Winning hearts and minds with raisins and prayer rugs

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 22, 2009 

KOLK, Afghanistan — More than 200 Afghans waited in line for several hours, enduring a harsh, cool wind and blowing sand.

They were anxious to turn in their vouchers for free food as part of the Canadian Army's Provincial Restructuring Program, run in concert with the Afghan National Police. The 50-pound bags of supplies included about five pounds each of rice and sugar, raisins, tea, two prayer rugs and a prayer scarf.

The small bazaar in front of the Forward Operating Base Wilson about 25 miles west of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, was the staging area. Widows and smaller children lined up on one side; men across the courtyard on the other. Some left empty-handed because demand outstripped supply today.

The program is part of the U.S.-led international coalition's "hearts and minds" approach to restoring order in Afghanistan, and troops from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C. are training and mentoring members of the national police as part of the effort. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y. and other U.S. units are also working to improve the professionalism of the notoriously corrupt ANP.

Liddy is a photographer for the (Raleigh) News & Observer.


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