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Several villagers interviewed by the Associated Press from the Arghandab district said they would wait for spring to decide whether the Taliban’s guerrilla-fighting abilities have been weakened.

“There is no Taliban operations just because of the winter. We will know when spring comes,” said Mohammed Anwar of the Arghandab district’s village of Chor Gholba. “If this time they have no success against the Taliban, then for us we will think they cannot win this battle ever. Our houses have been destroyed by NATO, and still if they cannot take and keep hold of the area, they should get out.”

NATO troops leveled dozens of houses to clear the area of improvised explosive devices and booby traps, Mr. Anwar said.

In the past four months, NATO has paid about $1.4 million in compensation to Afghan villagers, but Mr. Anwar complained that corrupt government officials have distributed the money to their friends and relatives, ignoring others whose property was damaged or destroyed.

When the Taliban was still in charge in Kandahar, residents wondered why Osama bin Laden didn’t use his money to build roads and improve life in the city. They were told that if life was too comfortable, nobody would be inspired to fight.

Several residents angrily asked why their life was no better after the ouster of the Taliban, although none was willing to be quoted by name on a subject that involved bin Laden.

Today — with Kandahar still lacking electricity, with roads still deeply potholed and with scores of daily wage earners standing in freezing early-morning weather hoping to get work at a construction site or digging ditches — many lament that the billions of dollars in Western aid that has come to Afghanistan has not brought basic services or improvements.

Ahmed Wali Karzai, head of the Kandahar provincial council and brother of President Hamid Karzai, said ordinary Afghans have an unrealistic view of the international forces, particularly the Americans. In an interview at his well-protected home in Kandahar, he explained that the U.S., in particular, is a hostage to its own superpower image.