Eighty-five percent of Afghans work in agriculture. In Logar, a wheat- and fruit-growing province 50 miles south of Kabul, the percentage is even higher. When NATO forces arrived in strength in Logar two years ago, commanders quickly realized they would have to speak the language of farming in order to improve ties with local residents and hopefully boost the legitimacy of the Afghan government.
Today, that vital task falls to a specialized team of U.S. Army agricultural experts from a western U.S. state that one expert says reminds him a lot of Logar. The 63-person Nevada Agribusiness Development Team, one of nine such teams currently deployed to Afghanistan, is “on the cutting edge of counter-insurgency,” according to Col. Johnny Isaak, the team commander.
The ADT concept originated in 2007, when the Army realized it was not getting adequate support in Afghanistan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Agency for International Development. To replace these civilian agencies, the Army asked the National Guards of rural U.S. states to form the ADTs. The first teams were on the ground in Afghanistan by late 2007; the program’s mandate expires in 2013, just one year before the last major U.S. combat unit is slated to leave Afghanistan.