As NATO takes control of all forces in Afghanistan next month, it does so with what NATO Commander of World Wide Forces, General James Jones, has called a more people-friendly philosophy. Jeff Swicord Reports out on patrol with British troops in Kabul.
On patrol in the hills above Kabul is a British force protection company under NATO command. As NATO takes control of all foreign troops in Afghanistan, it brings a slightly different approach than its coalition predecessors. Brigadier General Nick Pope is the company commander. "You need to reach out and touch the community you work with. From our perspective you can't do that by simply walking around and ignoring people. You have really got to engage in the local community, be it at the children level or be it talking to the local leaders."
General Pope pointed out a swimming pool that was a favorite execution site of the Taliban. The condemned were pushed off the top diving platform to their death. Those who survived were finished off by gunfire. Now children play amid the ruins, and many have made friends with the soldiers.
Pope said, "It is fun. If you bring the locals in on your side, and you make them feel that you are there to help, it sets the conditions for success. You start at the lowest level with the children."
Success in Afghanistan is never easy. This is a country where the problems far outweigh the solutions. The soldiers walk through one of the poorer neighborhoods in Kabul. The U.S. Agency for International Development says only six percent of the country has electricity and 80 percent of the population is illiterate.
General Pope and the soldiers stop to talk to Mossen Homayoun, a local Wakil or representative of the people. He tells them he is grateful for the security they bring. He also reminds them how difficult life is in this country and what a daunting task development will be. Homayoun said, "There are 12,000 houses in this area. We don't have enough clinics or doctors here. We have just one clinic for 20,000 people."
Pope said, "One of the things that the army likes to do whenever they get involved with patrolling an area is to try and get involved in minor development projects. Clearly we do not have the money or the resources or the power to do development at the Macro level, build roads or whatever. But what I do have is an enormous amount of soldiers who are willing to put their life and soul into providing a little bit of betterment."
A little bit of betterment can go a long way in a country so ravaged by war. Afghanistan is a place where success will be measured street-by-street, and neighborhood-by-neighborhood.
General Pope and his company are a month and a half into a nine-month tour of duty in Kabul. They carry on unshaken by the enormity of the task at hand, determined to do what they can.