You’ve listened to me beat the drum about how hard the Joes I’m embedded with have it over here. And they do. Some of the toughest conditions imaginable.
I’m still amazed at their civility and "can-do" attitudes. Despite the crap conditions, you talk to any of the troops and they’ll tell you the same thing: they need to be here ... they’ve experienced what life is like for the 30 million people who call Afghanistan home … and it ain’t nice.
They know it needs to change and soon.
50 percent of the families in Afghanistan live in abject poverty. The "basics" we take for granted in America and the Western world clean water, electricity, education, medical care and food are luxuries over here.
Here’s some perspective: the average life expectancy is 43 years …
It’s a rough life. Especially for the children.
Most of them don’t go to school. In fact, one out of four won’t make it to their fourth birthday. Since the male population has been slashed by years of war and conflict, lots of these kids have to be the "breadwinners." They collect scrap metal … wood … bricks … or build coffins.
This poverty is the kind of environment that breeds extremism. This is the kind of environment where people get desperate and resort to desperate measures.
Truth is, the Taliban’s "growth" is based more on intimidation than genuine support. They receive sanctuary from area farmers because they have guns. It’s not hard to bully and intimidate people who are barely surviving.
But, that said, our troops are making a difference for the Afghans. The United States’ help is making a difference.
Thousands of miles of new roads have been paved a necessity for economic growth. Nearly 5 to 6 million Afghan children are attending school, many in facilities built by the units over here. Encouraging numbers compared to just 900,000 in 2000.
We’re helping to manage and restore irrigation systems and build wells. We’re helping to revitalize the country’s agriculture and provide incentives to farmers so they’ll stop planting poppies in support of the illegal drug trade.
But it takes time. It takes commitment. And, it takes heart.
It takes the kind of people who serve in the ‘A’ Company.