They call helicopter pilot Brigadier General Mohammed Barat the "Warrior Falcon".
He's happily fired rockets for whoever was in power: the Soviet-backed regime, then the Taleban.
He's still fighting now: Barat is in charge of the United States-supported Afghan National Army Air Corps.
His three decades of fighting for different regimes symbolises Afghanistan's vicious recent history.
He is also the face of the exit strategy from Afghanistan for the international forces.
The aim is to build up the Afghan National Army and police to look after the country themselves, leaving the job to the likes of Brigadier General Barat.
The soldier has hardened lines to justify his mixed loyalties down the years. "Whenever the regime was changing, I would work for them. My aim was to help my people, I was not caring about anything else. I was not working for a group or person, I was only working for my country."
The story goes that during the US-led invasion in 2001, he flew an Mig-17 helicopter back to his home province, landed in a valley and covered the chopper with a tarpaulin to hide it from American bombers.
After the Taleban fell, he found someone had stolen the pilot's seat. He put a stool in the cockpit and flew back to Kabul to report for duty.
His true loyalty is to the Russian-built helicopters he learned to fly in the Ukraine.
The nameplate on his desk proudly says Brigadier General Barat (Pilot).
He says the profession means as much to him as the rank, as he twice earned the title "hero for Afghanistan" as a pilot.
His waiting room has a huge painting showing planes dropping bombs all over Afghanistan, with little explosions everywhere. He explains that it shows the Russian invasion, and that he got one of his Air Corps staff to paint it.
The Air Corps are now operational with Mi-35 helicopters test-firing their first rockets, giving the Brigadier General huge responsibility.
He has a callous attitude to civilian casualties from air strikes, jabbing a finger with a big red jewel on it in the air and banging his huge desk as he explains his policy.
The Taleban hide among the locals, he says, and unintended deaths help turn public opinion against the international forces.
With having locals onside a vital part of the war, the new American commander General Stanley McChrystal issued a directive keeping air strikes to an absolute minimum.
Brigadier General Barat, who will not be subject to the directive, has no such sensitivities. "If they [civilians] are working with the enemy, all of the province are our target.
"If the civilians are helping the enemy or the Taleban, and they are providing them hideouts and helping it is clear - we will attack, we will strike."
The Brigadier General still flies, and boasts of 9000 flying hours - and no crashes. He tells me of an "unwanted" flight to Pakistan, leading a fleet of helicopters that rained down rockets. He has since returned on a wanted visit, taking in supplies after the 2005 earthquake.
The developing Air Corps provide a crucial advantage for the Afghan National Army against the Taleban insurgents, who do not have air power.
It is already helping get the Afghan National Army and police around the massive country, saving time and avoiding the dangerous roads that are littered with improvised explosives devices - the biggest killer of international forces.
The Americans have recycled the "greybeard" Afghan pilots trained by the Russians, and given them Soviet aircraft.
The "diamond" of the show is a helicopter squadron that carries President Hamid Karzai. The Afghan leader was once nearly shot down by a rocket, but the Air Corps has now moved him safely 10 times.
The US is training younger pilots and intends to set up a combat wing of fighter planes. They started with rubble, having destroyed the Afghan airforce in 2001.
International forces are helping: one example witnessed involved a Czech republic pilot mentoring an Afghan greybeard - they converse in Russian.
It comes at a huge cost - $276 million has gone in already.
And this is just one part of setting up and training the Afghan army.
This is the part of the war strategy called security and although it interlocks with the other two aims of governance and development, it really is far more important. Because once Afghanistan can provide its own security, everyone else can get out.
The army numbers 90,000, and is growing rapidly towards the target of 134,000. This may soon be ramped up even further with talk of getting it to more than 200,000.
As Brigadier General Barat shows, it is impossible to find senior officers without blood on their hands. In other parts of the army, warlords are now leaders.
A New Zealand army trainer working with senior officers described being unable to get some muhajadeen fighters to take part in a physical training session. Asked why, they pulled up their clothing to reveal machete and bullet wounds. His response: "Fair enough".
The international forces are pleased with progress, but acknowledge there's a way to go. One of the army's strengths is that it mixes Afghanistan's ethnicities, building a national identity.
Its weaknesses are that it is not "stepping up", leaving the heavy lifting to the international forces.
The Americans are openly calling for help to train the army so it can fend for itself. It also needs billions of dollars, as Afghanistan has no way of funding it itself.
Prime Minister John Key this week said he was reluctant to get involved in training, because of the danger involved.
This is particularly the case with the Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams (dubbed omelettes) - joint operations where international forces train Afghan troops then follow through by fighting alongside them.
This gets the Afghan Army up to speed even quicker, and is a role the American military had proposed for our SAS - until Key completely ruled it out.
The other security element is the 90,000 strong - and growing - police force. Effectively a military force, its junior ranks - called soldiers rather than constables - are more frontline than the army, making them easier targets. They earn $180 a month for what must be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. While the Taleban have bombs, rockets, grenades and bulletproof vests, police will patrol with batons, handcuffs and the trusty Kalashnikov AK47.
The death toll reflects this. It is not unusual for 10 police to be killed in a day or 50 to be buried in a week.
There is rampant corruption, with the taking of bribes commonplace.
So how long will it take to build these elements? No one in Afghanistan is willing to say. Privately, many believe it is years away. Some feel the international forces will never leave.
Australian defence chief Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston is one of the few to put his name to a number, saying recently that handover could take place in "three to four years".
At the police training centre in Kabul, young recruits march under Afghan and American flags to instructions from trainers who themselves are being mentored by Americans from the private security firm Dyncorp.
They have eight weeks training to prepare them for the dangers of the job, and do so with toy guns - M16s of course.
I pull two aside to talk to them. The Dyncorp instructor uses his Texan drawl to tell the translator to make sure they say the right thing.
My questions are simple: why do they want to be police and do they worry about getting killed?
Mohammad Zahir, 18, from Sar-e Pol province replied: "I want to serve my country and protect my people."
Abdul Hadi, 24, repeats the line. "I'm here for serving my people. I'm not scaring from anything."
Giving lambs like these the strength to stop Afghanistan's slaughter may be an exit strategy. But it won't be quick and it won't be easy.
HOW IT BEGAN AND THE PLAN TO GET OUT
The September 11 attacks in 2001 led the US to invade Afghanistan and overthrow its Taleban rulers who had given Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda a base from which to plan the attacks.
Democratic elections in 2004, control of Kabul, some relatively safe parts around the country, some rebuilding after 30 years of war.
America and its allies focused attention on Iraq war. Taleban turned into an insurgency, taking strongholds in some areas, difficult to separate from the community. The Americans and Nato forces in holding pattern for several years.
The Obama factor
Barack Obama has now made Afghanistan the United States' number one foreign policy item. New energy, new strategy.
New people in charge, such as General Stanley McChrystal. More troops and more to come. Big surge this month in the Taleban-controlled south.
Get control back. This includes force, such as the Marines-led surge. But McChrystal also wants to win over the Afghan people, and is limiting air strikes.
New emphasis on building up Afghanistan - healthcare, schooling, improving agricultural practices. If people's living standards rise, they are less likely to be influence by Taleban.
From President down to local level, give Afghans a democracy that works so they can see benefits of it.
After almost eight years, many countries are questioning involvement. July was the war's worst month with 74 casualties.
What is the war about now
The main reason given is stopping Afghanistan becoming a haven for terrorism again. America wants to win. Obama implementing election policy. The Nato military alliance not wanting to bail out of its biggest test.
Where's Bin Laden?
Reportedly in Pakistan. Not a focus of the war effort, America looking for him separately.
What's New Zealand's role?
Currently under review. Government likely to send SAS back to help fight the Taleban. Wants to get out of reconstruction role in Bamiyan. Under pressure from America to contribute more.
What's the key part of the exit strategy?
Training the Afghan army and police to take care of security. Once they can do that, international forces can leave.
How long will that take
Three to four years is the most hopeful estimate. The best answer is it is years away.
* Patrick Gower travelled to Afghanistan and Nato HQ in Brussels with the assistance of the US State Department.