Monday, May 17, 2010

Farmers flee Marja months after NATO forces battled to expel insurgents

clipped from
Image: U.S. Marine takes an Afghan civilian to the main Marine base for questioning in Karez-e-Sayyidi

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan - Farmers from the district of Marja, which since February has been the focus of the largest American-led military operation in Afghanistan, are fleeing the area, saying that the Taliban are terrorizing the population and that American troops cannot protect the civilians.

The departure of the farmers is one of the most telling indications that Taliban fighters have found a way to resume their insurgency, three months after thousands of troops invaded this Taliban stronghold in the opening foray of a campaign to take control of southern Afghanistan. Militants have been infiltrating back into the area and the prospect of months of more fighting is undermining public morale, residents and officials said.

“People are leaving; you see 10 to 20 families each day on the road who are leaving Marja due to insecurity,” said a farmer, Abdul Rahman, 52, who was traveling on his own. “It is now hard to live there in this situation.”

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