At the Fort Polk military base in the pine forests of central Louisiana, the Army has created a miniature version of Afghanistan — with mock villages and American soldiers working alongside Afghan role-players.
This is the training ground for a new American approach in Afghanistan as the U.S. begins to look ahead to the goal of bringing home the U.S. forces by the end of 2014. The idea is that Afghan forces have to be good enough to defend their country against the Taliban, and to make that happen, the U.S. Army is creating small U.S. training teams at Fort Polk.
American officers and Afghan role-players gather in a village cafe. They're seated around a long table, with Afghan flags hanging on the walls. Tea is served.
This kind of shura, or meeting, is common in Afghanistan. And when Americans attend, they often lead the discussion.