Reflecting on hearts and minds, it seems many people in Afghanistan are stuck. Do they really support the Taliban? Probably not. But if you live in a mud hut with no job and no prospect for the future and someone comes along and offers you a place to stay, food, or money in return for a "job" -- even if it's for something you're not wholeheartedly enthusiastic about -- what are you going to do? You're going to sign up. Especially if you risk death by failing to do so.
Desperate people use different calculations to make decisions than people who have their basic needs met; sometimes doing business with the devil is the only way to survive.
The universal sign of a school in Afghanistan is chairs and desks on the roof. What few schools exist, are so crowded that the desks take up valuable space that could be used to cram in more students. And because there is no trash removal, they can't get rid of the desks, so they put them on the roof to get them out of the way. This school -- with the support of Dave and his group -- now teaches 3,800 students, including over 1,000 girls in three shifts.
Not far from the school is the former house of Osama bin Laden, where he lived before he fled into the mountains of Tora Bora. It is not safe to stop there, but we drive by it, and look through the crumbling walls. It is obvious a missile once targeted the structure.
Sak village is inhabited by nomads, and they are cut off from the rest of Jalalabad by the Kabul River. The only way around is a several hour donkey ride downstream to the nearest bridge, or the way we chose to cross: by water. We get to the village on little rafts built of sticks laid over three partially inflated inner tubes, paddled by an 8-year-old boy using a shovel.
The village consists of a few mud huts. The children have unique appearances. Some have blond hair and blue eyes. Their faces, dirty and stark, are haunting. It was a fascinating look into a centuries-old culture. Dave had promised to bring paper and pens for the children, and as they are handed out, the kids grab them -- not rudely, but just so excited to have something that for them is a real luxury, so prized.
Dave explains his philosophy about the U.S. mission in the country to correspondent Martha Raddatz: "The system is broken and that's why we need to get people out and about into the villages to see with their eyes to meet the people and ask them what do they need."
Martha: "The problem is the people [U.S. forces] are not going out enough? Living behind the wire?"
Dave (pondering diplomatic language): "The current system does not promote that behavior."
One of Dave's security men, who has worked in the country more than four years, is more blunt, arguing that overly restrictive security rules prevent American personnel from carrying out their missions.