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Marines in Afghanistan hear a plea: Don't leave too soon

Others in Helmand would like them to leave immediately. And frustrating to most involved, the work of U.S. forces to instill a sense of security and confidence in the government is going slowly.

November 23, 2009|By Tony Perry

First Lt. Mike Kuiper, trained as an infantry officer, is teaching Afghan boys some rudimentary English. A small group appears at the gate of Cherokee each afternoon, shouting, "Mike, Mike!" Boxes of school supplies have been sent by two groups in the U.S.: the Spirit of America and Friends of Afghan School Children in Rockville, Md. "Even if we pull out, and things go to hell," Kuiper said, "they'll remember this interaction the rest of their lives, that the Americans loved us and taught us and tried to make this country better."

At his meeting with the Marines, Khan was assured that not only the Marines but the American people want to see Afghanistan defeat the Taliban and improve its standard of living.

Khan hopes this is the case. He knows that success will not be quick or cheap. During the guerrilla campaign against the Russians, he risked his life to serve as a logistics master, making sure CIA-supplied weapons got to fighters hidden in the hills and cornfields, waiting to kill Russian soldiers.

"For 30 years, all we have known in Afghanistan is war and killing," Khan said. "My generation is scrambled. We're trying for the next generation to know something better.

"We want to get rid of the tragedy of 30 years. We believe in the United States. We want the United States as a friend."

tony.perry@latimes.com

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