PAKTIKA, Afghanistan – They begin lining up even before the doors of the medical clinic open. Every day, dozens of Afghans from surrounding villages come seeking medical help at Camp Tillman in southeastern Afghanistan.
Often their ailments are not life threatening and can be easily treated with Tylenol or anti-diarrhea medicine. But without a local doctor around, simple medical problems can easily turn into life-threatening illnesses.
Sometimes, though, it's advice, not medicine, that is passed out.
"I have had to explain to several Afghan men what a shower is and how its works," said U.S Army Captain Thomas Strain, 509 Baker Company's Physician Assistant who oversees the clinic.
The area surrounding Camp Tillman is as poor as it is rugged. In Eastern Paktika Province there is no school, running water is non-existent, and a two-mile drive can take nearly 45 minutes because the dirt roads are really just dry riverbeds.
So simple medicine and health advice are potential lifesavers.
In the past eight years, the U.S. military has tried to win the hearts and minds of Afghans with hundreds of infrastructure projects and outreach programs, and billions of dollars in international aid has been doled out.
The Obama administration has pledged to send more in the way of agricultural specialists, educators, engineers and lawyers to help the war-torn country "advance security, opportunity and justice."
The idea is to get Afghanistan to become self-sufficient and become less dependent on international partners in coming years.
President Hamid Karzai, meeting with U.S. leaders this week, welcomed the move, saying it will "add to Afghan capacity building."
The idea of "capacity building" is a hot topic in Kabul's cafes and conference rooms. The international community, along with the U.S. military, is increasingly trying to train Afghans not only to take a more active role in all aspects of development, but to train Afghans in internationally accepted standards and practices.
Just how quickly this "capacity" is developed may determine how long U.S troops patrol areas like East Paktika and provide medical assistance to its villagers.
The problems facing the region mirror the problems facing Afghanistan as a whole. Infrastructure is poor, the government is weak at every level, security organizations are ineffective and poorly equipped, and there is an acute shortage of local professionals.
These problems have led the military to take an active leading role in just about every aspect of development.
"The idea was to win the hearts and minds of a people," explained one solider. "Whatever the local village elders asked for, we tried to provide it."
If a village needed a well, they dug it. If they needed a school, the U.S. military built it.
"We've dug enough wells in Afghanistan to irrigate the entire region," one soldier said sarcastically.
But this approach to development has left Afghanistan's leaders ill-prepared to assume responsibility for running their war-torn nation. And military commanders are now beginning to re-think how they approach their jobs.
"If we keep doing what we've been doing, we will all be back here in five years doing the same thing," said Lt Col Peter Minalga, the Battalion Commander.
Military officials say now that instead of building a school that the village elders requested, they are trying to facilitate the project. This still means providing the funding, but instead of just paying locals to build it, they are trying to enable local companies to design, procure materials and build the structure. Military engineers are there to assist, not direct.
This approach is being replicated in training the Afghan National Army (ANA). U.S and Afghan troops regularly conduct joint patrols, but instead of American soldiers always organizing the missions, increasingly Afghan commanders are the planners and leaders. and U.S. troops there to assist, not direct.
U.S. military commanders say the ANA is improving and the troops are capable fighters, but they are often ill-equipped.
During one joint patrol in Eastern Paktika to fix the barbed wire border fence, U.S troops were forced to do most of the manual labor because the Afghan soldiers had not been issued work gloves. Still, instead of just allowing the Afghan troops to sit and watch, they were ordered to spread out and set up a security perimeter. The idea being that everyone is here to work.
The same holds true at Camp Tillman, where U.S. Army medics try to get locals to take greater responsibility for their health. And like so many in things in Afghanistan, it's not always easy.
"Every day here is Monday," joked one of the Army medical assistants.