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.
by DAVID AXE
The governor of Kunar Province promised 50 new schools to his constituents. A year later there’s just one, a boy’s school, but it’s a doozy. Room for 300 students. Solar panels for power. Its own water tank for plumbing. “It’s a dummy project,” says Sergeant Josh Miller, a Civil Affairs specialist assigned to 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, 2-503 Infantry. I think he means “model project.” If the school works out, Kunar might get more just like it.
It’s not working out. 2nd Platoon drops in for a visit on March 30. A teacher named Sahel leads Miller on a tour while platoon leader 1st Lieutenant Cris Gasperini sits down with the principal. What does the principal need? Gasperini asks. More notebooks, for one, and also concertina wire, the principal says. “C-wire?” Gasperini says, incredulous. Yes, the principal says. He intends to line the walls with it, to “keep the students from getting out.”
Miller checks in. The power’s not working. The plumbing’s not working. “We’ll get the contractor in here,” Miller says. Based on the apparent state of student-teacher relations at this particular institution, it’s going to take more than that to improve the place.
Axeghanistan ‘10: A River Ran through It
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”