Video: U.S. aims for hearts and minds in Kandahar

  1. Transcript of: U.S. aims for hearts and minds in Kandahar

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: There is a massive military operation going on right now in Kandahar . Driving the Taliban out is key to the Obama administration's plan to turn the tide in the war this year. Win that city and -- the idea goes -- the rest of the country will follow, but the approach is different than you might expect, as NBC 's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel reports.

    RICHARD ENGEL reporting: Dusty, hard line and poor, Kandahar is a Taliban city. Car bombings, assassinations and organized crime are the norm here. But almost no one informs on the Taliban .

    Brigadier General BEN HODGES (United States Army): The government's not really in charge. That's -- I think that's what we're going to be dealing with.

    ENGEL: To secure Kandahar , the US military is using a two-pronged approach: an iron fist in the city's rural outskirts like Argandab , where we saw the 82nd Airborne in action last weekend.

    Unidentified Man #1: Get some ammo!

    ENGEL: But in downtown Kandahar , a very different tactic. The military won't even use the word "offensive" to describe the mission here.

    Brig. Gen. HODGES: Makes people think about artillery, barbed wire, night raids, kicking in doors, that sort of thing. And that's not what we're wanting to do.

    ENGEL: Instead, soldiers like 23-year-old Lisa Earnst patrol Kandahar , armed with a rifle, a smile and a clipboard. Her job this week: polling Afghans on what they want the government to do.

    Ms. LISA EARNST: Who does he think can solve their problems for the security?

    Unidentified Man #2:

    ENGEL: The responses were cold. At a bakery, men tell Earnst security was better when the Taliban were in power. In an antique shop next door, men said they want the Afghan government to end the lawlessness here, but claim it's corrupt. Earnst isn't discouraged. Winning over Afghans, she says, will take time.

    Ms. EARNST: If we show the people, you know, of Afghanistan that we're actually here to help them and we're not like trying to take over their country, then they're able to cooperate better with us.

    ENGEL: But will the soft tactic deter the Taliban ? As Earnst and her soldiers collect opinions, a bomb explodes a few hundred yards away. Earnst and soldiers arrive on the scene. This appears to have been an assassination, a car bomb used to kill a local government official. The victim was the district chief of Argandab , one of Kandahar 's most violent suburbs. The official was killed by the Taliban because he cooperated with American forces . Soldiers tell us they've seen it before.

    Sergeant BRADLEY SWOPE (United States Army): I think they can -- try to use it as a scare tactic because if you can't keep the high-ranking personnel safe, and it kind of makes the people think, `How did the -- how are they going to protect us?'

    ENGEL: The people of Kandahar have yet to decide whether to support the US military and the Afghan government or the Taliban . Richard Engel , NBC News ,

updated 6/18/2010 8:49:30 PM ET 2010-06-19T00:49:30

Five NATO troops including three Americans died in fighting Friday in Afghanistan, raising to 34 the number of U.S. troops killed in the war so far this month.

NATO said Friday that two Americans died in an insurgent attack and another died in a roadside bomb explosion, but did not provide further details. The U.S. command confirmed their nationalities but did not specify where they died.

In London, the British Defense Ministry said one of its soldiers was killed by in an explosion in Helmand province.

NATO said a fifth soldier was killed in eastern Afghanistan, but did not give the nationality.

June is shaping up to be one of the deadliest months for U.S. troops in the nearly 9-year-old Afghan war, as insurgents have stepped up attacks in response to a NATO push into Taliban strongholds in the south. The deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan was October 2009, when 59 Americans died.

In all, some 52 international troops have been killed in the country so far this month. The deadliest month of the war for international forces was in July 2009 when 75 troops, including 44 Americans, were killed. 

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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