WASHINGTON (AFP) - Afghans in a southern Taliban stronghold remain skeptical of the Kabul government and of US-led troops waging an offensive there, a US military commander said on Thursday. Brigadier General Larry Nicholson, commander of US Marines in southern Afghanistan, said the population of Marjah in the Helmand river valley were less welcoming to NATO and Afghan forces compared to other towns where coalition forces had cleared out Taliban militants. Unlike some of the other areas that weve been in that were generally glad to see us but were always wondering if we would stay, the population here is concerned about what were going to be able to do for them, Nicholson told reporters by video link from Afghanistan. Weve got a very skeptical population here, he said. Nicholson said the Afghans in Marjah mostly had bad experiences with Kabul government representatives in past years, who they viewed as deeply corrupt. A new provincial governor, Mohammad Gulab Mangal, was working to win their trust since Taliban forces were pushed back in recent weeks, he said. The governor was trying to convince Marjah residents that this is different, that this is not the government of three, four years ago, that the forces that are here, that the police that are here, that the leadership that is coming in is here to serve the people, Nicholson said. The NATO-led coalition and the Kabul government were competing with the Taliban insurgency for the confidence of Afghans, he said, and would have to move quickly to provide services and demonstrate that they could improve life for people in Marjah. I think we have a very narrow window of opportunity here in Marjah to make that first impression. You get one shot at it. Setting up an effective police force would be crucial to the success of the operation, as the former police contingent in Marjah had been discredited, he said. Coalition officers were in discussions with the Afghan interior ministry to organize the recruitment and training of new police, he said. At the moment, Afghan national police units were temporarily deployed in Marjah. US, NATO and Afghan forces are moving to consolidate control of the Marjah area after launching an offensive on February 13. The coalition forces still faced a formidable threat from homemade bombs in Marjah, but firefights with the Taliban had faded in the past week, the general said. We have now not had direct fire in Marjah in the last eight days, Nicholson said. I think were very pleased by how things have settled down. But he added that it doesnt mean its over by any stretch.