Packin’ power to push pomegranates

Tag Ab District Center, Afghanistan -  Lots of Coalition firepower massed yesterday, just so Afghans could peacefully TALK about how to grow pomegranates. Really.

Tag Ab District Center, Afghanistan –
Lots of Coalition firepower massed yesterday, just so Afghans could peacefully TALK about how to grow pomegranates. Really.

A while ago, I posted a blog that detailed just how much work and planning goes into every military operation. You have no idea … The amount of money, manpower, materials and sweat that goes into doing something that might be simple to us, or just taken for granted, is incredible.

Yesterday, as apart of our most recent expedition to Forward Operating Base Morales-Frazier, we took a mini-mission to Tag Ab district, to take part in a shura (town-hall-type meeting) in concert with French and Romanian forces. Tag Ab is probably one of Kapisa’s more violent districts. More of our IED (bomb) attacks occur in this area, and support for Coalition forces is less there than in northern provinces, like Mahmood Raqi.

We loaded up our armored vehicles, donned our combat gear (including body armor and full combat loads of ammunition,) integrated into a French unit that was equally armed and drove to the Tag Ab district center.

There, our security forces posted up inside and outside the building, keeping lookout while local farmers trickled inside. The average civilian might be surprised to learn that the the topic of the meeting was not security, women’s rights or some other big-news item … It was simply about how to grow and sell pomegranates.

Once the meeting began, representatives from the US Agency for International Development spoke to them about forming a co-op … joining their farming efforts together to have a better chance of improving their collective product and profiting from it. As it stands now, there are many individual farmers, all competing against each other to sell their meager crops. Coalition forces are suggesting that if they pool their efforts, they would be more likely to be able to market their fruits. More importantly, by forming an association, they are eligible to receive international assistance. (Since most countries will not give money to an individual person.)

As the locals talked pomegranates with our team, I wandered in and out of the meeting with my camera. I found it interesting the amount of support that went into simply making sure this meeting could take place. I figured you would find it interesting, too. So, I took some pictures and posted them to the “Afghanistan Pics” page. As you look at them, keep in mind that all of this firepower was amassed just so people could TALK about doing something as simple as growing fruit together.

You might wonder why we would feel the need to be so protective of a simple meeting.

The insurgents know that any formal gathering of people to discuss their future can result in less influence for them. In the realm of pomegranates, if farmers can create a stable, profitable living for themselves, it makes it less likely that they will rely on insurgents for help (making insurgents less powerful.) So, the insurgents instill fear by attacking people while they are doing simple things like going to school, shopping for food, or even talking about growing pomegranates.

It’s a noble cause, but honestly, I wonder what will happen in the future … I mean, we can’t provide security for every meeting. And we can’t bankroll every co-op project. Eventually, Afghan people are going to have to hold such meetings on their own.

Until that happens, I suspect we will be here awhile.

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