The bearded Afghan men in traditional dress sat cross-legged on the floor listening to the U.S. colonel address them, now with a subtly changed message.
"International forces and Americans and Afghan National Army will come soon in greater numbers," said Colonel George Amland, second in command of more than 10,000 Marines, addressing a "shura", or council meeting, on a base in southern Afghanistan.
"They will provide, once again, that opportunity for you to choose the path that the people of Delaram and your community will take," he added.
"But I'm also bound to tell you that this window of opportunity that is presenting itself to you will only be open for a short period of time."
Gone are the phrases "we are here to stay" or "we are not going anywhere", often heard at past shuras.
Last northern spring, U.S. Marines moved into Delaram, a small desert town in the northern tip of Nimroz province only a few kilometres from Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.
They set up a base just outside Delaram from where they launch attacks into Helmand's north and conduct patrols inside the town.
But, the Marine force in Afghanistan is set to double, with thousands more already arriving in the south as part of a wider 30,000-troop push by Washington in an increasingly opposed invasion which began in October 2001.
There are already more than 110,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, including nearly 70,000 Americans.
But in announcing the extra forces, President Barack Obama also said troop levels would start to be scaled back in 18 months, and the White House has said it does not want to have troops in Afghanistan another eight or nine years from now. That message is now being delivered clearly on the ground.
Washington has said any pullout of troops will be "conditions based" and would involve a gradual handover to Afghan troops.
Mohammad Khawas, 40, a money changer, said things were better in Delaram but no amount of U.S. troops would bring peace to Afghanistan without involving the Taliban.
"Not 30,000 troops, if you bring even 20 times that, even the whole of the United States, fighting will not bring a result," said Khawas. "The solution is we have to sit at one table with the Taliban to solve the problem."
Last Mod: 12 Ocak 2010, 12:16