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Violence In Marjah Raises Questions About Stability

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Violence In Marjah Raises Questions About Stability

Afghanistan

Violence In Marjah Raises Questions About Stability

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

NPR's Corey Flintoff was with U.S. troops in Marjah recently.

COREY FLINTOFF: At least some local people say the military operation here is failing. NPR's Afghan reporters in Kabul interviewed people in Marjah by cell phone, because local people may face intimidation from the Taliban if they're seen talking directly with outsiders.

HAQYAR: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He says the Taliban have threatened to retaliate against anyone who cooperates with the government.

HAMEED: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Lieutenant Colonel Brian Christmas says his Marine battalion, the 3/6, has in fact, been out in a lot of places where the Taliban didn't expect them.

BRIAN CHRISTMAS: Today, the Taliban are trying to make a mark because they feel the pressure. We've put forces, we've dedicated them there, forces that they're not used to seeing.

FLINTOFF: Still, he said, the day had a positive side, an instance in which Taliban fighters ordered local people to shut a popular open-air market and met with resistance.

CHRISTMAS: And people started to close down the shops because they feared for their life. Well, then, one of my elders got on the microphone, and he said no. We're not doing it. We're not closing the shops. We're a community. Leave the shops open. And most of them did.

FLINTOFF: Scott Dempsey is a USAID official who advised the Afghan district government in Nawa, a small farming town not far from Marjah. Allied troops drove the Taliban out of Nawa nearly eight months before Marjah, but Dempsey says it went through its own spasm of insurgent violence after that.

SCOTT DEMPSEY: When Nawa was cleared last July, many of the insurgents who were fighting in Nawa were able to flee to Marjah, and the malevolent influence of Marjah was around until February when Marjah was cleared.

FLINTOFF: Dempsey says the capture of Marjah helped relieve pressure on Nawa, which is now stable and relatively prosperous, an indication of what he believes Marjah could be, given another six months or so.

NATO: Corey Flintoff, NPR News.

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