Axeghanistan ’10: A River Ran through It

18.03.10

Categorie: Afghanistan, Axe in Afghanistan '10, David Axe, Reconstruction |
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There’s a new Afghanistan war plan. Last fall, NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal rolled out more restrictive rules of engagement, heralding a “population-centric” approach to the war. U.S. President Barack Obama announced more U.S. troops. While U.S.-led forces in eastern Afghanistan doubled their efforts to prop up faltering local governance, troops in the south identified Taliban strongholds in Marjah and Kandahar and went on the offensive. “Has the U.S. broken the Taliban’s momentum?” reporter Nathan Hodge asked. Maybe. But there are new risks, too: the Dutch might pull out of a key southern province, and Afghan national leadership remains weak. The war might be going our way, for once, but it’s far from over. David Axe and Greg Scott head to “The ‘Stan” to see for themselves.

PFC Kevin Conklin, TF Gladius, Parwan. Greg Scott photo.

by DAVID AXE

Thirty years ago, the valley surrounding the city of Bagram was lush from east to west, Afghans say. Today, you can stand at the NATO airbase adjacent to Bagram, look west and see green fields, look east and see nothing but parched, red earth. Afghans say the air base, built by the Russians decades ago, is to blame. The facility’s acres of concrete and steel have disrupted the natural flow of water across the valley.

What was once rich grape country is now nearly lifeless. In the town of Usbashi, just outside the airbase gate, one farmer said two-thirds of his 1,500 grape trees died. On March 11, members of the new Parwan Provincial Reconstruction Team, composed of U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians, visited Usbashi to put the finishing touches on a plan for a 1.8-million-gallon-a-day irrigation project.

But the valley needs much more than that. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Chris Eubank wants to install a canal. But that requires new land, and no one around Bagram is willing to lease it. After all, land is everything is Afghan farmers. It’s hard to see the long-term benefits when selling land means a short-term loss.

Related:
Axeghanistan ‘10: Making Do in Parwan
Axeghanistan ‘10: Parwan Patrol Video
Axeghanistan ‘10: Air Bridge Video
Axeghanistan ‘10: Easier by the Day
Axeghanistan ‘10: Moon Shot
Axeghanistan ‘10: Down Side of the Surge
Axeghanistan ‘10: “Now You Know More than You Did Five Minutes Ago”

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