Taliban take over villages outside Kandahar; NATO, Afghan forces respond

Hundreds of Taliban fighters have invaded villages just outside Afghanistan's second-largest city, forcing NATO and Afghan troops to rush in and frightened residents to flee. The Taliban assault Monday on the outskirts of Kandahar was the latest display of prowess by the militants despite a record number of US and NATO troops in the country. The push into Arghandab district - a lush region filled with grape and pomegranate groves that the Soviet army could never conquer - comes three days after a Taliban attack on Kandahar's prison that freed 400 insurgent fighters. Those fighters, NATO conceded Monday, appear to now be massing on the doorstep of the Taliban's former power-base. Kandahar city lies just 10 miles (16 kilometers) to the southeast.