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U.S. soldiers had just made it through a dense patch of vineyards to a cluster of abandoned mud compounds when the radio operator let out a shout: “Sir, we are about to be ambushed from three different locations!”

The men rushed for cover, dodging a potential attack and cursing Kandahar province’s tough terrain that is tailor made for the Taliban. The deadly obstacle course may haunt thousands of additional U.S. troops pouring into this corner of southern Afghanistan for what is expected to be the make-or-break offensive of the nearly 9-year-old war.

The thick fields, snaking canals and bomb-laden dirt roads in key districts around the provincial capital, Kandahar City, force jittery soldiers out of their heavily armored vehicles into a landscape dotted with towering mud compounds that provide militants with ideal cover.

Finding a way to overcome this terrain will be key to this summer’s military operation in Kandahar, where at least 15 coalition soldiers have died since the beginning of the year, according to data compiled by The Associated Press.

The Marines who invaded the Taliban-controlled town of Marjah in Helmand province in February also faced somewhat challenging terrain since the area contained a network of canals that slowed their progress. But the poppy fields around Marjah were flat and were not surrounded by tall mud walls — unlike the vineyards around Kandahar.

“The agriculture and infrastructure of this country seem like they were designed specifically for guerrilla warfare,” Lt. Scott Doyle said at the beginning of his platoon’s recent patrol in the heart of Taliban country in Zhari district.

Source: Sebastian Abbot for Yahoo! News AP

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