Haji Zahir, the new governor of Marjah in Helmand province, listens to residents' grievances Monday. It was the first time an Afghan government official visited the former Taliban stronghold in two years. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson/NPR

The Afghan head of the Third Brigade 205th corps, Gen. Mohiudin Ghori, tells Marja villagers that it is time to back the government, not the Taliban. Soraya Nelson/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Soraya Nelson/NPR

U.S. Marine and Afghan army commanders confer after their men begin taking fire while on patrol earlier this week. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson/NPR

Atta Mohammad Noor, governor of Afghanistan's northern Balkh province, meets with businessmen, tribal elders and other officials in Mazar-e-Sharif, the provincial capital. No business in Balkh is conducted without the popular former warlord's approval. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson/NPR

Akmal Sawi stands in front of his childhood apartment. To sell the property, he had to pay $3,000 in bribes. Tom Bullock/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Tom Bullock/NPR

Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar is the only public hospital serving five provinces in southern Afghanistan. The hospital is in the middle of a war zone, but it continues to strive to provide better care with the development help of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Holly Pickett for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Holly Pickett for NPR