Here are a few pictures of some of the recent happenings in The Valley.
The Valley has a lot of farms. They primarily grow wheat (already harvested,) corn (pictured,) potatoes, tomatoes, onions (they LOVE onions,) melons, and cotton.
Sunrise in The Valley. Pictures just don't do the mountains justice.
On patrol with the ANP. This guy's carrying a 120mm Russian mortar round that we captured. We blew it up later. BIG boom. This round can be used to create a powerful IED.
The radio operator during an operational pause in The Valley. We didn't know it then, but he had about a month to live. He was killed by the IED that claimed four of our ANP in September, 2007. He was the guy who was always right there when I turned to talk to the ANP Commander. Good, hardworking kid. This is what an Afghan hero looks like.
7.62 x 54R ammunition captured in The Valley. This type of ammunition is used in Russian-made machine guns and sniper rifles. It's actually a little larger than American 7.62mm ammunition. Very powerful rifle cartridge. This was part of a small ammunition cache.
Afghan blonde hash. To Afghans, marijuana in all of its forms is called hashish. This is the processed end result of the marijuana plants we found all over the valley. The Afghans smoke a lot of hashish.
Raw opium. They grow a lot of opium poppies in The Valley. We found and confiscated all sorts of opium harvesting tools during our searches, and about 4 kilos of raw opium. That's a drop in the bucket as far as the total output of The Valley, but operations didn't begin until the opium harvesting season was well and truly over. Politics. In any case, they use small pieces of wood with razor tips to score the poppy bulbs and then scrape off the black resinous sap that oozes from the cuts. That's raw opium. This was either for personal consumption or was waiting to be sold to a Taliban-controlled buyer to be transported elsewhere for processing into heroin. Afghanistan supplies 90% of the world's heroin, and this is where it starts.
ANA, ANP, and troops of the 82nd Airborne Division working together in The Valley.
ANP, followed by soldiers of the 82nd Airborne emerge from a village following a cordon and search operation in The Valley.
ANP soldier, foreground, and an ANA RPG gunner, background. The ANP and ANA worked very well together in my sector.
Searching a house where the Taliban were having chai within an hour of our arrival. We didn't catch anyone this time, though. This is a fairly typical Afghan compound. Note the steps made of mud, and the general construction.
An Afghan National Army M-113 armored personnel carrier (American made) with a Russian "Dashka" .50 caliber machine gun mounted on it. To an old cold-warrior like me, this is the height of strangeness. Seeing M-113's parked next to BMP-1 Russian armored personnel carriers, all painted in the same livery was just plain weird. It's a brave new world.
Our bedroom one morning in Afghanistan. My crew took turns at night sitting up with the NODS to provide security. There were four of us, a terp, and 100 ANP.
The landscape in The Valley is just plain striking. It is a harsh environment, but the Afghan farmers do a great job of water management on the local level.
Afghanistan can be visually stimulating.
Someday this country may actually have a tourist industry. I've already figured out where the golf course should go in The Valley. It will include a par-3 with a 200 foot vertical drop. Very challenging.
Our convoy coming up on a favorite ambush spot on the road in The Valley. Sometimes they hit you here, sometimes they don't. This kind of behavior is why they don't have a golf course and no tourist industry. There are a couple of prime skiing spots that need to be demined.
This is what it's all about. You can see a lot of the emotions of Afghanistan on their faces. Determination, friendliness, happiness, uncertainty, and trepidation are all there on one face or another. The children of Afghanistan are the future of Afghanistan, and when these children are educated and grown and live in an Islamic democratic society that works, there will be no home in Afghanistan for extremism. That is what will make our country and all the countries of the world safer.
It is not something that will be fixed overnight. And in the meantime there is more work for soldiers and police to do. Either we can do it, or our sons can do it for us. I know that I would prefer that my sons not have to do this.
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