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Panjwai

kid-in-panjwai

According to the New York Times:

The districts of Panjwai and Zhare, rich agricultural areas along the Argandab River, are the original home base of many of the Taliban leaders, including Mullah Muhammad Omar.

The districts have been largely under Taliban control for the past four years, and clearing and securing them is expected to change the entire balance of security in Kandahar Province.

Equally interesting is that Panjwai and Zhare are not tucked away deep inside the Hindu Kush, shielded by mega-terrain and distance, but are just a short drive from Kandahar Airfield, one of the largest Coalition bases in the country.  The people in Panjwai/Zhare are fighters.  True Taliban.

Nevertheless, after countless military operations over the years, the Coalition does have a foothold in Panjwai/Zhare and is trying to expand its influence in part by investing in local projects.  I accompanied several members of Central Asia Development Group to visit a project they are implementing through USAID funding.

We entered Panjwai without support of Coalition forces to visit a water project.  Tension among the locals was thick.  I felt no hint of welcome other than we were not attacked.  Kids are a good barometer.  Normally, in other parts of Afghanistan, they are happy to have their photos made.  When this boy saw me lift the camera, he turned away.

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