KABUL -- While on foot patrols in the Arghandab Valley, U.S. soldiers always are on the look out for weapon caches, bomb factories or other signs of Taliban activity. But what they find isn't always what you might expect.
KABUL — While on foot patrols in the Arghandab Valley, U.S. soldiers always are on the look out for weapon caches, bomb factories or other signs of Taliban activity. But what they find isn’t always what you might expect.
I wanted to note three discoveries made by last week by 1st Platoon of Bravo Company, part of the Fort Lewis, Wa.-based 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
On a morning patrol early in the week, we came to a field where all the crops has been harvested. Near the middle, there was a curious site. A relatively accurate model of a nearby base occupied by Afghanistan National Army soldiers and a small contingent of Canadians.
The model is quite detailed. It has locations of guard towers, and the tent where the Canadians slept. There were even small clay figurines with weapons. It was probably put together by some insurgent earlier in the year as they were preparing to fire on the base, or make an assault.
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It was kind of creepy, like seeing a voodoo doll. Below is a picture of the model.
On Thursday, Bravo Company soldiers visited a small farming village to check for signs of Taliban activity and interview and photograph many of the military-age males.
One of the villagers said that shortly before our arrival, some man carrying bomb-making materials had left a mud-walled storage shed. Several soldiers checked out the dark interior of the shed and found a grinder,some blasting cap-like materials and a magazine featuring naked, big-busted women.
1st Sgt. Tony Holcomb tested the magazine for traces of explosives. It came up positive.
So we were left with this unsettlng image of a Taliban insurgent hanging out in the storage shed and preparing materials to blow up Americans. Yet at least for this man, his embrace of a militant Islam did not deliver him from the fleshy temptations of a western porn magazine.
Storage area where the grinder and magazine was found
On Thursday evening, the platoon checked out houses suspected of manufacturing road-side bombs. I wasn’t on this patrol. I heard back that while they couldn’t find any signs of explosives, they did come across three plastic buckets of a brown-purple tarry substance identified as a kind of raw heroin. There was also a smaller amount of white powder with a kind of chlorine smell of a more refined drug.
The Taliban is known to traffic in heroin to help raise money for their activities. So I had expected that the soldiers would seize the drug, and maybe destroy it.
But under the current division of labor, heroin busts are not part of the infantry’s job descrpition. The soldiers were told to leave the heroin. The Afghanistan police would be notified so they could handle the seizure.
The local police don’t have the greatest reputation. Who could say how they would dispose of the drugs, or if the heroin would even be there by the time the police showed up?
So the soldiers were a bit surprised by the leave-it-be order.
“I was expecting our leadership to say let’s take it, document it and do all this stuff,” said Spc. Matthew Thomas Taylor, 21, of Colorado Springs, Col.
A follow-up to earlier note about sending packages to village children:
In a previous post, I wrote about a request to send pens, paper, pencils, notebooks and other items to Bravo Company so they could be distributed to village children.
I wanted to note that it is important to drop these packages off directly at a USPS office counter, and check with a USPS representative for mailing requirements such as customs forms or other restrictions that may apply to Afghanistan.
Also, I wanted to repeat the address to correct a typo in the previous post, and add the name of someone who could receive the packages.
The packages can be be sent to:
Capt. Jamie Pope
5/2 Infantry Division
Bravo Company, 1-17 Infantry
APO AE 09355
.Here is a link on tips for sending packages to troops: