Taliban Regaining Strength In Helmand Province
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
Well, now, as Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post reports, after early reports of successes by the Marines in Marjah, residents there see signs of the Taliban resurgent. And Rajiv Chandrasekaran joins us now. Welcome to the program once again.
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: Good to talk to you.
SIEGEL: Marjah was a Taliban stronghold before the offensive, how would you describe the Taliban's situation there now?
CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, the Taliban are conducting a campaign of intimidation, of assassination, of a slow attempt to try to reassert control. And what happened there was that U.S. forces after the initial operation back in February, assumed that they had essentially got the Taliban on the run. Now what appears to have been the case is that the insurgents were simply laying in wait, trying to understand what the Marines were going to do, what the Afghan security forces and the Afghan government was going to try to do, search for that soft underbelly and then try to reassert themselves, which they have done with increasing potency over the past couple of weeks.
SIEGEL: Judging from your reporting, that includes both planting a lot of mines or improvised explosive devices, but also meting out retribution to people who corporate with the U.S.
CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, the Taliban has decided to try to counter that by attacking or, in some cases, killing people who have been availing of this. And it has spread a climate of fear across this community and has led these programs to be far less widespread and effective as U.S. officials had hoped they would be.
SIEGEL: What happened to the idea of the Marines with Afghan forces or Afghan civilians along - would come into Marjah, take over and government in a box would be with them, readymade administration would take over?
CHANDRASEKARAN: What has happened is that those officials have been reluctant to come to Marjah, to provide those basic services, which U.S. officials believe are essential to winning over the local population and getting them to side with the government and oppose the Taliban.
SIEGEL: When you spoke with Afghans around Marjah, did the subject of how long the U.S. is going to remain there come up? Were they confident that there would be people guaranteeing their security beyond, say, the middle of next year?
CHANDRASEKARAN: To the people on the ground in places like Marjah, they think that means everybody's going home next summer. And so, those who are supportive of the government or those who would like to be supportive of the government have this great fear that they will be once abandoned by the United States and its NATO allies.
SIEGEL: Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post, thank you very much.
CHANDRASEKARAN: Great to talk to you.
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