HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Marine Capt. Scott Cuomo of Fox company, 2nd battalion, 2nd Marine regiment, must have felt very confident. How else to explain his climbing into an armorless Afghan army truck -- a coffin on four wheels -- next to Haji Abdullah Jan, the Afghan district governor, with only a few Afghan army soldiers for protection, to speed down empty dirt roads almost certainly mined by the Taliban?
But Cuomo's confidence is not misplaced. The men make it safely to their destination: a destroyed compound beside which the barren, twisted remains of three dead trees point grotesquely to the sky. The district governor, clearly moved, walks to the building. It is his house, which he is visiting for the first time in four years because of the war. Cuomo grins excitedly. The governor is home.
"This is a big success," Cuomo says. "It may be harder to quantify than counting the number of bad guys we have killed, but it is success."