The New York Times reports:
Since their offensive here in February, the Marines have flooded Marja with hundreds of thousands of dollars a week. The tactic aims to win over wary residents by paying them compensation for property damage or putting to work men who would otherwise look to the Taliban for support.
The approach helped turn the tide of insurgency in Iraq. But in Marja, where the Taliban seem to know everything — and most of the time it is impossible to even tell who they are — they have already found ways to thwart the strategy in many places, including killing or beating some who take the Marines’ money, or pocketing it themselves.
Just a few weeks since the start of the operation here, the Taliban have “reseized control and the momentum in a lot of ways” in northern Marja, Maj. James Coffman, civil affairs leader for the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, said in an interview in late March. “We have to change tactics to get the locals back on our side.”
Col. Ghulam Sakhi, an Afghan National Police commander here, says his informants have told him that at least 30 Taliban have come to one Marine outpost here to take money from the Marines as compensation for property damage or family members killed during the operation in February.
“You shake hands with them, but you don’t know they are Taliban,” Colonel Sakhi said. “They have the same clothes, and the same style. And they are using the money against the Marines. They are buying I.E.D.’s and buying ammunition, everything.”
The Los Angeles Times reports:
By any standard, it was a disastrous day for an important U.S. ally in Afghanistan. First, three German soldiers died in an unusually fierce battle with insurgents, then German troops accidentally killed six Afghan soldiers apparently coming to their aid.
The chaotic chain of events in the northern province of Kunduz, detailed by Afghan and NATO officials Saturday, a day after the fact, could further undermine German public backing for the conflict.
Slipping support by North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies could jeopardize the Obama administration’s plan to hit the Taliban hard this year, with the aim of weakening the insurgents to the point that they might be receptive to a negotiated settlement. That in turn is aimed at laying the groundwork for a gradual Western withdrawal beginning in mid-2011.
While the United States rushes troops to Afghanistan’s restive south, where a major offensive is planned this spring and summer in Kandahar province, Taliban fighters and their allies are making their presence felt in areas of the country that had been relatively peaceful.