KABUL, Afghanistan -- It is good to be heading home, where there are paved roads, no Russian landmines, and the man standing at the next intersection isn't going to blow himself to pieces trying to kill me, my family and my friends. At home, drinkable water comes out of a faucet, not just from a plastic bottle. Home is where meals come on plates -- not in brown plastic bags -- and we have air conditioning and fresh green vegetables and showers last as long as we want. At home, we go to work in coats and ties instead of body armor and helmets. At home, our vehicles don't have turrets, and if we drive after dark, we use headlights instead of night-vision goggles. At home, "overhead cover" is protection from the elements, not a defense from enemy rocket or mortar fire.
In America, we take all these things for granted. Here in the shadows of the Hindu Kush, however, ignoring any of them could get a soldier, sailor, airman, guardsman or Marine killed. Unfortunately, the so-called mainstream media has ignored this fight for so long that few in the U.S. are even aware of the challenges confronting our 33,000 troops in this always difficult and often dangerous place. For the benefit of those who care, here are some particulars that the potentates of the press generally have overlooked. First, the bad news:
--Islamic radicals know that their cause is lost in Iraq, so remnants of the Taliban, al-Qaida and foreign fighters intent on joining a jihad against the West are flooding into Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran. Factions in both neighboring countries are providing safe haven and training and material support to those who want to overthrow the democratically elected government in Kabul.
--Despite seven years of United Nations and NATO "assistance" to Afghanistan, the Afghan army still has fewer than 85,000 troops, and the country still has only one paved highway (Route 1, the "Ring Road"). As we were reminded firsthand on this trip, the dirt tracks that pass for roads here are laced with landmines and improvised explosive devices, causing numerous U.S. and Afghan casualties and isolating the population.
--Illicit drug production -- heroin/opium/hashish/marijuana, the only real cash crops in the country -- is an enormous criminal enterprise, generating more than $5 billion in cash to benefit the Taliban and corrupt officials in the Afghan government.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.