Taliban movement, like Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef.

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