As much as a major fight sounds implausible, reports are coming in that the Taliban intends to make a stand at Marja. We expected them to assume a crescent formation and allow the US force to occupy the town, which would then descend into guerrilla warfare on the outskirts and urban warfare in the semi-emptied town streets.
At the same time we don't expect the entire Taliban force to engage in the battle, half at most, probably less.
Still, “The Taliban are not going to leave Marjah. We have seen them preparing themselves. They are bringing in people and weapons. We know there is going to be a big fight,” said Abdul Manan, a man from Marjah.
“The Taliban are very active in Marjah. They are planting mines there and in the surrounding areas,” said villager Abdul Khaleq after arriving in Lashkar Gah.
Abdullah Nasrat, a Taliban commander in Nad Ali district where Marjah is located, told Reuters some 2,000 militants were ready to fight to the death.
“We are well prepared and will fight until the end. We don’t have sophisticated weapons like the Americans with tanks and aeroplanes, but we have Islamic zeal. That is the power we have to fight against the infidels."
Tempting as his zeal sounds, fighting to the death makes little sense in this position. These testimonials sound like propaganda. And yet the fight could be larger than anticipated. One thing is for sure: the Taliban would love to deal a decisive blow and ruin President Obama's big operation and the beginning of his surge.
They must think they can rattle him with anything close to a "victory" by guerrilla standards, but the Taliban will need a miracle strategy to deal with the firepower coming at them.