Battle Buddies in Kandahar Province
A couple of days ago, Isaac and I had the opportunity to visit an important district in central Kandahar Province. We were able to deliver some protective equipment for the district's Afghan Local Police (ALP), the security element that works alongside U.S. forces to protect their villages against insurgent threats. This will keep them safer and also help develop a closer relationship between the ALP and their American partners.
The trip was also an opportunity for me to connect with a former colleague of mine in the Marine Corps, an officer who now serves as the district advisor. We served together during my last tour in Iraq in 2009. After reconnecting, the three of us attended the district development and governance shura, a weekly meeting of elders where concerns can be raised and issues discussed. This week, the discussion centered on agriculture and economic growth, with the District Governor moderating a debate on the future of grape and pomegranate cultivation in the district.
Isaac and Jim delivering supplies
Kandahari grapes and pomegranate, according to the shura participants, are some of the best in the world, and they are one of the primary alternatives to poppy in this area. Indeed, as we fly over and drive through this part of country, the landscape is dotted with pomegranate orchards and grape fields; almost every plot of land has a grape house on it, a large barnlike mud structure with very thick walls and slit windows that is used to slowly turn grapes into raisins. The debate today centered on devising better ways to store the fresh produce so that local farmers could transport and sell the fruits of their labors in better markets further afield, thereby increasing their profits.
These shuras, as well as discussions with US soldiers, gave me a good understanding of the area and stimulated some good ideas for future Spirit of America projects.
Afghanistan Field Rep