Angry anti-U.S. protests broke out Friday in Kabul, the capital, after a vehicle driven by American contractors with DynCorp International was involved in a traffic accident that killed at least four Afghans, police said.
In the north, the Americans are sometimes welcomed, but with a distinct undercurrent that the people believe the fight could go either way.
A week ago, troops based in Kunduz went on patrol in the district of Aliabad, fanning out in a village they were visiting for the first time. Trailed by a gaggle of giggling children, they spent two hours walking dusty lanes, meeting with the most important village elder, asking residents what kind of help they needed: wells dug, or seed for crops.
But the Afghan commander of a police checkpoint at the village's entrance sounded a note of caution.
"The Taliban are right over there, just across the river," he said pointing with his chin toward a line of trees a few hundred yards away.
"We are five police in this checkpoint, and they are 50. They have enough munitions, but we do not. And if they want to come, they will."