In Marja, a communication gap

The New York Times reports:

In the battle-scarred district of Marja, where the open fighting stopped just a few days ago, feelings about the war and the previous period of Taliban control are deeply personal, and the message from local people to the Afghan government on Monday was simple: words are not enough; if you expect us to be loyal, we need to see deeds.

As Second Vice President Karim Khalili stood before a gathering of about 200 tribal elders here under a bright sun, he saw row upon row of stony-faced, bearded men; their traditional shalwar kameez trousers and tunics soiled from having had little chance to wash them during more than a week of fighting.

For most of the hour of speeches from Mr. Khalili and local government leaders, the men were silent, offering only brief applause. Mostly their expressions were guarded, even closed, and there was little sign of welcome or warmth.

The vice president plunged ahead. “The priority for us is to bring peace for all the people,” he said.

“Please talk to your friends, tell them to come to the government,” he implored. “The government of Afghanistan is beside you. We will make a good administration here for you in Marja.”

As an ethnic Hazara, whose people had been persecuted by the Taliban, who are mostly Pashtuns and had been sheltered here, Mr. Khalili’s journey here was longer than could be measured in miles. The speech could not have been easy for him to give.

It may not have been easy to receive, either; he spoke in Dari without an interpreter, a language that few in his Pashtun audience fully understand.

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