Country's beauty amazes: conditions, politics saddens

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Last week, I wrote from a base up north in Konar Province. The border of Pakistan seemed to be only a stone's throw away, although it was in fact a little further than that.

We staged ourselves in Asadabad, which is a couple of hours north of Jalalabad, so we could assist in rotating the 1st and 4th ANA Infantry Kandaks. The rain, however, postponed the operation for several days. Thus, on the third day, we packed our bags and headed back south toward Jalalabad.

The rainy weather made the trip feel like a vacation in the mountains more than anything else. A few helicopters rattled the sky during the night, but beyond that, it was a relatively quiet few days.

As we inched our way south back toward Jalalabad, the sun began to creep through the clouds that had spoiled our operation the day before.

Action out on the road was practically nonexistent, although I did hear of a few attacks later that day that occurred in some of the areas we had driven through.

The Tora Bora Mountains etched the horizon once we reached the southern tip of Konar Province. Their white, jagged tips in the distance formed an image that even Bob Ross could not reproduce.

The beauty of this country continues to astound me every time I roll outside the wire; with that amazement, however, comes a deep sense of sorrow for the people who are forced to live in these harsh economic and political conditions.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a 14-year-old kid making a little over 50 cents per day trying to feed a family of eight by working in a barber shop.

On our little compound, we have a connex that we fill with humanitarian assistance items that are sent to us from folks back in the States. A couple of us looked through the boxes, found a few coats and some hygiene products and took them to the boy working at the barber shop. Upon receipt of the goods, the kid was overjoyed with satisfaction and thankfulness.

Maj. Rahmdil, who went with us, told me that this would not only benefit the family, but would also keep them satisfied with their government and the presence of coalition forces.

As I approach the nine-month mark of being here in Afghanistan, I have realized that the next three months have the potential to drag on at a painfully slow pace.

While the operational tempo appears to be increasing down in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces, N2KL remains an interesting, protracted fighting area. The enemy takes advantage of historic Mujahedeen fighting positions and trails that scar this complex, mountainous region. The struggle to rid the area of the thugs, thieves, and crooks that comprise the insurgency against the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan remains to be one marred with not only bloodshed but a large propaganda campaign that makes general public support very difficult for the Afghan National Army to gain.

Overall, I am doing well. My motivation and affinity to be easy going, however, are dissipating in the wake of growing tensions within our own organization and tensions within the whole overarching strategy to relieve this place of its war torn burden.

As always, your continued prayers and support make all the difference! They mean so much to not only me, but the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who are deployed across the world.

I hope that everything is well back in the States. Take care and God bless.

1st Lt. Andrew Plucker is deployed to Afghanistan. He is not an Army spokesman, and his updates from the field are written from his personal perspective as a solider.

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