They begin lining up even before the doors of the medical clinic open. Every day, dozens of Afghans from surrounding villages come seeking medical help at Camp Tillman in southeastern Afghanistan.
Often their ailments are not life threatening and can be easily treated with Tylenol or anti-diarrhea medicine. But without a local doctor around, simple medical problems can easily turn into life-threatening illnesses. . . .
In the past eight years, the U.S. military has tried to win the hearts and minds of Afghans with hundreds of infrastructure projects and outreach programs, and billions of dollars in international aid has been doled out.
The Obama administration has pledged to send more in the way of agricultural specialists, educators, engineers and lawyers to help the war-torn country "advance security, opportunity and justice."
"The idea was to win the hearts and minds of a people," explained one soldier. "Whatever the local village elders asked for, we tried to provide it."
If a village needed a well, they dug it. If they needed a school, the U.S. military built it.
But this approach to development has left Afghanistan's leaders ill-prepared to assume responsibility for running their war-torn nation. And military commanders are now beginning to re-think how they approach their jobs.
"If we keep doing what we've been doing, we will all be back here in five years doing the same thing," said Lt Col Peter Minalga, the Battalion Commander.
Military officials say now that instead of building a school that the village elders requested, they are trying to facilitate the project. This still means providing the funding, but instead of just paying locals to build it, they are trying to enable local companies to design, procure materials and build the structure. Military engineers are there to assist, not direct.
This approach is being replicated in training the Afghan National Army (ANA). U.S and Afghan troops regularly conduct joint patrols, but instead of American soldiers always organizing the missions, increasingly Afghan commanders are the planners and leaders. and U.S. troops there to assist, not direct.