Northwest of Kandahar city, a patrol of American and Afghan commandos slowly moves out of their mud-walled compound and toward Ezabad, a village just a football-field away and right in the middle of Taliban country.
It's midmorning and already scorching over 100 degrees of desert heat.
The Green Berets are part of this year's major military operation in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province. Their mission is a long, slow effort to convince Afghans to side with their government and not the Taliban.
Everybody else is starting to realize how to fight the war the right way, focused on the population. Because without these people here, we're no good.
Eli, a 32-year-old Green Beret officer from Idaho, is leading this patrol. For security reasons, only his first name can be used.
A Matt Damon look-alike, Eli wears a floppy camouflage hat and has six tours of duty in Afghanistan under his belt. During many of those tours, Eli says, the Americans weren't fighting the war the right way. Too much focus was on killing the Taliban, he says, and not enough on protecting the people.
"Everybody else is starting to realize how to fight the war the right way, focused on the population. Because without these people here, we're no good," Eli says.
That means providing security to villages like Ezabad and following up by building and restoring schools and clinics, much of it paid for with American money but funneled through the Afghans.
"That way it shows that it's going through the government, not just us coming up here and saying we'll repair your mosque and this, this and this," Eli says.
The problem is that there is no Afghan government in Ezabad. And without that, the Americans say, the war can't be won.