Michael's Dispatches


2011-07-30-141259-1000Opium paste

15 September 2011
FOB Pasab, Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
4-4 Cav, Task Force Spartan

Three 82mm rockets hit base this morning, causing two wounded, but that’s about it so far today other than some potshots off base.  Well, before I could finish this short dispatch there was an IED strike with about 120 pounds of explosives.  Our people are fine.  During the earlier rocket strike, at least one captain did a combat roll from his bed to the floor.  Such combat rolls are better done from a bottom bunk than from the top.  Many of the bases are so large that your chances of getting hit are trivial, but in the tiny bases where our people are more densely packed, your chances can be much higher.  FOB Pasab, where this is written, is a medium-sized base.   Casualties occur on base, but not many considering the number of people.


Nearly all of the 4-4 Cav fighting occurs within a few miles of FOB Pasab.  During a mission many weeks ago, the Afghan Soldiers, or maybe it was our guys, found a bowl of opium paste at a family compound.  The opium has already been harvested and the poppy stalks have been cut down and are dry and hardened.  Farmers gather the crunchy brown stalks into piles out in the corn, and around the family compounds.  The marijuana and other plants that have replaced the poppy are lush and green still.

An Afghan Soldier piled up dried poppy stocks and plopped the silver bowl of opium paste on top.


The event was more a case of spontaneous narco-poetry than a meaningful act.  (Burning the flowers’ child with the mothers’ stalks, as it were.)  Though poetic, the magnitude of the five minute episode during a two day combat mission during a ten year war is difficult to understate.  This fire, and a thousand like it, are only symbolic.  Task Force Spartan is working to reduce the 2012 opium crop in this area by using a combination of carrot and stick, but that’s a thought for later.  We’ll need to wait until 2012 to know if Task Force Spartan and their replacement are making progress against the opium down here.  TF Spartan clearly is making progress against the Taliban.  Nobody can miss that.


Just next door to the burned opium, our people blew up something.  I have no idea what they blew up, but it was loud.


A Soldier had lugged this IED robot during the mission but it broke.  Maybe he should have blown it up or burned it along with the opium.  He probably wanted to.


This place is a monstrous ambush zone.  The enemy likes to hide bombs anywhere you can think of, such as in the walls.


One second of inattention can mean short trip home.

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