The Army's $10M Afghan Flop

Afghans' Confidence in the U.S. Is Dropping

In a February ABC News/ARD/BBC News poll, 40 percent of Afghans said their country was headed in the right direction. Just four years ago, that number was nearly double: 77 percent.

Development in Afghanistan was "put on hold with the Iraq war," Torelli says. "Afghanistan has always been an economy of force country. So what you've seen is the patience running out in regard to the Afghans."

The less patience, the less information the local population gives to the U.S., and therefore the less the U.S. is able to fight an insurgency that is embedded in the population.

"Us and the Taliban, it' like a dog chasing his tail," Torelli says. He calls Zabul a province "adrift."

So the U.S. is now trying to change how it develops this country. Instead of buildings and roads, Torelli says, the U.S. is focusing on creating capacity: to govern, maintain, and educate, so "the Afghans can take care of themselves."

On a recent Sunday, Torelli and a group from the Provincial Reconstruction Team took an ABC News reporter and cameraman for a walk through the center of Qalat's main business district.

Sgt. Brian Chapman, a member of the Illinois National Guard, leads the team through hundreds of one story, 10-foot wide shops. He has helped start a chamber of commerce for the shop owners in town, an effort that Torelli says has significantly improved the relationship between the U.S. and the town's leading residents.

Chapman stops at two shops and asks how the owners' families are doing. They complain about the prices of electricity and accuse a local government official of corruption. Chapman urges the man to walk to the U.S. base and hand over written evidence. He agrees.

The chamber of commerce, he says, has begun to run in earnest, and the shop owners are starting to make communal decisions.

"If they like us, they'll talk to us, they'll let us know what's going on," Chapman says as he walks through the market. He was trained to provide security for the Provincial Reconstruction Team's base, but hasn't fired a single shot since he arrived. "We find out from the people what they want, and that's what we're trying to do -- give what the people want."

What they want includes some buildings, including a new hospital to replace the crumbling one in New Qalat City, as well as more schools.

So some of the largest projects are designed to respond directly to that: a boy's dorm to attract students from areas outside Qalat that are less safe; classrooms for girls currently studying in tents; and a new clinic.

But even at the clinic, Torelli is committed to keeping things simple. He has refused to install the most modern machines, arguing locals have no ability or money to maintain them. Nor do they have much use for them, since most of the best trained doctors have left Zabul for larger, richer provinces.

"Even if I had a billion dollars, I couldn't go out and spend it because of a lack of resources," he says.

And most of the Provincial Reconstruction Team's focus is not on those structures but on building capacity, especially within the young government.

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