CAMP DELARAM II, Afghanistan -- When our Fox News team was here more than a year ago, this was a platoon patrol base. Then this area was a Taliban free-fire zone, and rarely did Marines venture "outside the wire" without some kind of engagement with the enemy -- usually an improvised explosive device planted in the moon dust that passes for dirt here in this arid desert.
When we returned to Afghanistan last autumn, this dusty crossroads town had grown to become the headquarters for a battalion. Today Delaram is "home" to Regimental Combat Team 2 -- and thousands more Marines are on the way. The "Afghanistan surge" -- 30,000 additional U.S. troops ordered here last December by the president -- is well under way, and it's dramatically changing this region, once known as "the heartland of the Taliban." By mid-to-late summer, there will be 80,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan -- 30,000 more "boots on the ground" in the shadows of the Hindu Kush than there are in Iraq.
At Camp Leatherneck -- two hours by paved road east of here -- the Marine expeditionary brigade that arrived a year ago is being replaced by a Marine expeditionary force, more than tripling the number of U.S. and coalition troops in this "battle space." The new units even include a battalion of troops from Georgia (the country, not the state). Best of all, says Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the outgoing commander, "Afghanistan National Army units are stepping up to the task of defending their own country." He is starting a boot camp for new recruits.
As base perimeters are pushed out to make room for arriving units, Navy Seabee construction crews and contractors are working around the clock to build runways, landing zones, fuel farms, billets, mess halls and command centers. As I write this at 1:30 a.m., I can hear bulldozers, cranes and heavy trucks loading and unloading. A concrete batch plant, operated by an Afghan company that wasn't here a week ago, is running around the clock.
The new construction and arriving troops are auspiciously timed. Helmand province, where I am, and neighboring Kandahar province produce most of the world's illicit opium -- a major source of funding for the Taliban. And this year's harvest is about to come in.
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.
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