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In a remote corner of Afghanistan, winning hearts and minds is proving difficult.
One of the senior officers with the local Afghan Army battalion says the Taliban has control over 30 percent of the population in his area of operations. The police in the area have no vehicles, so they can’t help. The Americans haven’t been to the town for a month. The Afghan army can’t go without the Americans.
Glasenapp says the elders need to stand up to the Taliban and side with the Afghan government, even though there’s basically no way to protect them, or guarantee their safety, if they make a stand.
“They need to do it themselves, and push Taliban out of those villages,” he said.
“We, and the [Afghan army] and [Afghan police] can’t be everywhere,” he said. “We can’t do it. So yes, it’s a lot to ask, but if they want future to look bright in my eyes, then they need to stand up to these guys. It’s asking a lot, but I can’t have guys out here every day.”
“A lot of it falls on them to be strong enough, if willing, to see that the government is the right way to go,” he added.
Many more troops, whether they be Afghan or American, are still needed to provide security before that happens.
Lutsky says many locals are hedging their bets. He says it’s not unusual for some Afghan families’ to have members who are part of the government, and others who work with the Taliban.
Bravo troop was hedging its bets as well the week after the ambush. In his headquarters, Glasenapp talked about working with local leaders and bringing Afghan government presence to the district. A hundred feet away, his soldiers practiced ambush drills in the base’s helicopter landing zone. It’s preparation they will almost certainly need in the months ahead.