GARDEZ, Afghanistan Bitter feuding among warlords turned eastern Afghanistan into a war zone this weekend, leaving as many as 25 people dead and furious residents accusing the interim regime of being weak, and the United States of being uncaring.
Some say they are even praying for a return of the Taliban, whose heavy-handed rule sent most of the country's warlords into exile.
On Sunday, residents in Gardez began to emerge from shuttered dwellings to bury their dead killed in the previous day's rocket assault.
As many as 25 people died when soldiers loyal to warlord Bacha Khan Zardran fired a torrent of rockets into the city on Saturday, said Gardez governor Taj Mohammed Wardak. Another 70 people were injured.
From their heavily guarded compound on the southern edge of the city, U.S. Special Forces brought blood and medicine to the hospital to help treat the wounded, Irfan said.
But people say it's not enough.
They want the special forces to use their military might to rein in the warlords. They say the U.S. response is quick and forceful when they are threatened, but less so when residents come under fire.
"When one mortar is fired near the compound where the U.S. soldiers are there are 20 planes in the sky right away, but when 800 rockets fall on the people of Gardez nothing," said Moukan, a shopkeeper who uses only one name.
The U.S. military spokesman said Sunday that the U.S. forces deployed in Afghanistan were quietly doing what they could to halt factional fighting in the east of the country, but negotiating an end to local feuds was not their primary objective.
"Our mission here is to capture or kill al-Qaida and senior Taliban," said Maj. Bryan Hilferty, the U.S. military spokesman. "Our secondary mission is to help to secure the country."
Hilferty said recent clashes between rival warlords in the east posed a threat to the country's fragile interim government, but halting fighting between warlords was largely the responsibility of the new authorities.