Safar Bazaar's 'little mayor' a Marine on deadline

SAFAR BAZAAR, Afghanistan - A year ago, Safaar Bazaar was so full of home-made bombs that U.S. forces used rocket propelled explosives to blast their way in.

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Once inside, the Marines uncovered more booby-traps. CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark reports the bomb squads paid a high price -- two dead, three seriously wounded -- but the town's market was cleared.

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Today it's a short walk for the Marines to get into town. The biggest problem now is the crowds, and their main job is building relationships.

The local Afghans call 23-year-old Cpl. Robert Lemont of the Third Battalion, First Marines, the "little mayor" of Safar Bazaar.

"I can walk through the bazaar - I feel safe," Lemont says. "I know that if I walk by a shop and there is Taliban around I'm pretty sure the guy will tell me, 'Hey you're in danger. Watch out.'"

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This is exactly how America intends to begin its exit from Afghanistan: classic counter-insurgence. The aim is to convince people that their families will be better off under the local government than the Taliban. It isn't working everywhere, but here there's real progress.

Lemont is keenly aware that the clock is ticking. He's got to lock in every gain before the Marines are forced to draw down their numbers.

One local shop owner is worried by that thought. In every way it is going to get worse, he says.

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Dr. Namatullah is a pharmacist. He was here when the Taliban used the market to sell opium and protected their turf with homemade bombs.

"There was no peace. There were IEDs, bombs, but now the roads are clear. No bombs, no IEDs."

Next month there will be a change that will test the American strategy, as part of its effort to ease out of Afghanistan, U.S. forces will give the leading role on security in this area to the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.

Is Lemont confident that it will stay a safe place?

"I think after we leave, for the first month or two, the ANA, the ANP, they will have hardship. It will be almost a war again but once the Taliban realize they are here to stay I think it will be back to normal."

The question is, are the Afghan forces trained by the United States ready to do the job? That's the hope that the entire American strategy in Afghanistan is depending on.