A Mini Afghanistan Exists ... in Central Louisiana

Fort Polk hosts role-played shuras for US Army soldiers
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2012 4:47 PM CST
In this Friday, Sept. 11 photo, military personnel, left, and unidentified men acting as Iraq civilians take part in a staged Iraqi village as part of transition training at Fort Riley, Kansas, 2009.   (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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(Newser) – With the war in Afghanistan winding down, US troops are learning new techniques in an Afghan village far from the real battlefield—far as in Fort Polk, Louisiana. Mock villages there replete with brick buildings and domed mosques give Army soldiers a chance to role-play scenarios in which they help Afghans resume control, NPR reports. During village meetings, or shuras, soldiers learn to hang back and listen to role-players acting as Afghans, and speak up only to give occasional advice.

"It's actually been very hard for us to get to that point," says one instructor. "The first couple of shuras, the Americans seemed like they ran it, and now they're getting it, where they understand that the Afghans have to be in that leadership role." But when a mock suicide bomber shows up, the US troops have a tendency to take over the battle. Still, one colonel says he's not worried whether Afghan troops will resume power in real life. "Because they're going to kind of have to," he says. "Because there's not going to be that many of us." (Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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