US Marines in Southern Afghanistan say there is something different about this war. Everyday is a death run across IED-mined poppy fields.
Awaiting the arrival of a large contingent of the 30,000-strong troop surge to their area, today’s reality are heavily mined poppy fields, mud and thorny, cutting weeds – between the soldier and the Taliban’s machine-gun fire.
“I pray in the morning and at night,
hoping that someone up there is looking after me,” says Lance Corporal
Justin Blancas, serving with the Marines 1st Battalion, 6th Regiment
Alpha Company’s 2nd Platoon.
“I have already made my peace
with God because this war is different, it’s not conventional,” the
23-year-old bespectacled Chicago native says.
have learned their lesson. They adapt as fast as we do, but we are
bound by our strict rules. They are not,” he adds, panting after a
100-metre dash for cover behind an abandoned mud house.
“It can be a death run like this every day.”
While Karzai tries to woo Taliban leadership into the fold of community life with money, money, and money – this, known as a “political solution.”
But the challenges on the ground are
immense. Fields are littered with improvised explosive devices (IEDs)
responsible for most of the deaths of foreign troops in Afghanistan,
which hit a record 520 fatalities last year.
The Taliban are
also entrenched in their strongholds holding sway over the population
and setting up shadow governments across the country, meaning they have
the local intelligence that the Marines desperately need.
Remember the Marine above said, “we are bound by our strict rules.” This is certainly a different war in Afghanistan.