US forces seized Marjah in February, except they did not seize it. They seized control of the daytime, but the Taliban quickly established control of the night. Since then, there has been a war in the shadows: the Taliban fighting to retain control of the night and the coalition forces fighting to get control of the Taliban.
The residents are caught in the middle, intimidated by the Taliban and enticed by the government. They remain wary of any future Taliban government, well remembering the harsh repression of the prior Taliban government and repelled by the ruthless actions of its present incarnation. They are attracted by government promises of and initial efforts at local development. But they are also concerned about their own safety, disenchanted with the government for its corrupt practices, unhappy with the presence of foreign troops, and protective of their Islamic culture. So they are naturally ambivalent about the situation and above all, they are weary of war.
The message we need to give them is simple and straightforward:
- The Taliban dishonor Islam with their cruelty and fanatacism which is alien to traditional Afghan culture. They are now cooperating with organized criminals in the production of opium and seek to oppress the population with a medieval and tyrannical government. Their teachings are rejected by Islamic leaders worldwide.
- If that is the government you want, you can have it. NATO forces will be leaving. The government officials here now cannot function without your support. If you do not provide that, then the Taliban will indeed return. That is what they are counting on.
- If you want a government that will help you develop your lives in accordance with true Islam, that will work with you to provide a better life for you and your families, now is your opportunity.
Now is the opportunity to work together and build the government that the region wants to have: government which is responsive to the people, a government where local councils decide local issues and where local councils publicly and visibly to the whole world insist on economic support and competent administration from the central government.
Now is the time that each citizen has to decide what they want for the future and work to make it happen. NATO units and government officials will help in this, but the decision is in your hands.
Marjah will end up with the government it wants.