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In response to "Water projects hurting Afghan farmers" (article, Sept. 16; online headline: "Water projects’ past failures are hurting Afghan farmers"): I want to thank Stars and Stripes, as well as Sandra Jontz, for focusing on this important issue; however, to complete the story, I think we also need to address the growth of Afghan agriculture and the dedicated men and women who are endeavoring to make it even more productive.

This is my fourth deployment to Afghanistan, and I can say unequivocally that there has been agricultural progress in Khost province. Some projects in the past solved short-term problems, had an immediate benefit, but in the long run may not have resulted in sustained success. However, those projects were needed to "jump-start" agriculture in Khost.

Dams were indeed constructed with a view toward improving agricultural production quickly, perhaps too quickly, as we didn’t have the appropriate watershed studies. We have those now, and we are making concerted efforts utilizing Afghan solutions.

Khost has experienced five years of devastating drought, 30 years of war, and an insurgency that would prefer to have Afghans starve than receive support from U.S. or international organizations. All of this has destroyed cropland, killed skilled farmers and devastated irrigation systems. Land mines alone are enough to inhibit productive agriculture in Khost; thanks to many nongovernmental and international organizations, this country is being cleansed of these weapons.

This year has seen record harvests for wheat and corn. Extended road networks constructed by provincial reconstruction teams, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Afghan District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers enable more farmers to access seed and deliver harvests.

I think there was more to this story than the headline would lead readers to believe. In my opinion, "Past challenges seed new hope and initiatives in Afghanistan" might be more appropriate.

Col. Michael HowardCommander, 4th Brigade,25th Infantry Division (Airborne)Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan


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