Taliban in retreat in Afghanistan
The identifying markers like this have been used for centuries by soldiers without uniforms. The American militias did similar things during the Revolutionary War. It meets the minimum requirements of the Geneva Conventions. That is something that the Taliban cannot say.
Complete success is being claimed for the largest Afghan-led operation yet against the Taliban.
Afghan army forces and police have now purged the Nad Ali district of Helmand of 400 Taliban fighters, following a series of chaotic battles.
Allied commanders estimated 70 Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting, while many others fled or gave up their weapons.
Locals said that the dead included at least one senior commander, Mullah Abdul Bary.
"Of course there are some Taliban left in here, but they have dropped their weapons and they are hiding," said Colonel Rasoul, the commander of the 3rd Kandak, the best regular army unit in the fledgling Afghan security forces.
The operation, which began last week during the Persian new year celebrations of Nawruz, involved 400 Afghan security personnel, the biggest Afghan-led sweep yet in the Nato offensive in Helmand.
Crucially, it was also backed by local militias, whose commanders had sworn to remove the Taliban from their land.
The success means that much needed-reconstruction projects, postponed for months due to the Taliban presence, can now begin as planned.
The Afghan army soldiers patrolling through the fields of Nad Ali also boast new helmets, flak jackets and weapons - the first signs of a $2 billion US aid package designed to turn a ragtag force with an acute desertion problem into an army that would allow Western troops to begin pulling out. Another $6.2 billion is promised to the corrupt and widely mistrusted Afghan police force.
Important to the success of the operation was the frontline role of the local militias.
Their fighters have local knowledge but neither training nor uniforms, tying lengths of orange or white tape round their arms for identification in battle.