US Marines battled Taliban fighters today for control of a strategic southern town in a new operation to cut militant supply lines and allow Afghan residents to vote in next week's presidential election. Insurgents appeared to dig in for a fight, firing rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds, and even missiles from the back of a truck. Officers predicted days of combat before the town is secured.
"Based on the violence with which they've been fighting back against us, I think it indicates the Taliban are trying to make a stand here," said a Marine captain. About 400 Marines were joined by 100 Afghan fighters in the battle. It's the third major push by US and British forces this summer into Taliban-controlled areas of Helmand province, center of Afghanistan's lucrative opium business and scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the Afghan war.