LETTERS FROM AFGHANISTAN - Early work under way to prepare for departure

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While my role in the "Battle of Shinwar" was quite minimal, the tribes in southern Nangarhar have yet to find a resolution to the land dispute that has been ongoing now for nearly two weeks.

I wish I could say the dispute remained entirely diplomatic; but, diplomacy does not necessarily fit into the way of Pashtunwali. Pashtunwali is a code that runs deep within the Pashtun culture, and sometimes its deep roots even supersede the teachings of Islam within some Pashtun tribes.

In Shinwar, the Pashtunwali principle of "Badal" seems to have been invoked, thus dictating that justice be served and a blood feud produced. Earlier this week, fighting erupted between several Spinghar and Achin sub-tribes, leaving roughly 15 Spinghar people dead.

Maj. Rahmdil, whom I have been working with now for about five months, has been in the area ever since the dispute started. He told me that the Spinghar people had not buried the bodies and were using them as their rationale to seek their vengeance in accordance with the principle of Badal.

While the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has sent numerous officials from Kabul to calm the dispute, any sign of a quick resolution has diminished.

Yesterday, Rahmdil called me to inform me that a "cease fire" had been set by one of the elders and that an agreement should be reached within a week.

I have my doubts, but I remain encouraged by the fact that the Afghans have been seeking a peace accord independently, without the assistance of coalition forces.

With Rahmdil absent due to his involvement in Shinwar, I found myself dealing with a relatively quiet week here on the Jalalabad Garrison.

The headquarters company of the ANA planted a little garden outside of our TOC a couple of months ago and, already, parts of it have come into fruition.

The other day, some of the soldiers were out harvesting some of the herbs.

In preparation for the springtime weather, a couple of us went out to clean up some of the tall grass surrounding the little garden in order to help prevent the surprise of large, peculiar snakes that will inevitably show up with the heat.

I spent most of the week, however, doing some administrative stuff that needed to be done prior to my departure in a couple of months.

It is hard to believe that the time is nearing to redeploy back to the states. I hopped on a helicopter yesterday to take a few things over to the Jalalabad Air Field as my company has already begun the process of loading personal items for shipment back to Fort Carson.

With the weather starting to warm here, I feel anxious to leave before I see the thermometer reach 130 degrees like it did last summer.

It will be a bittersweet departure, though. A lot has happened over the course of the past year here in N2KL that leaves both a feeling of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. The fighting season is still on the horizon and will be upon us before I leave.

It was only May 1 of last year when the previous unit was overrun at OP Bari Alai. We have shared in our own catastrophic events throughout this deployment as well, to include the incidents at Ganjgal Valley and COP Keating.

While what will happen within the next couple of months prior to my departure remains unknown, I know that the hands of God are upon this land and upon the troops who are serving here. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

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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