Kabul, Mar. 1 (ANI): American Marine units are finishing sweeps of contested ground in Afghanistan, clearing the last stretches of roads of hidden bombs, and reinforcing hastily erected patrol bases and outposts.
According to the New York Times, more Afghan government forces were arriving, increasing the manpower to counter the Taliban fighters engaged in the guerrillas' routine of emplacing booby traps and challenging Marine patrols with hit-and-run fights.
The transition from deliberate combat operations to creating security for the Afghan government is under way.
A set of tasks more complex than fighting was ahead: encouraging the population of Marja to accept, much less support, an outside government presence, the paper reports.
"We have a fleeting opportunity to earn limited trust," said Col. Randall P. Newman, who commands the Marine ground forces in Helmand Province, in an interview.
He summed up the state of relations now: "They don't trust us."
Part of the suspicion was related to the recent military action. Seeking local support would be difficult enough after almost two weeks of fighting, house searches, artillery fire and air strikes, the Marines said.
But another element of the disaffection is the previous pledges made by the Afghan government to provide services and improve living conditions in Helmand, where Marja is located.
On Friday evening, Colonel Newman and Lt. Col. Brian Christmas, who commands the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, met with local men who complained that the government had a record of failing them.
"They told us, 'We've been at this eight years and we've heard a lot of promises,' " Colonel Newman said.
"From a human standpoint, I can't say I blame them. Trust is earned, not given. We've got to provide," he added. (ANI)