When half-dozen Taliban militants stormed the Intercontinental Hotel here last June in a bloody overnight siege, a photograph of a team of NATO special operations soldiers, their hands and clothes still bloody as they strode confidently away from the combat zone, became the iconic photograph of the battle.
On Sunday, after yet another drawn-out street battle with Taliban militants, this one in downtown Kabul, a similarly emblematic image was taken of a confident, rugged, and blood-strewn commando emerging from a hazy battleground. Only this time something was different: the hero was Afghan.
For days after the fighting, Afghans in Kabul appeared to bask in the glory of one of their own taking the spotlight; they changed their Facebook profile pictures to that of the unknown commando and printed thousands of flyers to post around the city.
It's the sort of shift -- in both tactical capability and public perception -- that Afghans seem ready to embrace, and American officials eager to see. CONTINUE . . . . .