Afghanistan's security bubble

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A 20-year-old soldier with 3rd Platoon, Comanche Company 1st of the 501st. Parachute Infantry Regiment out of Fort Richardson Alaska takes a rest after climbing to the top of a mountain with 80 pounds of equipment and ammunition on his back. He was part of a four-day mission with members of the Afghan National Army in the mountains that overlook the border with Pakistan. The purpose of the mission was to survey the area for possible insurgency activity as well as to search surrounding villages for possible weapons caches. Throughout the mission, many soldiers complaint that their Afghan counterparts failed to bring enough water or food provisions to last them the entire mission. On the second day, Afghan soldiers began to ask their American counterparts for water and food. Along the same lines, the Afghan soldiers carried a lighter load and thus were able to move through the mountains with more ease. Jokes between the men were exchanged - some followed by laughter, but others created unnecessary tension between young men, lowering morale across the ranks between men who are forced to work together towards a goal that is often not shared by both sides. Such tensions can easily escalate to what has been coined a "green-on-blue" attack (were an Afghan soldier fires on a coalition soldier). Such events have become increasingly common - 51 such incidents were reported in 2012 alone. Of course, these dynamics vary from unit to unit and from other regions of the country. Some Afghan Army units are very well respected by their NATO counterparts because of their experience, courage and competence and often lead the fight against the insurgents. ©Javier Manzano