Things aren't always black and white in Afghanistan

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The sun has had a tough time in burning off the haze that has sat over Jalalabad City over the past two days. The haze acts as a reminder of the kind of war we find ourselves in; clear lines of black and white or right and wrong are often difficult to distinguish in a protracted war.

Those otherwise clear lines are smeared by a haze of uncertainty that sits upon this war that is currently in the beginning stages of its ninth year.

After another week, the highs and lows of stress have been felt once again, yet I find my spirits at a relatively high level.

At best, I can define the week as a week of planning with both the Afghan National Army and our little team that continues to be comprised of a conglomeration of folks: Air Force, Regular Army, Marines, National Guard, and Reservists.

Operational planning with the Afghans, I had a contractor tell me one time, "is like trying to push a wet noodle up a hill." Quite often, this is certainly the case; however, this is not because they lack they capability or the intellect to plan.

On the contrary, I have found that the foundation of some of their problems is the fact they do not trust one another, therefore inhibiting the sharing of information and the necessary planning for large-scale operations.

I was pleased to take Major Rahmdil, the Afghan officer I work with to meet with a couple of the brigade staff officers of Task Force Mountain Warrior (4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division).

I was a little uncertain as to how the meeting would unfold being how neither of these officers had really spent a lot of time with the Afghan officers. Their meeting, however, went better than I thought it would go.

Maj. Rahmdil was very well versed in his discussion and impressed me by how much he shared about what he knew regarding the topic in question. I left the meeting satisfied with the progress that was made in this partnership of Afghan and Coalition forces.

Attacks continue to be prevalent in this region, although they have slowed down. While winding down the day earlier in the week, we heard several explosions that appeared to come from somewhere in the city.

The initial report was that it was a gas line that erupted, but being how there are no gas lines within the city, we knew this probably was not the case.

As it turned out, a bomb had been placed somewhere near the National Directorate of Security headquarters here in Jalalabad.

A controlled detonation of 1,200 pounds of explosives in neighboring Laghman Province several days later rattled the entire 2nd Brigade ANA compound, causing us to initially think yet another bomb had gone off within Jalalabad.

As I have written before, I remain encouraged by some of the Afghan officers here; but the circumstances of their life, I believe, cause them to do things they would otherwise not do if they were not faced with such poverty and illiteracy.

Education, I truly believe, is the way forward for not only Afghanistan, but many of these Third World countries. Freedom cannot be gained through complacency and illiteracy.

The ability to think for oneself, to question the status quo, to determine what is right and wrong, and to truly effect change can only be gained through education.

Sometimes, I wish I could do more to help with the effort here, but for now I am trying to stay the course and effect as much as I can through the small part I play in the overall fight against the insurgency.

As always, thank you so much for the all of the prayers and support from everybody back home -- it truly makes all the difference. Take care and God Bless!

First 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 soldier.

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