Taliban Snipers Harass U.S.-Afghan Forces In Marjah Fight : The Two-Way The snipers fighting for the Taliban have apparently gotten a whole lot better in a relatively short period of time, according to reports coming out of Afghanistan's Helmand Valley where the U.S. and Afghan militaries have launched an offensive.
NPR logo Taliban Snipers Harass U.S.-Afghan Forces In Marjah Fight

Taliban Snipers Harass U.S.-Afghan Forces In Marjah Fight

U.S. Marines from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment take cover during a firefight as Taliban snipers fire on their position in Marjah in Afghanistan's Helmand province on Sunday Feb. 14, 2010. David Guttenfelder/AP Photo hide caption

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David Guttenfelder/AP Photo

U.S. Marines from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment take cover during a firefight as Taliban snipers fire on their position in Marjah in Afghanistan's Helmand province on Sunday Feb. 14, 2010.

David Guttenfelder/AP Photo

The snipers fighting for the Taliban have apparently gotten a whole lot better in a relatively short period of time, according to reports coming out of Afghanistan's Helmand Valley where the U.S. and Afghan militaries have launched an offensive.

That would suggest that either Taliban snipers have either been working very hard on their marksmanship skills in anticipation of the offensive, which was announced long in advance, or that they're getting help from imported extremist snipers. Of course, both could be the case, too.

Snipers were a major problem in Iraq before the U.S. military found effective ways to counter them.

The initial success of those Iraqi snipers appears to have been noticed by the Taliban just as the Islamic extremists appeared to adapt the Iraqi insurgents' use of IEDs to the war in Afghanistan.

The New York Times reports that the U.S.-Afghan offensive in Marjah has been slowed by sniper ambushes that are much more organized than Taliban attacks in the past.

MARJA, Afghanistan -- In five days of fighting, the Taliban have shown a side not often seen in nearly a decade of American military action in Afghanistan: the use of snipers, both working alone and integrated into guerrilla-style ambushes.

Five Marines and two Afghan soldiers have been struck here in recent days by bullets fired at long range. That includes one Marine fatally shot and two others wounded in the opening hour of a four-hour clash on Wednesday, when a platoon with Company K of the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, was ambushed while moving on foot across a barren expanse of flat ground between the clusters of low-slung mud buildings.

Almost every American and Afghan infantryman present has had frightening close calls. Some of the shooting has apparently been from Kalashnikov machine guns, the Marines say, mixed with sniper fire.

The near misses have included lone bullets striking doorjambs beside their faces as Marines peeked around corners, single rounds cracking by just overhead as Marines looked over mud walls, and bullets slamming into the dirt beside them as they ran across the many unavoidable open spaces in the area they have been assigned to clear.

On Wednesday, firing came from primitive compounds, irrigation canals and agricultural fields as the bloody struggle between the Marines and the Taliban for control of the northern portion of this Taliban enclave continued for a fifth day.