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By Golnar Motevalli
FARAH, Afghanistan, Aug 10 U.S. attempts to secure Afghanistan's most violent province have squeezed the insurgency into neighbouring areas, worsening security ahead of elections, U.S. officers and Afghan officials say.
A major operation which saw thousands of U.S. Marines fan out into parts of Helmand province has worsened security in neighbouring Farah to the west, they said.
The Helmand operation was one of the biggest ever undertaken by U.S. Marines, but raised questions about whether insecurity had just been shifted to neighbouring areas.
"There has definitely been a spillage," U.S. Navy Captain Larry Vasquez, commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Farah province told Reuters.
The teams are charged with helping improve infrastructure and services in remote parts of Afghanistan in order to win over locals and undermine support for the Taliban.
The governor of Farah, Ruhol Amin, said he had also seen an increase of Taliban fighters into his province as a result of Operation Khanjar, or "Strike of the Sword", which started on July 1 and involved some 4,000 Marines.
He said the insurgents had even managed to set up check points in some areas.
"But as we work with foreign and coalition forces we hope to be able to fight this and put and end to it," Amin said.
Farah is an arid, desert province but one of Afghanistan's biggest poppy producing provinces, neighbouring Iran to its west and Helmand to the southeast. There are some 200 U.S. Marines and just under 3,000 foreign soldiers in Farah.
Afghanistan's presidential election scheduled for Aug. 20 will be a major test of both incumbent President Hamid Karzai's government and the success of the more than 100,000 foreign troops now deployed in the country.
Vasquez and Ruhol Amin were confident, however, that people will turn out to vote in Farah.
"I had a target to get 30,000 people registered to vote and I got 50,000 registered," Ruhol Amin said. "So I am hopeful, God willing, that there will be security ahead of the election ... we will try our best." (Editing by David Fox)