NATO is increasing its battle for Afghan hearts and minds as its largest offensive enters its third week.
The US General Stanley McChrystal has been visiting the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah. Capturing the town has been the first test of the alliance’s new counterinsurgency strategy.
He was joined by the Afghan vice-president at a “shura” or traditional council meeting; part of an effort to assure residents that peace and stability can be established for good.
Hundreds of Afghan police and civil servants are also being brought in with the goal of setting up public services to win the support of the local population.
Allied forces have cleared most of Marjah and are now preparing to target insurgent strongholds around Kandahar city.
But the renewed push is not without casualties. In the last two days, six alliance soliders and several civilians have been killed in various attacks as the military push continues to be hampered by thousands of buried explosives left behind by the Taliban.