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It is not known when U.S. troops could be withdrawn in significant numbers from Helmand, as heavy fighting continues elsewhere in the area, including the Sangin district, where Marines took over from British forces.

Before Marjah, Gen. Petraeus stopped in the western province of Farah, where the Italian army’s 7th Alpini is stationed.

The U.S. general’s visit coincided with one by Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, the Italian chief of defense general staff. Gen. Petraeus congratulated the Italian soldiers on the “progress that has been achieved in the first few months that this unit has been here.”