Nightly News   |  October 28, 2009

Healing bodies in hopes of changing minds

Oct. 28: At a medical clinic jointly run by U.S. Special Forces and Afghan commandos, doctors treat patients from the local villages, a gesture they hope will result in winning their loyalty in the fight against the Taliban. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

Share This:

This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Bagram Air Force Base): We are back here in Bagram , but we are also just back from our overnight trip with US Special Forces who are training Afghan commandoes in the eastern part of Afghanistan . We saw something new on this return visit. You've heard over and over the use of that controversial Vietnam-era expression, winning the hearts and minds. Well, had about -- how about when you add health to that equation?

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)...

WILLIAMS: At the camp where American Special Forces train new Afghan commandoes they used to receive incoming fire -- rockets and mortars, mostly -- but not anymore, and here is why the commander thinks the attacks have stopped. It's not much, but it's more than they've ever had. It's a medical clinic for the people in this area, basic services in a region with none at all.

Unidentified Man #2: He going to get, next door, his medicine.

WILLIAMS: Checkups, blood pressure and pulse, a dentist checking and fixing teeth. One elderly Afghan man showed up here this morning having traveled a great distance just to visit the clinic.

Offscreen Voice: He's from far north , on the border with China .

WILLIAMS: We had met Colonel Almardi the last time we visited this camp. He's Afghan military , trained in the US. He told us today the locals have now caught on to the fact that American money is paying for more humanitarian aid . In fact, it's in the playbook of the American general in charge, Stanley McChrystal , who wrote, "Strong personal relationships forged between security forces and local population are key to success." To the locals, it just means doctors, and upwards of 100 people a day are showing up here.

Colonel ALMARDI: So the people have sensed -- really realized that they are the center of gravity. So these children, the women, the men, elders, a lot of people every day, they get treatment here.

WILLIAMS: Make no mistake, the business of this camp is US Special Forces training Afghans to fight. The fact that they are also healing the sick is something brand-new. Another small slice of this war.