April 2, 2010

RED HORSE in the Desert of Death - Yon


Some troops in Afghanistan go months without a shower. Major Ryan O’Conner, XO of the 1-17th Infantry, now in Kandahar Province, said that during a previous tour his Soldiers fought half a year without so much as a dip in a creek. Shortages of drinking water affected combat operations.

For centuries, Afghans have dug underground irrigation tunnels called karez. The lines of craters in the photo above are shafts into a karez system. The shafts, which can be hundreds of feet deep, are used to lift out soil and stone while digging a karez. Karez can take years to build and are sometimes miles long. They are described as intricate constructions, often built by teams for hire, using father-to-son knowledge passed down through the centuries.


Thousands of handmade underground irrigation systems range from China, through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, down to Africa, up to Europe and around to the Americas.



FOB Frontenac, Kandahar Province.


Water logistics is a high hurdle for Afghans, invaders, liberators and social shapers. Even upon my flimsy, unvarnished plywood desk are three bottles of water with three different labels:

Bottle #1 is labeled “Kinley Clean & Clear Drinking Water: A Quality Product of The Coca-Cola Company.”

Bottle #2, “Cristal Quality Mineral Water” from “Afghanistan Beverage Industries Ltd. Kabul, Afghanistan.”

Bottle #3, “Masafi Pure natural mineral water from the foothills of the Masafi Mountains,” bottled in the U.A.E. and with a website, www.masafi.com.

The showers have signs that say things like:

Combat Showers Only
Limit, three minutes
How to take a combat shower
1) Turn on water
2) Wet body
3) Turn off shower
4) Soap and scrub
5) Turn on water
6) Rinse off Soap
7) Done

FOB Frontenac happens to be nearby the Dala reservoir, created by the Dala Dam, which was created by Americans a couple generations ago. Unfortunately, most of the larger bases aren’t blessed with reservoirs. At Frontenac, a local Afghan contractor is paid to take water from the lake reservoir—now gushing from snowmelt—and recharges the holding reservoir on base for the toilets and showers.

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Michael Yon
P.O. Box 5553
Winter Haven, Fl 33880

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