TALOQAN, Afghanistan – The Northern Alliance soldier looked up from his walkie-talkie, glared at the visiting reporter, and quickly mumbled something to his commanding officer.
"How dare you invite these non-believers to sit with us," he said, according to a translator. "They don't belong here. I'd rather break bread with the enemy than with them."
A brief but tense exchange between the two men followed. The commander reminded the soldier of his lesser rank before inviting him to leave the underground bunker, and join the arms of Taliban forces across a nearby hillside, if he so desired.
The soldier remained but avoided all attempts at conversation for the rest of the night. He spent most of the time by himself, chatting up his Taliban counterparts on the radio.
The incident was an isolated one. But it demonstrated that while most in the Northern Alliance now view the United States as a vital ally in the war against the Taliban, a few commanders and soldiers here still view the Americans with distrust and suspicion.
Alliance leaders are aware of the problem and believe they can control it. Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said in an interview with Fox News last week his group was making more of an effort to rein in the so-called "irregular" commanders, some of whom keep disturbingly close ties with the Taliban.
There isn't much anti-U.S. sentiment among the frontline Alliance troops. But there's no question it still exists, particularly among those who have come to resent the constant and sometimes intruding presence of U.S. and other Western reporters among the Alliance ranks.
"I fought the Russians to get a superpower out of Afghanistan, and I don't want that to happen again," grunted one commander who insisted he not be named. "We don't want you here, and you should leave."
Anti-U.S. commanders generally act out by refusing to speak to reporters or ignoring the written permissions required by the foreign ministry here to visit the front lines. Some reporters have been forced to wait hours for interviews with reluctant commanders, only to have them canceled for no reason.
The clear majority of Alliance commanders and soldiers, however, say they want more rather than less contact with Americans. They consistently ask reporters for more information about U.S. military action in Afghanistan, and ask when they might be able to cooperate more directly in those actions.
"It's true that not everyone appreciates the idea of the Americans being here," one non-commissioned Alliance officer said. "They take it as a sign that we can't handle the Taliban by ourselves. We can't, of course, but that's not something they really want to admit."