Neil Shea examines a hurdle in US efforts to leave Afghanistan – reconfiguring the locals' mindset:
The elders have stopped talking. They listen to a soldier explain to them for the third or fourth time how the new system is supposed to work. "You can’t come ask us to build you a madrassa or a clinic or a well anymore," the soldier says. "You have to go to your own government."
It is the language of leaving, of withdrawal. But it doesn’t work. No matter how many times the soldier says it, the elders pause and then repeat a list of things they want. A madrassa, a clinic, a well. The soldiers can do nothing; the message does not sink in. They say it again anyway, because that’s what they must do. No, you can’t come to us … and the cycle is old and new, beginning and ending.
(Photo: An Afghanistan National Police official is directed by an Afghan police officer during a training exercise at a police academy outside Herat on December 25, 2012. The cadets have to complete an eight-week course before graduating. Until now the training has been done by Afghan and forces from NATO's ISAF coalition but now it is run by Afghan personnel alone. By Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images)