War is Boring: U.S. Army Reaches Out to Wary Afghan Farmers

War is Boring: U.S. Army Reaches Out to Wary Afghan Farmers

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- When the gate opened at the U.S. Army outpost in Baraki Barak district on the morning of Oct. 25, it seemed the Army's long-planned strategy to win over local farmers might fail. For weeks, Able Troop, an element of 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry, had prepared to provide free veterinary services to potentially hundreds of local farmers -- coordinating with the local government, hiring vets, stockpiling medicine, and spreading word of the event. The idea was to win the farmers' allegiance, and create what 3rd Squadron commander Lt. Col. Thomas Gukeisen called "dislocated envy." That would, in theory, bring other Baraki Barak residents into the coalition fold, in search of basic services for their own farms.

But the plan hinged on farmers accepting the gift that the military and the district government were offering. As Baraki Barak Sub-Governor Mohamed Yasin Ludeen pointed out, "You can cook rice for a man, but you can't make him eat." Indeed, on the morning of the veterinary event, no farmers or animals waited at the gate. Able Troop commander Capt. Paul Shepard had said he expected scores of "customers" at opening time.

There were some worried expressions among the Able Troop command staff that morning. At stake was a three-month-old campaign to win back Baraki Barak and the rest of Logar province, an agricultural region just south of Kabul, from extremist elements, including Taliban fighters, cells from the Al Haqqani network and Mafia-style organized crime.

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