Kamu village, a short 15 minute hike from Combat Outpost Lowell’s front gate, is the extent of Afghan government and NATO influence in the mountainous Nuristan Province in northeast Afghanistan. Its residents have paid a price for their support.
Kamu’s businessmen have been awarded contracts that range from laundry service to donkey rental. Its residents have grown wealthier than other villages up valley. This has bred resentment and reprisals aimed at Kamu. Villages upriver have cut off some of Kamu’s water supply. At a Taliban-manned checkpoint, only a couple of miles from Kamu, the insurgents actively look for anyone who is working with the Americans at COP Lowell.
Through all of this, Kamu has not broken off its business arrangement with the neighboring Americans. The 6/4 Cav Scouts at Lowell say they would like to do business with other villages further up the valley, but they do not have the manpower to extend their influence and protection much beyond their outpost. They can, however, protect Kamu.
Recently, we accompanied Apache Troop scouts, a few Afghan national Army soldiers and their Latvian mentors on a mission to Kamu. While the officers attended a shura, or meeting of elders, a U.S. Army doctor and a Latvian nurse set up a makeshift clinic. Nuristanis will not allow a male doctor to touch a female so the addition of the Latvian nurse was big news in Kamu. Many mothers and their daughters, for the first time, lined up to take advantage of the clinic.
Word of this will surely spread up-valley and U.S. soldiers hope that unfriendly villages will gradually be won over as Kamu was.