Saturday, July 4, 2009

More on Helmand Province

Ahmed Rashid, writing in his book Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia (Penguin, 2009, p. 319) about Afghanistan's Helmand Province:

The center of the country's drug trade was Helmand, a province the size of Wales, with a population of one million. Helmand had once been the epitome of progress. ... in the 1960s Morrison-Knudsen, the company that built the Hoover Dam in the United States, was hired by USAID to build a dam and 300 miles of irrigation canals that would irrigate the Helmand Valley. The project was highly successful, creating 250,000 acres of arable land out of the desert, which quickly became the fruit and bread basket for Afghanistan and led to the training of an entire generation of Afghan engineers and agricultural extension workers. Hundreds of American families lived in Lashkargah, the capital, and a former American community center still boasts the remains of a dance floor, cinema, bar, and library. ... The irrigation system collapsed after the Soviet invasion, but the land was arable and farmers turned to cultivating

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