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EXCLUSIVE: Cheryl Jennings interview with NATO general in Afghanistan

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ABC7 News anchor Cheryl Jennings traveled to Afghanistan with a nonprofit and spoke with the U.S. general in charge of the NATO mission in Afghanistan on the nation's progress.

The American general in charge of the NATO mission in Afghanistan testified before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday about the progress on security issues there.

Four-star General John F. Campbell says he needs flexibility in keeping a number of forces in Afghanistan because the hard work so far is working to protect America.

"Over 13 years have passed since the 9/11 attacks," he said. "We haven't forgotten why we first to Afghanistan. And why we remain. Since 2001, the extraordinary efforts and courage of our forces have ensured that another terrorist attack originating from Afghanistan and directed at U.S. homeland has not occurred."

ABC7 News anchor Cheryl Jennings recently traveled to Afghanistan with the Bay Area nonprofit Roots of Peace, which is working with farmers there. Jennings had an exclusive interview with Campbell in her first story in a series on Afghanistan.

PHOTOS: Cheryl Jennings' mission to Afghanistan with Roots of Peace


"I probably wouldn't have said this a couple of years ago, but I'm excited about the future of Afghanistan," Campbell said. "They have a government that is about the people that really understands a big vision for Afghanistan."

That big vision for Afghanistan comes from newly-elected president Ashraf Ghani who recently met with Roots of Peace founders and Jennings in the presidential palace. His main focus is developing the agricultural economy.

Security is equally important. Campbell is leading the new NATO transition Mission in Afghanistan, with coalition forces because U.S. troops are leaving. Campbell is fighting hard to build an effective security force to protect its own people.

"This last fighting season, they were almost all on their own," Campbell said. "They had the lead and they were quite proud of that."

The goal is to continue training, assisting and advising Afghan security forces and when their lives are lost, their memories are honored at the base, along with American soldiers and the other international forces.

"You saw we had a member of the Afghan force out there and he thanked the coalition, something you didn't hear a lot with under President Karzai," he added. "But underneath this new national unity government, they've embraced the international community."

Campbell knows the importance of improving the economy as well and has followed the work of Roots of Peace in Afghanistan on agricultural development. He met with the founder Heidi Kuhn and president Gary Kuhn at the base. They planted a cherry tree as a symbol of hope.

Jennings first traveled to Afghanistan in 2005 to see a pilot project by Roots of Peace to remove landmines, raise grapevines off the ground and put them on trellises.

The Roots of Peace program has evolved to link farmers and traders with the international export market.

"This program has really helped out Afghanistan and that's really the baseline for Afghanistan, agriculture," Campbell said.

General Campbell's personal roots trace back to the San Francisco Bay Area.

"I grew up as an air force brat. My dad was stationed at Hamilton Field in Novato, California," he said. "We moved to Fairfield, just up Interstate 80. I went to elementary school and a little bit of high school in Novato, California."

He wants to come back for a visit, especially to Napa Valley, but his NATO mission has a lot to do to help Afghanistan move into the future.

"The people of Afghanistan deserve this. They want the same things we do, with jobs for the family, roofs over their family's living quarters, to be able to have education for their kids," he said. "I think with continued support from the coalition, with continued support from people like Gary and Heidi, the future for Afghanistan is bright."

Campbell said he never dreamed as a boy, that he would doing the work he's involved with right now.

Roots of Peace is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development known as USAID. The new president also promises to work closely with Roots of Peace to promote Afghanistan's agriculture.

You can follow Cheryl on Facebook and Twitter for updates on her stories.

Related Topics:
politicsagriculturefarmingnon-profitroots of peacetravelsecurityairport securityterrorismtalibansafetyeducationu.s. & worldmilitaryafghanistan warseptember 11september 11thseptember11Assignment 7AfghanistanWashington DC
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