The insurgents operated in small teams across the countryside with relative impunity. Sleeping in the mountains or as house guests at night, the Taliban spent the entirety of their days in the villages – not maintaining and defending outposts where they could enjoy the comforts of western civilization. They were unimpeded by burdensome equipment and had relatively infrequent contact with their commanders, at least compared with our daily reports and operational approvals. The Taliban leadership had an inherently decentralized command structure, managing fighters and shadow government officials spread over hundreds of square kilometers and countless villages. However, the regional commander and shadow governors were remarkably in tune with the district’s populace and made earnest efforts at gaining their support through regular interaction – not “drive by shuras” after flying in from Kabul or the provincial capital. Likewise, the Taliban had an omnipresence that was felt by coalition forces and villagers alike. They possessed an uncanny ability to act as puppet masters over the populace, issuing decrees and administering justice based on persistent verification – not sporadic visits like absentee Afghan officials or “day tripping” coalition forces who neither spoke the language nor had spent enough time in the villages to understand the complex social dynamics.