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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Let's go next to the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, one of the most important cities in that country. Part of President Obama's strategy to improve security is to send thousands more American troops there, which is not going down well with many residents. They fear the arrival of more Americans will only increase civilian casualties as fighting with the Taliban intensifies.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports.

SORAYA NELSON: Almost daily, the consequences of the growing war with the Taliban end up here, at Kandahar's main hospital.

Dr. ABDULLAH: (Foreign language spoken)

Mr. NASSIR AHMAD: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: On this day, Dr. Abdullah examines a young patient injured by shrapnel from a bomb that exploded right outside the hospital gate. The eight-year-old victim's name is Nassir Ahmad.

Mr. AHMAD: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: The boy says he was walking to the pharmacy down the street from his religious school to pick up pills for one of his teachers when a police truck came into view. Moments later, as a truck passed by, a militant set off the bomb he'd planted on his bicycle near the hospital fence. A woman and a man were killed by the blast, and five others, including Nassir Ahmad, were wounded.

Dr. ABDULLAH: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: It was a small bombing by Kandahar standards, one of hundred of attacks that Dr. Abdullah wishes his government would do more to stop. But the doctor, who like most Afghans goes by just one name, says that 8,000 new American troops arriving here in Kandahar aren't the answer.

Dr. ABDULLAH: It cannot help, and I think the problem would be increased.

NELSON: Why?

Dr. ABDULLAH: Because the people disagree, especially people who are obviously of the government. And the attacks will be increased.

NELSON: Fear that arriving U.S. forces will attract more violence is widespread across Kandahar.

Local tribal elder, Nani Kako, says that's because it would give militants more Western targets, which inevitably leads to more civilian casualties.

Mr. NANI KAKO: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: The tribal elder says if President Obama is interested in stability, then he should eliminate corruption in the Afghan government. He says that, not more troops, is the only way to restore Afghans' faith in their government.

Kandahar women's rights activist Shahida Hussein says the Americans should also push for peace talks.

Ms. SHAHIDA HUSSEIN (Women's Rights Activist): (Through translator) In 2001, U.S. forces ousted the Taliban from Afghanistan in two months. Today, they can't even secure one dangerous district. What the U.S. administration and its international partners should do is sit down with the insurgents, find out why they are fighting and reach some kind of agreement.

NELSON: Reached by phone, U.S. Brigadier General John Nicholson, the deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, says he's well aware of the Afghan worries.

Brigadier General JOHN NICHOLSON (Deputy Commander, NATO Forces, Southern Afghanistan): We assure the people, or try to reassure them, that this additional security will lead to a better way of life. But yes, there will be a period of increased fighting until we get to that point.

NELSON: Nicholson says U.S. troops will concentrate on major population centers with the goal of making them secure enough so that national and provincial elections can proceed in August.

That's welcome news to Tooryalai Wesa. The governor of Kandahar says he understands his constituents' concerns and their growing calls for negotiating with the enemy. But he adds that can't happen without more of a Western presence.

Governor TOORYALAI WESA (Kandahar, Afghanistan): For negotiations, you need a secure environment. How can you negotiate under an insecure situation? So those forces will help establish security, then that will help facilitate and expedite the negotiation process.

NELSON: Ahmad Wali Karzai, the head of Kandahar's provincial council and brother of the Afghan president, is another Kandahari who welcomes the prospect of new U.S. troops. But he says the Americans should also step up their creation of so-called public protection forces, similar to the Sons of Iraq, Sunni Arab tribal militias that formed an alliance with the United States against al-Qaida.

Mr. AHMAD WALI KARZAI (Kandahar Provincial Council): In Afghanistan, especially in all the areas in Kandahar, arm or AKs, like a mobile phone, everyone owns one or two. So, we need these people to be mobilized to be part of the military or part of the police together to join the war against this Taliban and al-Qaida.

NELSON: Nicholson agrees that security should ultimately be in the hands of Afghans. He says while the U.S. troops will initially help secure population centers in Kandahar and neighboring provinces, it'll be up to Afghan forces to provide long-term security.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kandahar.

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