Nightly News | September 26, 2010
LESTER HOLT, anchor: A critical moment tonight in the Middle East peace talks. Israel's 10-month freeze on construction in the West Bank has ended. Some settlers celebrated by breaking ground for a new school . Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for restraint. Palestinian officials threatened to walk away from the peace talks over the settlement issue.
LESTER HOLT, anchor: As we concentrate tonight on education, we turn to a school on the front lines of a battle far from home in Afghanistan . It's in Kandahar , a region where, tonight, American and Afghan troops have begun the active combat phase of the push to drive out the Taliban . The school 's survival has become a very personal mission for one American commander. We get the story tonight from NBC 's Jim Maceda .
JIM MACEDA reporting: Alpha Company Commander Nick Stout spends a lot of time looking out at a parched, mud-walled town of 8,000, knowing that, sooner or later, his men will have to clear Senjaray of some of the toughest Taliban fighters...
Unidentified Soldier #1: The west side of the canal.
MACEDA: ...who now surround them.
Unidentified Soldier #2: They're still shooting at us.
Captain NICK STOUT: We've had several grenade attacks in there. We had people shooting from rooftops.
MACEDA: Stout 's vantage point and top priority is the Pir Muhammad School . To better defend this strategic building on the main road to Kandahar City , Alpha Company 's turned it into a combat outpost. But for the Michigan native with a degree in journalism, it's also personal. Denying the Taliban the Pir Muhammad School could secure a child's chance at an education.
Capt. STOUT: It's about being a human being, and that's really what we're trying to do out here.
MACEDA: Now the school 's windows are lined with sandbags. Exhausted troopers have replaced its students, and its black boards keep track of ammunition. The Pir Muhammad School 's foundation stone was laid almost eight years ago with US cash and lots of hope for the future. Three years later Canadian forces opened the school , and two years after that the Taliban shut it down. Today this school is a front line , and Taliban snipers are positioned behind those trees less than 100 yards beyond the perimeter wall, ready to pounce when Captain Stout 's men venture beyond the school . But Stout is optimistic. A veteran of the surge in Baghdad , he's seen war zones become school zones before. He's determined to clear and hold Pir Muhammad so kids can be back in class this fall.
Capt. STOUT: This is why we fought through the times that we did to make this thing a success. And the bottom line is that we've all bled for this place.
MACEDA: He's even keeping one room filled with tables and bookbags just waiting for the children and the day a dream school comes true. Jim Maceda, NBC News, Kandahar.