They fled to avoid getting caught up in the crossfire. Now the people of Marjah are coming back.
There are still some pockets of resistance, but after weeks of anticipation and long days of bitter fighting, coalition forces have most of Marjah under their control. For the first time, local residents feel safe enough to leave their homes, even share a joke.
Some shops in the central market are open and business is brisk.
Marjah is slowly coming back to life now that the Taliban have been cleared out, reports CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark. The challenge will be keeping it that way.
"I'm very happy that I can open my shop", says a local shopkeeper. "But I'm worried about the police, because all they did last time was shake us down for money."
Afghan police have begun arriving in Marjah and residents are watching them with suspicion as they take over from Marines.
While they fought hard to take the town, they are relying on this batch of fresh Afghan recruits to keep the peace.
The U.S. and its allies have invested millions of dollars in training these men, but the Afghan police force is still the weakest part of the "clear, hold, build" strategy. And U.S. commanders see that as the only way out of this very long fight for the country.
The fear here is that, once again, when coalition forces leave, the Afghan police force that replaces them will be weak and corrupt, reports Clark. Commanders here say this time it's going to be different. The future of these people depends on it.