BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner on the United Arab Emirates troops serving in Afghanistan, where they deliver humanitarian aid and occasionally get into it with the Taliban.
… It is going to come as a surprise to most people that for the last five years, an Arab Muslim army has been operating here in Afghanistan, alongside the Americans as part of the coalition.
So I asked Maj Ghanem whether he was worried about how some people in the Arab world might react to this.
“We have an answer for that. Even if you are asking back in the UAE or in the Gulf, or you asking here, we have the same answer,” he said.
“We make a contract with the US Army to help the people down here, not to fight”.
But I put it to him that in fact his troops have been fighting insurgents as well as handing out aid.
“If we have any types of personal attacks we react with fire. And after that we go to the elders in this area: 'Why are you shooting us? We came here to help you.
“'If you have the same picture of all coalition forces, we are different. We came here to help you.'
“And we try to convince the people about the US, about British. They came here to give you peace.”
Blueprint for Afghanistan
The man who kick-started the Arab humanitarian effort in Afghanistan five years ago is Hamad al-Shamsi, the UAE's humanitarian aid co-ordinator.
A devout Muslim, a father of 10, and a former fighter pilot, he has been travelling all over Afghanistan, often at great personal risk.
The UAE troops in convoy look much like the other coalition forces
He believes his country's efforts are smoothing a path for the rest of the coalition.
“If we are visiting [somewhere] like this village and we do some service for them, then the coalition will know when they are approaching that there is somebody from their side who is coming here who has done something for us,” Mr Shamsi says.
“So the relations will be easier than if they come directly with no first approach”.
His words are born out by some of the Afghans we meet, including Governor Merajudeen Patan, who was instrumental in getting UAE's money invested in the troubled province of Khost.
“People are not afraid that Emiratis will harm their religion, or disrespect the mosque or burn the mosque, things of this nature,” Governor Patan says.
“People are very friendly with them. Everybody will drag them in for lunch or for dinner.”
These are hearts-and-minds operations at their most effective – drinking tea with Afghans, discussing what help can be provided.
The Emirati approach is to meet their fellow Muslims' religious needs first, then build schools and clinics later.
But for this to have a wider, lasting, and national effect, the blueprint would need to be repeated and expanded by others, many times over and throughout Afghanistan.
And that is not likely to happen in the near future.