The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


July 10, 2009

Name: Bouhammer, Old Blue, WOTN, Vampire 06
Posting date: 7/10/09
Milblog: Afghan Lessons Learned For Soldiers

With the renewed focus on the first battleground in the War On Terror, Afghanistan, we offer some maps for readers less familiar with some of the terrain and locations that often come up in discussions on our site. Other readers will be intimately aware of these areas in question and perhaps even recall the fine talcum dust so prevalent there.

In the fine tradition of military style traditions, I'll begin with the One Over the World. (Afghanistan is the green spot.)

Framed Lessons MAP 1

Clearly, it is on "the other side of the world," but as we look closer, we can see some of the challenges:

Framed Lessons MAP 2

One of the first things to notice is that it is landlocked. Another important point is the tumultuous neighbors: Iran, Pakistan, and China. Less obvious in this 2003 map is that the old neighbor -- the Soviet Union -- is now a number of neighbors, emerging young nations such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. These are plagued with active attempts by Iran to spread Islamism, as well as attempts by AQ surrogates to overthrow their young governments.

Looking a bit closer, we can see the that the terrain itself is difficult:

Framed Lessons MAP 3

That terrain is understated in the above map, and it is also not the only challenge. The ethnicities are as varied as the terrain:

Framed Lessons MAP 4 

Some of the areas that pop up the most are:

Framed Lessons MAP 5

Herat: a city and a province on the Iranian border (northwest).

Kandahar: a city and province on the Pakistani border (southeast), which was the Taliban capital.

Helmand: a city and province in the South and heavy in the poppy trade.

Paktia and Paktika Provinces: which border Pakistan and are deep in the Pashtun areas from which the Taliban find their base of support. The particularly rugged terrain in this area makes the border difficult to define and hard to defend. Taliban have a tendency to cross over easily.

The Northern Provinces: less volatile than the South and East (areas bordering Pakistan) and are less noted in our reports, partially because our NATO allies are responsible for these safer regions.

War on Terror News c 2009, ARM, all rights reserved.


Thank you for this. It is fascinating. Maps have always better helped me visualize and understand what any particular area might be like in reality.


Thank you for this geography lesson. Very helpful. I only know what I have picked up from news reports (vapors) and a little history in The Kite Runner book. And then there are the marvelous postings to the Sandbox. I cannot tell you how much it means to us to hear from you who know.

Canada has been in Kandahar all along, with the highest casualty rate per capita of all your NATO allies.

Excellent post.
There's a map of the world in the studio, a map of the middle east taped over the kitchen table. On it, I've circled where my loved one is deployed. The books sit, dog-eared and highlighted as well. Afghanistan wasn't even on many people's radar in 2000. The history is as complicated and vast as the geography. From Alexander, Genghis Khan, fast forward to the British and the Soviets this is a land that has been invaded, conquered, rebuilt, propped up, ignored, rediscovered time and again. If only the politicians had taken all of this into account ages ago.

Everyone from Alexander the Great onwards have figured out that you can invade Afghanistan, set up a government in Kabul.. and watch the tribes in the outlying provinces ignore the government and keep living the tribal life they have always lived. The Raj tried (3xs) to disastrous results. History is written not just to commemorate the past, but to educate us for the future. Maybe a little reading would have helped us before the war started, and before we allowed ourselves to be distracted by Iraq? This SHOULD have taken all our attention.


Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

i like this part of the post!!!!you're an environment-conscious traveler equipped with an iPhone or an iPod Touch, you now have an option to download and consult local maps loaded with noteworthy green features, such as farmers' markets, bike lanes, and green buildings. Now available from the iPhone app store, these green maps come from Green Map System, an organization that promotes "inclusive participation in sustainable community development worldwide, using mapmaking as our medium."

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