In southern Afghanistan, Taliban militants are digging in for a fight against NATO forces preparing a massive assault on a key insurgent stronghold.

Witnesses say Taliban fighters are bringing in weapons supplies and digging in around Marjah in Helmand province, home to an estimated 80,000 people and center of opium trafficking.  NATO commanders say thousands of coalition and Afghan troops are preparing to take back Marjah in one of the biggest offensives of the eight-year-old Afghan war.    

The fight for Marjah, expected to begin soon, will be the first major operation by coalition forces since U.S. President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan to overcome Taliban resistance.

Hundreds of civilians have fled the region around Marjah in hopes of avoiding the battle.

In other news, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday he is considering conscription to help meet recruitment targets for Afghan security forces.  

Mr. Karzai said a military draft could help Afghans take responsibility for their country's security within five years.  U.S. and NATO officials have expressed concern about the pace of training and quality of Afghan security forces.
Separately, police say at least three Afghan police officers were killed Sunday when a bomb struck their patrol near the southern city of Kandahar.  In northern Afghanistan, two Swedish soldiers and their Afghan translator were reported killed following an attack west of Mazar-e Sharif.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.