Reseeding the Poppy Fields


You are the squad leader, 1st Squad, 3d Platoon, Company G, Battalion Landing Team 2d Battalion, 1st Marines. Recendy the MEU was sent to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in support of NATO forces during Operation ENDURING Freedom. You have been in-country approximately 2 months and have been assigned to the northeast sector of the area of responsibility, Nangarhar Province. Last month Golf Company engaged sizable needihajum forces under Sher Dil during cordon and search operations within the valley. Golf Company was able to disrupt arms trafficking via the valley; however, small pockets of resistance continue to slip through the valley (squad-sized, Soviet small arms, Soviet light machineguns, police pistols). Some of the platoon combat outposts have received inaccurate 82mm mortar fire in the last week. Additionally, Golf Company’s actions last month resulted in significant collateral damage to local poppy fields. Several houses within Ada Atah were damaged by rocket propelled grenade fire, and the sole pump in the village center was crushed under the weight of the company’s assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs). Unequal distribution of solatia payments (appearing to favor Kushtuz farmers in Ada over the minority Nuristani) have led to increased theft and violence against the Kushtuz by Nuristani tribesmen. The company command post is located 25 miles southwest, and the commanding officer has deployed his platoons throughout the valley to provide security for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), conduct security patrols, and support human exploitation teams in answering company requests for information about the local leaders, population, atmosphere, etc.

Your squad is dismounted and is tasked with providing security for two NGOs (World Agro Fund (WAF) and Healthwatch (HW)) operating in Ada Atah, a small Nuristani village 2 kilometers northeast of Ada in the Rahadnak Valley. You have one of the company’s high-back HMMWVs (damaged by an antipersonnel mine), with lumber, steel pipes, tools, and five 20-pound bags of cement. CpI Vasquez, a steamfitter from Tacoma, WA, borrowed an oxy-acetylene torch from motor transport to repair the HMMWV for the company gunny. A four-man combat engineer detachment and a corpsman are attached to your squad. Each fire team carries one AT-4 in addition to its standard combat load. All of your personnel have personal role radios. You have only one AN/PRC-1 19F that can reach back to your platoon commander’s control base. A section of AH-I W Cobras can reinforce Golf Company in 1 5 minutes. A casevac CH- 46 is on 30minute strip alert.

WAF/HW are operating under the auspices of the United Nations World Food Program and are expected to be in Ada Atah for 96 to 120 hours. They are distributing hybrid corn seed and fertilizers in hopes of replacing the damaged poppy crop, collecting nucricional surveys, and providing measles, mumps, rubella inoculations. They have been in che province for abouc 6 months and were in Ada and Ada Acah when Golf Company rolled chrough lase month. The WAF/HW reluctandy accepted your squad’s protection for die duration of their mission after it was insisted upon by the United Nations World Food Program director. WAF/HW volunteers are of one accord in their perceptions that Golf Company has caused most of the problems in Ada Atah. Even you admit to yourself that the pump’s shallowly buried water pipe was crushed by a Golf Company AAV, and chose tracks thac plowed across che poppy fields were probably noe driven by Taliban.

It is 0800 when your plaeoon commander and che ocher 2 squads load on che CH-53 in Landing Zone Curlew, leaving you wich your 16 Marines, 1 corpsman, 24 WAF/HW volunteers, and a broken-down HMMWV that is dragging its brush guard and is missing the driver’s side floorboard. There is a heavy machinegun section from Weapons Company conducting a visual checkpoint along the main supply route about 400 meters north of the landing zone. By 0830 chete are about 70 locals men, women, and children) in che village cencer, lining up near die NGOs. You remember Ada and Ada Atah from last months operations. The village is about 200 meters in diameter, a ring of one-story houses and srables around a village green. There is a blacksmich shop and a cafĂ© with a few tables. About 400 meters to che norch is a gas station on the main supply route and several oudying farms to the norch norcheasc. What now, Sergeant?


Given assets available and in a time limit of 10 minutes, issue your verbal orders to your element leaders and any reports to higher headquarters. What are you doing after your orders are issued?

Issues for Consideration

1. Should you do anything?

2. What is the intent of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan? What might you do to support that intent?

3. What might your company’s commander do in your situation? Your battalion commander? What does chat mean for you?

4. How might your potential actions play at the physical level? The mental level? The moral level? Which of these is most important?

5. How important are the NGOs to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan? Could you do something that might change eheir opinion of U.S. Marines?