August 13, 2009 |
MIANPOSHTEH, Afghanistan -- The new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan, as articulated in military headquarters and congressional hearing rooms, puts the emphasis not on killing Taliban fighters but on winning over the local people. But in this highly contested swath of Helmand province, Sgt. Anibal Paz's squad is likely to be ambushed before he has time to sit down for tea. The sergeants' war that Paz fights is often craftier and more complex than the war mapped out by generals, and it's always dirtier and bloodier.
March 10, 2011 |
Helmand Province, Afghanistan Until five months ago, Forward Operating Base Jackson, in Sangin, was an island in a Taliban sea. Patrol bases were ringed by Taliban flags, about 100 to 200 meters out, to dramatize the state of siege. Everywhere beyond the main road was an enemy sanctuary. Each spring the fertile land along the Helmand River bloomed red with poppies from horizon to horizon. Thirty-five drug-processing labs helped fund the Taliban. In October, about 1,500 Marines arrived, took the offensive,...
March 30, 2008 |
GARMSIR, Afghanistan -- Perched on the banks of the Helmand River, this desolate town occupied by British forces marks Afghanistan's de facto border: Beyond here, the Afghan government is powerless and Taliban insurgents hold sway, their ranks replenished by recruits who enter unchallenged from Pakistan . "Everything you see to your south . . . that's all enemy territory," said Lt. Nicholas Moran, a platoon leader from Bravo Company, 1st...
February 10, 2010 |
CAMP LEATHERNECK, AFGHANISTAN -- In the late 1950s, scores of U.S. engineers transformed a swath of uninhabited desert in southern Afghanistan into verdant farmland by constructing a network of irrigation canals fed by the Helmand River. The Afghan government filled the area, which it called Marja, with Pashtun nomads and told them to grow wheat. The wheat fields have since been replaced by tracts of opium-producing poppies. The mud-walled compounds that once housed families now conceal drug-processing labs and...
August 15, 2009 |
MIANPOSHTEH, Afghanistan -- U.S. Marines pushing into Afghanistan's southern Helmand province are running up against a skeptical Afghan population heavily influenced by Taliban insurgents, signaling a long campaign ahead. Afghan villagers, many of whom fled the Marines' advance, say they feel caught in a tug of war between U.S. forces and the Taliban, and are fearful of both. The Afghans, primarily illiterate farmers who tend livestock and crops in the irrigated lands alongside the Helmand River, often say...
July 12, 2009 |
NAWA, Afghanistan -- Most of the mud-brick stalls that line the street in this sweltering town on the Helmand River closed down a year ago when Taliban fighters began swaggering through the bazaar, levying taxes on merchants and seeding the roads with homemade bombs. Shopkeepers placed their wares behind padlocked tin doors, teachers shuttered the school, the doctor abandoned the health clinic and residents with means fled to other parts of southern Afghanistan. This town does not merit a dot on most maps of Afghanistan.