In a new offensive, US Marines descended on Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan; they found a scorching desert littered with bombs, little contact, an invisible enemy. They will have to face the guerrilla tactics they used against the Soviets.br /”Nawa is quiet, too quiet,” said the Marine CO of the town where some of the 4,000 Marines involved had deployed Thursday at the start of the assault in Helmand province. The enemy had clearly gone under ground.br /Except at Poshteh where about 40 Taliban fighters fought about 200 marines there was little resistance anywhere. This despite the fact that they had pushed into areas where the government in Kabul had little or no control, and where the Taliban had in some cases established a parallel administration. Dutch Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruif, commander of about 30,000 NATO-led troops in the region, estimates there are 10,000 to 18,000 Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan.br /To be successful guerrillas must be protected by the people. As long as the local people will hide them they can fight and win. Our forces must show the local population that we are on their side and that their lives will be better if the Afgan government rules them. This also means real, constant protection from the terrorism that the Taliban fighters bring. It’s what we called in Vietnam, winning their hearts and minds. I think we can do it.