The fighting season has ended for the Taliban and it has been relatively quite. The Taliban return to Pakistan or turn their efforts to harvesting the marijuana or planting opium poppies. We don’t see as many attacks and many fewer roadside bombs. Our focus has shifted from large scale fighting operations to lower level village stability operations that facilitate marginalizing the insurgency and improving the lives of the Afghanis.
I went out to see my soldiers in a few of the forward operating bases and see how they and the equipment were doing. The sunsets over the mountains and farmland are truly inspiring – a rich orange hue is cast across the horizon. I went out one day as the gunner for an armoured vehicle, which was a highlight for me. We took a road that had several roadside bombs detonate over the summer, and I thought I would be on-edge about it, but I fortunately I didn’t feel worried. I was traversing my arcs of observation, observing through the gun sight and looking for any insurgents. When we did go over culverts, I did hold my breathe a little, as many bombs have been planted in the culverts. We passed a culvert that was destroyed a few days ago from one of these bombs – it was a tangled mess of concrete and steel re-bar. I was thankful for the chance to get out and see the countryside in this way; it gives you a completely different perspective and knowledge that you have shared in the same dangers (even if for a very short time) as the other soldiers. The terrain is dotted with high, rocky mountains that poke out of the surrounding flat ground. The sand is like fine powder and it gives the sky a red haze when it is windy. The Reg Desert in southern Afghanistan extends for miles to the south and begins almost instantly along the terrain, and you could literally stand on the border between the desert and the rest of the province – it isn’t a gradual desertification, and the sand is red and resembles waves of water. Similar to large waves, the desert is elevated many feet above the abutting farmland. At one of the bases there is an observation post on top of an old Russian made hill. I spent some time at the post and looked out for any Taliban. I didn’t see any in our area, but across the Arghandab River to the north, several skirmishes were going on and machine gun fire was heard often. Over that night, many bombs were dropped and their thundering explosions could be heard for miles.
My deployment to Afghanistan is now coming to an end. I had an exceptional tour of duty and appreciate the chance I was given to take part in the effort to improve this country. Some may disagree with how we have placed our efforts, and I accept this point of view. The ability and willingness of citizens to express this sentiment is a part of what makes Canada a great and free country. I can only hope that the people of Afghanistan will also one day share this privilege.