The effort to win the "hearts and minds" of village elders in the Korengal Valley of Kunar Province in Afghanistan has proved to be a dangerous one for U.S. troops, with elders often suspected of tipping Taliban fighters to the soldiers' schedule and whereabouts.
The video to be broadcast tonight on ABC News' "World News With Charles Gibson" and "Nightline" was shot by "Vanity Fair" contributing editor Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington embedded with the 2nd Platoon, Battle (B) company of the 173rd Airborne on a joint assignment for ABC News and "Vanity Fair" magazine.
Six soldiers from another 173rd Airborne company, C Company, 1st Platoon, were killed in an ambush over the weekend in Afghanistan as they returned from a Shura, a meeting, with village elders.
The new video shows the men of the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company twice walking into traps after leaving meetings with village elders, one called to discuss details of a U.S.-financed water pipe project.
"We went from being the hunters to the hunted," said photographer Tim Hetherington who was with the troops when they were attacked last month.
Three U.S. soldiers were killed and six others wounded in the October ambush. A medic was killed in July as the platoon left a similar meeting with village elders.
The video also shows a contentious showdown between U.S. commanders and village elders, who deny hiding Taliban fighters.
"Are you calling me a liar that I got shot at last night?" Lt. Matt Piosa, the 2nd Platoon leader, shouts at the elders.
In the five and a half months the 173rd Airborne has been in Afghanistan, it has been involved in an estimated 450 enemy engagements, commanders say.
Many of our readers tell us they want to send their wishes to the soldiers of the 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne. As the forward unit in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, they are being profiled for a special project appearing in "Vanity Fair" and on ABC News.
Letters can be addressed to:
2nd Platoon, Battle Company, 2-503rd PIRc/o SFC PattersonKorengal OutpostAPO, AE 09354
This post has been updated.