Dave Tate is on the ground in Farah Province with 3/ 8 Marines as they expand their footprint and get to know the people in their A/O. I spoke with him by phone this morning and will post that audio one I get it cleaned up. Head over to his site and scroll down to get a feel for his trip so far. He said there is not a lot of kinetic action right now, which is fairly normal for the winter, but they are getting hit by a number of IEDs. He also has some thoughts about where the action will likely be in the upcoming months.
These presence patrols are designed o gather information on the surrounding villages that will help the Americans understand what and who they’re dealing with in regards to the locals that live in relative close proximity to the COP. In all, 20 of us, including myself, an interpreter and a combat correspondent left COP Barrow around 1400 straight out of the base toward the first of three objectives, which were small settlements no more than three miles out.
The terrain is relatively flat, desert plain that is cut through by dry river beds and the occasional dirt road. Abandoned settlements are also prevalent as people may have moved on once the land is unable to sustain life. And like everywhere else in this high desert environment, these crafty people have figured out a way to get water to certain areas that are a lush green early spring crop of wheat, a type of hay and, of course, poppy plants. While the poppy is not as extensive in this region of Afghanistan as it is in neighboring Helmand Province, it is still grown here and is an important crop for the survival of most villages.
And speaking of poppies, The Captain's Journal has some thoughts on that crop and possible replacements for it.
The notions of herion, opium and drug cartels carry connotations of evil, and properly so. But that isn’t the point. When the Marines engaged the Taliban in the Helmand province they purposely avoided any destruction of crops, poppy and otherwise. Turning the farmers into insurgents was not in the mission plan, and the Marines are smart fighters.
Concerning a recent example of Texas National Guard in an agricultural program to compete with the Taliban farms for seed production, we warned that it is one thing to win the competition, and quite another to ensure that the Taliban don’t co-opt the program and turn it to their favor.
Yet another example of this comes from a clever plan to replace poppy with pomegranates.
POMEGRANATES are the key to eliminating heroin, a pioneering charity founder has claimed.
James Brett is spearheading a campaign to persuade farmers in Afghanistan to switch from growing poppies to growing the super-fruit.