I've spent much of the week embedded with the Army's 10th Mountain "Task Force Spartan" which is based in Ft. Drum, New York. They're out here in a rough part of Kandahar in Southern Afghanistan fighting in land that the Taliban has claimed for decades. In fact, the commanders (at the battallion and brigade levels) both told me about books they've read about the Taliban fight with the Soviets in this very same river valley three decades ago.
I wanted to snap a couple of pictures to try to capture a little of what I'm seeing.
Here's Lt. Colonel Kenneth Mintz (seen pointing) who has been our very gracious guide. When you're surrounded by Taliban and IED's (improvised explosive devices) it's not like you can just take a taxi to the shoot. Col. Mintz has been allowing us to come along with him in his convoy to see the battlefield and watch his soldiers advance. They've been working on a road which bisects Taliban supply lines.
Lt. Bedrin is one of the soldiers from "Task Force Chosin" who is out there helping to fortify this road they're building. He is in charge of one group of soldiers who have pushed right to the river (a natural boundary) which was their goal. They have had to plow through farmland and Bedrin has worked with locals to make sure they understand they'll be compensated for the loss of crops. He works to convince them that they'll be better off in the long run if that road can bring security to the area.
The soldiers all tell us that improvised explosive devices are the most brutal tool the enemy uses against them. These bombs which can be hidden in the fields cause loss of life and loss of limb. The IEDs are also one of the contributing reasons that this battallion is using "checkpoints" to fight the enemy (by controlling roads)... because it has simply become too dangerous to patrol in some areas. Anyway, when these soldiers do move around, their giant mine-resistant vehicles have "mine rollers" on the front. The idea being that mines strike these rollers before they hit the truck.
Illegal drugs have fueled the insurgency here in Afghanistan. The sale of poppies for opium is clearly the crop that lines the Taliban pockets more than any other. But there are other illicit drugs which are sold for money to buy weapons. During one of our stops I looked next to our vehicle to see this entire field of marijuana growing right by the side of the road.