Now Zad: A Comeback Complicated by Success

One man holds up a plastic bag with medicine. He needs more, and only the Marines can supply it. Another man's wall is deteriorating because of damage caused by the Marines. Another wants to talk about a road being plowed. Even the kids approach them looking for candy or pens.

It's not exactly the dynamic that Marines want. They want the Afghan government to take the lead.

Sayed Murad Agha has been Now Zad's district governor since December. He's a patient man who has learned to work with the Marines, but he's frustrated by the pace of progress. His staff still hasn't moved up from the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. In his office he can't get glass for the windows, a new desk or chairs, much less a phone, fax machine or Internet access.

Marines want the Afghans to lead the way, but so far governance here consists mostly of one district governor, 10 teachers, two health care providers and 265 Marines.

Still there is reason for hope. Sardar Mohammed was the first shopkeeper to reopen when he opened his tea shop on the main street of the bazaar just days after operation Cobra's Anger concluded.

Thirty members of his family left Now Zad four years ago. So far 13 have returned, and the rest are considering it.

On many nights Mohammed celebrates their return with a traditional meal of rice, goat, bread and fruit followed by music. Along with his brother and son, the trio will play for hours. Music was banned under the Taliban. It's back. Now Zad even has a nightlife.

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