A Taliban commander Mullah Abdu Ghfar Aknond in Marjah told CBS News' Sami Yousafzai Monday in a telephone interview that "God turned his favor on the Taliban" by sending heavy rain ahead of the expected offensive in southern Afganistan, making it far easier for the militants to dig holes for IEDs and landmines.
(AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq)
Aknond claimed between 1,000 and 1,500 Taliban fighters were laying wait in Marjah for the onslaught.
The commander said the U.S. and its allies were "welcome to the mine fields" of Marjah, but that victory there would not defeat the radical Islamic movement. "There are dozens of districts like Marjah," he told CBS News.
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American troops have already taken up positions surrounding the town and are well aware of the dangers that await. CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark, embedded with U.S. Marines about five miles from Marjah, reports that the American Special Forces are already entering the town at night in advance of the operation.
The biggest fear, and one which is well founded based on what Taliban sources tell CBS News, is improvised explosive devices, or IEDs - the militant's weapon of choice.
U.S. commanders tell Clark they will enter Marjah using a staged approach to try and minimized casualties from the IEDs, which they believe the area to be "seeded" with.
"Assault Breacher Vehicles" - hulking tank-like, blast resistant machines with digging equipment on the front, will be first to enter Marjah, trying to clear as many IEDs as possible. They'll be followed by progressively larger groups of troops.
Marjah is the last town in the restive Helmand River Valley — once firm Taliban territory — to remain under control of the militants in the wake of a massive coalition offensive in December