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Soup of the Day
Dispatches from the Frontline
March 23, 2012
Posted by Michael Yon
Dispatches from the Frontline
Michael Yon

Panjway, Afghanistan: Amphitheater of War

23 March 2012

This panorama was made in the general area where the Panjway 17 massacre unfolded.  The view is over the Arghandab River Valley, a place that Canadian and many US forces know well.  The Arghandab can be an interesting place to watch war; there are many vantage points such as this that allow you to witness much fighting.  Sometimes you are in the middle.  The area can be an interactive combat amphitheater.

Panjway Panorama Link: http://gigapan.org/gigapans/101311

I made the 27 photos in this pano in a handheld mode while tagging along with members of the Central Asia Development Group (CADG) who were implementing a water project. We were without troops.  CADG operates freely in some of the most hostile areas of Afghanistan where troops would not go without significant force. This is one of those places.

Much serious fighting has happened within ear and eye-shot of this panorama. This is, quite literally, the birthplace of the Taliban. There is little doubt that Mullah Omar once bathed in this water.

This image is interactive.  By searching, you can see security barriers and cell phone towers. The Taliban forces many cell towers to shut down at night. Taliban likes cell phones, but we use them for targeting. Of course the enemy knows this and want them off at night.  Blackberries and iPhones work here.

If our goal were simply to wipe out the enemy without regard for human costs, US forces could do that in an hour or two.  But we've tried counterinsurgency (COIN), which remains a work in progress a decade later. Today we are negotiating with the Taliban.

The Taliban will inherit this land.  Panjway, where these images were made, is the birthplace of the Taliban and it's still theirs.  As you can see, the terrain is not rough.  We simply never applied enough pressure to break their will, and they didn’t quit.

Progress has definitely been made: COIN is working, but we waited too long.  The Afghan war is a classic case of too little, too late.  This area of Afghanistan will remain Taliban country, but we will have made roads and other projects to help get crops such as opium to market.  After aid dries up, they’ll probably let the roads fall into disrepair and keep plodding along.

Again, this image is interactive. If you see something of interest, please make a "snapshot" with a description. Snapshot button is on lower left.

(The GoogleEarth geolocation is approximate. The "two" motorcycles on the right are actually one guy. He moved between images.)

Panjway Panorama Link: http://gigapan.org/gigapans/101311

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