Dispatch: Afghanistan – Civilians Caught in the Crossfire

BY Larisa Epatko  August 3, 2010 at 6:32 PM EST

Our partners at GlobalPost have dispatched reporters to different spots in Afghanistan to report on civilian and military life. In a weekly blog post, we track their efforts.

U.S. soldiers sprint to a medical facility on base in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, carrying a woman who has been badly injured by either shrapnel or weapon fire.

She was a passenger in a car her husband was driving. When he tried to pass a convoy of trucks bearing supplies for U.S. military installations, the car was hit by what he thinks was machine gun fire. It’s unclear who fired the gun, but the incident took place during a Taliban ambush. And when the car emerged, his wife was fatally wounded.

“On this already hot, Sunday morning in the Zhari District of Kandahar Province, Dr. Anar Gul becomes another one of an estimated 12,000 civilian victims in Afghanistan’s latest war,” writes Kevin Sites.

In another dispatch, Ben Brody documents a patrol near Combat Outpost Lakokhel in Kandahar, where surrounding farms grow opium poppies, cannabis and intensely sweet grapes:

“Soldiers dread patrols through the grape rows, where hidden ditches and ambushes abound, not to mention disease-carrying ticks and the ankle-twisting grapevines themselves. The ditches at the base of the rows are often muddy, and the moisture creates a haze of humidity that hangs over the fields and fogs up sunglasses instantly,” Brody writes.

Sites describes in another post the U.S. military’s efforts to win the hearts and minds of Kandahar’s residents in the hopes they will reveal the Taliban’s activities.

In one project, Lt. Kyle Snook and his soldiers try to help with a mosque renovation:

“The older villagers are wary, but the children swarm the dismounted soldiers as they climb out of their heavily armored vehicles. They ask for pens or goad the soldiers to try shooting their homemade slingshots. Snook finds one of the village elders who takes him to a small, rectangular mud hut that serves as the local mosque. The elder tells Snook he wants the mosque expanded — it’s too small and they need water to perform ablutions before praying,” recounts Sites.

Read more reports in GlobalPost’s “Dispatches: Afghanistan” blog.