A platoon from the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment based at Forward Operating Base Zangabad, Afghanistan, led a patrol into a village near the base on March 1, 2013. Situated in rural Panjwai District in southern Afghanistan, the area is often referred to as the “birthplace of the Taliban.” On this day, however, the patrol encountered only friendly faces.

“Us coming here is really just to interact with the locals,” said platoon leader 1st Lt. Thomas Stanley. “And with the Afghan police in the lead, that’s a real plus for them.”

Soldiers used the patrol to gather information about the previously unvisited village and its residents. Afghan police searched houses while American troops questioned residents, gathered the fingerprints and other biometric information from every adult male they could find. Psychological Operations soldiers, meanwhile, handed out hand-crank radios and leaflets with images of Taliban leaders captured in women’s clothing, as well as information about how to contact the local police.

The demands of other operations in the area limited the number of Afghan Civil Order Police to four officers, who are greatly outnumbered by American soldiers, but Stanley insists it makes a difference. Police - in contrast to the Afghan National Army - are ideal for this kind of operation, he said, because they are better at searching houses and clearing villages than the more combat-oriented military. Twitter: @joshjonsmith

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