Locals Wary Of U.S.-Afghan Patrol Program U.S. forces and the Afghan government are trying to create a neighborhood watch program in one of the country's most restive areas. Many believe the patrols are vital to securing Afghanistan. One of their most pressing tasks is to turn public opinion around inside the Taliban haven.
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Locals Wary Of U.S.-Afghan Patrol Program

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Locals Wary Of U.S.-Afghan Patrol Program

Locals Wary Of U.S.-Afghan Patrol Program

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has been traveling with the U.S. Special Forces team there.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: The Taliban-tracking radio a Special Forces interpreter carries reveals just how close they are.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO CHATTER)

SARHADDI NELSON: Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO CHATTER)

SARHADDI NELSON: But in Nerkh, it's proving hard for the American team to find recruits.

JOHNNY: They seem pretty distrustful and they seem pretty isolationist when it comes to anyone trying to help them, whether it's us or insurgent forces who come through the village. They just kind of want to be left alone. But so our challenge is trying to get them to realize that hey, this is their program, and they have a lot of buy-in to it, and the more they put into it, the more they are going to gain.

SARHADDI NELSON: He takes his team to a village called Karimdad. The Green Berets recently set up a checkpoint here, not far from where three Guardians were killed and three more wounded in a roadside bombing last month.

JOHNNY: Salam Alakim, how ya doing? What's your name?

SARHADDI NELSON: Johnny's deputy, whom we'll call Joe, walks up a hill to speak with the few male villagers standing outside their front doors.

JOE: Unidentified Man #3 (Afghan translator): (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: As an Afghan colleague translates, the villagers stare silently at the tall American with red hair. Joe tries another approach.

JOE: Unidentified Man #3: (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: They nod and grunt, but still no one volunteers. Joe tries again.

JOE: CHATTER OF CROWD

SARHADDI NELSON: Gol Rahim is a farmer.

GOL RAHIM: (Through Translator) We are being kept from planting and watering our fields and moving around our village at night. We know the enemy comes here, but we don't know who he is. The police give us a hard time because they think we're involved.

SARHADDI NELSON: Joe tells them that wouldn't happen if the villagers formed a Public Protection Force.

JOE: If they're here instead of us being here, they can tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys.

SARHADDI NELSON: Aren't you worried about triggering it?

INSKEEP: We wouldn't. Hopefully we'd fine the wire. The problem is they start using really long command wires, most of them are a couple hundred meters around here. Some of them have been up to 1300 meters.

SARHADDI NELSON: Unidentified Man #6: (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: Unidentified Man #6: (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF GUN FIRE)

SARHADDI NELSON: Johnny says that even when his men don't find bombs or militants, the clearing operations send an important message.

JOHNNY: We know it's a historic ambush site, and we'd had some reports of people, you know, setting up on us, getting ready to ambush us. And it kind of deters the enemy a little bit and also kind of lets them know that we're actively out there watching for them.

SARHADDI NELSON: In another part of Nerkh, newly hired Afghan Guardians are also on the watch for the Taliban. They are loyal to Tor Gol, a revered former mujahedeen commander who fought against the Soviets when they occupied Afghanistan.

SARHADDI NELSON: But Tor Gol says the attack won't stop him from being a Guardian.

TOR GOL: (Through Translator) Our foreign guests are here working on our behalf, so why shouldn't we? We should be on the front lines, not them. This is our area.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUDENT CHATTER)

SARHADDI NELSON: Yet students and teachers at a girls school in Tor Gol's valley balk at having a Guardian checkpoint put near their school.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEACHER AND STUDENT CHATTER)

SARHADDI NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, in Nerkh, Afghanistan.

INSKEEP: You can find photos of U.S. troops and Afghan police working to gain the confidence of Afghans by going to npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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