Now Zad: A Comeback Complicated by Success

There is even a health clinic here, and though it's rudimentary it has two health care providers: a husband and wife team who moved here from Kabul. Khwaja Sabor is a registered nurse and his wife Farzana, a midwife. She'll soon be busy.

She says there are four women now living in the center of town who will give birth in the next month; the first babies born in Now Zad in years.

The clinic needs substantial repair and assistance if it's going to keep up with the demands of the rapidly growing town. Khwaja says the clinic lacks basic medicines such as antibiotics, and its exam rooms are less than adequate. One room where the sterilized equipment is kept has sheets of plastic for windows, the walls are stained black from fire, and water steadily drips from the ceiling.

The Sabors decided to leave Kabul with their young daughter in hopes of bettering their own lives. The government of Afghanistan pays substantially more for serving in Now Zad. Together they earn about $3,200 a year. They are finding Now Zad is not cheap.

Now Zad's Success Comes at a Price

Marines here are finding that rapid success comes at a price. Insurgents still control Bar Now Zad to the north and Salaam Bazaar to the south of the Marine's area of operation. In simple terms that means the Taliban still effectively control the flow of goods, services and people into Now Zad.

Anything headed here is routinely held up, raising the prices for everything from bread to fuel. One can get through Taliban checkpoints if the right bribe is paid.

In addition to the dangers of dealing with the Taliban, unaffiliated criminals also wait for opportunities along the rough dirt roads.Now Zad District remains a mix of wild-west-like threats.

At about 265 strong, Lima Company secures most but not all of the district. In the next few months they will hand over duties to a much larger force, a battalion that will double or triple the number of Marines currently on the ground. Those forces, combined with a growing Afghan Army and police force, should easily be able to establish complete control over the district.

Still it raises the question of whether the Taliban will simply move their checkpoints elsewhere. It raises another question of why so much money and effort was spent on a town where no one lived.

Now Zad is important to the people of Helmand Province. It was once the second-largest city here, its land is fertile and traditionally pomegrantes, almonds, corn and wheat were raised here in abundance. Today the biggest cash crop is likely poppies for making opium.

The town and surrounding villages are picturesque and could be a tourist destination, were they located anywhere else. Now Zad strikes an emotional chord in people throughout Helmand Province.

Marines say wresting control of Now Zad from the Taliban and returning it to its rightful owners sends a powerful message that can't be measured in purely military terms.

Now Zad Government Too Weak

The Marines' biggest concern may be the lack of a strong civilian or governmental presence. Almost everything falls to the Marines, and no request is too small. When Terrell or Brezler walk through the market here and chat up locals, the requests come in all shapes and sizes.

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