After the less-than-successful military offensive in Marjah, NATO forces are taking a different tack in the villages surrounding Kandahar: They’re acting as representatives of the distant, oft-distrusted government. In “Operation Hamkari” (“cooperation”), soldiers are attempting to drive out the Taliban simply by improving government services and forming bonds with local leaders. But it’s a tough sell—in part because violence has been so widespread this summer that government workers can barely commute to work.
The AP went along on a meeting between an American patrol and the mullah in a small village. The mullah says the town never sees government representatives, and like many, he’s convinced the US will leave next year after President Obama’s deadline. Asked why he doesn’t attend the NATO-organized meetings of local elders, he replies, “It’s all corrupt—just a bunch of people trying to get money, trying to make sure their people get government contracts.” A young boy sits listening. As the Americans leave, he cheerfully cries, “Taliban,” while giving a thumbs up.