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Jan 6

Written by: Diana West
Wednesday, January 06, 2010 4:18 AM 

The picture of the day (century) is of Lt. Col. William F. McCollough, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, at a "lunch party" on December 8, 2009 in southern Helmand Province. 

“When in doubt, I want you to be nice,” he tells his Marines.

The picture says it all, but the "success" story of "public relations" and "community building" (and canal repairs and school construction...) is here.

One analyst called the Marines’ efforts in the southern Helmand province a “petri dish” for the top U.S. commander, Gen. Stanley MChrystal..

“He’s looking at this for proof of concept,” said Jeffrey Dressler, a researcher at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C.

And while McCollough says he thinks the public-relations and community-building efforts of his Marines were working, the question remains whether the new Afghan government will take root by mid- 2011, when American troops are expected to pull out. If not, the Taliban are likely to return.

“I know this district, and I know the surrounding districts. Do I believe that will be achievable in those districts? Yes. It was a sea change there in a relatively short period of time,” said McCollough, a 40-year-old from Minnesota’s north woods who added that he thinks most of Nawa’s residents ended up being happy that the Marines had arrived.

But, he acknowledged, “It’s fragile.”

Earth to LTC McCollough: Three-plus decades of massive American projects and investment in Afghanistan were "fragile," too.


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