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Six weeks ago no one in Ghazni province had ever heard of Lt. Col. Dave Paschal.

Today he's a local hero, and everywhere he goes people recognize him.

He has a weekly talk show on Ghazni television, with the local governor.

He chats to kids, shakes hands and gives out lollipops.

This is the unlikely face of the U.S. army as they battle to counter a guerilla enemy in Afghanistan.

"To defeat the insurgency we have to separate the guerillas from the people," says Paschal.

This is how many American soldiers are fighting the war in Afghanistan today. They are infantry troops, trained for combat, but they've become peacekeepers, humanitarian workers and ambassadors for their country.

Part of the Army's new strategy is for soldiers like Lt. Ray Canzonier to live amongst the community in small bases so they can build relationships with the local people. One village elder even carries a note from Ray in his pocket and calls him his long-time friend.

That's because Canzonier listens to his problems. And since he moved in, the village has been visited by doctors, vets and election officials, to name a few.

"We're trying to give the government some help - the Afghan government some help getting off the ground and we're doing things that government's have to do," says Canzonier.

Paschal says their presence here has brought the locals a sense of security and brought the U.S. better intelligence.

"Since we've been here we've destroyed over 200 metric tons of arms and ammunition," says Paschal. "We would not have found that by ourselves."

But those hidden weapons are a reminder that the terrorist threat is ever present, even here.

Paschal and his men are mindful of the risk. They believe new schools, clinics and a higher standard of living for the local people are their best weapons.
  • Jaime Holguin

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