“I was optimistic about all this at first, but I’m disillusioned, and so are a lot of the people I’ve been talking to,” he says. “There are increasing numbers of [improvised explosive] devices, the government they installed isn’t trusted by the people, people have been beheaded, and US forces are barging into homes and arresting innocents. The people are caught between the US and the Afghan National Army by day, and the Taliban by night.”
The mix of violence, ineffective government, and controversial US military operations is eroding what little confidence Afghans have in the Karzai government, America's key partner in the counterinsurgency strategy that Petraeus has been called on to lead.
The US operation in Marjah was originally outlined as a decisive prelude to a larger offensive in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. When the "government in a box" ushered in by US troops failed to take hold in Marjah amid fears of insurgent attacks, however, McChrystal postponed the Kandahar offensive planned for this summer.
US and Afghan forces have begun stepping up security efforts in and around Afghanistan’s second-largest city, but it's unclear when the joint civilian-military "surge" will begin. The aim is to decrease support for the Taliban, which many locals currently see as better able to maintain order than the Kandahar government, by bringing less-corrupt government and rule of law to the city.