Sunday, October 01, 2006

October 1 2006

Our mission here in Shouz is not a huge secret, we are here to stabilize the region and provide or allow the infrastructure to support the population here. Our role in that endeavor is similar to a knight on a chess board. We hold territory by virtue of our presence here. We are mobile, well armed, well trained, and reasonably informed. Our group affects an area that has 52 miles worth of highway in it. We are able to respond and stabilize about the population in that area. We don’t do that by being Billy Badass, actually I don’t even have a Billy on the team, or a William for that matter. Our function is to train and facilitate the success of the ANA. People in our area should feel good about our collective presence, or be neutral about it, that is my goal. They should also believe that getting of the wrong side of the law, and crossing the ANA in the area will only result in very bad things happening to them.
Really I know it is difficult to believe, but not only no Billy but no Robert as well, In this picture we have Connecticut, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Kabul represented, taken by a guy from Oregon. I really don't know the guys name in the guard tower, but I promise while it could be Fazil, it sure isn't Bobby.

We have ages of 19, 24, 26, 38, 21, and 50 for our US soldiers and 21-24 for our Terps in this Picture.




When we arrived, we found weapons caches in the area that were ideally suited to be turned in to IEDs. We responded to reports of citizens being beaten and or robbed, sometimes by the Afghan National Police. Opium was brought through the area with no real concern that it would be found or taken; families moved at night for fear of the bandits that operated even in the valley.

As of today, we have very little in the way of brazen disregard for the law or for the rights of this country's citizens that comes to our attention. People understand that they can come here to seek redress for things that happen to them. They know they can seek emergency care from either the US or the ANA, and that has happened. We have visited the schools, and had a positive impact, meeting many of the children and elders in the area; I can tell that the children remember us when I run across them later on in our travels. (Everything that we have given to the children of this area came from people who read this, and were able to send school supplies and small toys that the kids would appreciate.)

I typically will not show pictures of the ANA on the net, and I try to keep my Terps similarly off the net, as it is not healthy for them to be associated with our forces. Oddly enough soldiers and Interpreters both have been killed by the Taliban when they are found away from the Army on a bus or in their home village. That is the primary reason I do not show pictures of the people who are central to the missions success, the Afghanistan National Army, and for the same reason I do not list them by name in here.

I was told I don't show many photos of me in this, which mostly is done because I take most of the pictures you see. However if I was looking out for your welfare, I would limit your exposure to that as well, cause really, who wants to see me over and over.... This is taken up in a saddle on a ridgeline where we had to decide to turn around rather than take our group down the mountain. My NCO swears we could have made it, but he couldn't guarantee that all vehicles would have been in their original condition at the bottom. This gives you a good idea of what the terrain is to our west. While it looks like nothing grows here, a herd of goats grazes this area relatively often.

I lead in with all of the above, because our missions here are designed to see what we can see, and be seen by those who need to see us. The pictures that are in this entry were taken a couple of days ago, and help to tell the story here. I hope you enjoy it.
We tracked these guys back into the mountains following their vehicles tracks for a couple of miles, mostly because we didn't think that there was much legitimate reason to be so far off the beaten path with a truck. They are from the local town, and they had been gathering wood. This area used to have a good amount of vegetation, but the 10 years of drought has all but eliminated the trees in the area. They sell the wood for 15 Afghani per Kilogram. That is about 3 cents a pound in US dollars. The tripod that is in the right side of the picture is what they use to hold their scales. The reason that they camp here is that there is a spring that still has water and allows them to stay and work for a couple of weeks.

While we were talking with the group in the picture above, a herd of goats and a Shepardard came down off the mountain. Between the lack of water and the goats and sheep, it is amazing that anything survives to grow at all. There must have been 100 goats in this herd. Each one of them is worth approximately 100 dollars, if sold for meat. It was impressive to see that many move off the side of the mountain because it looked like they appeared out of no where.




This green bush also has some yellow leaves on it; we took the picture because it is the first wild growing bush we have seen that is green and the yellow leaves seem in line with the idea that fall is coming. In front of and beyond this bush is what we typically see in the rest of the desert. In order for the goats and sheep to survive around here, the winter must be the primary growing season. In fact while there has not been a drop of rain in this area in the time that I have been here, things have begun to green up, with the falling temperatures. That is a welcome sight for a guy from the Willamette valley. I guess come to think of it, this bush must also not taste very good, or be somewhat poisonous, as it hasn't been munched down to root stock by the animals in the area. I am sparing you the pictures I got of the lizard that came to visit, mostly because he is hard to see in the crack he hid in. He must have been about a foot long though, and moved over the rocks almost quicker than the eye could follow.

All my best to you all

Keith

1 comment:

Alice Widman said...

Well, I learned a new word today, or should I say slang term: Terp. That's for Interpreters, right?
Gotta keep up with the times!
Love, Alice