Zabul Province background

Zabul Province mountain range

Airdrop in Shah Joy district of Zabul Province. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon Rasmussen

During my daily scrub of Afghanistan-related articles and blogs I found a stunning photograph taken in Shah Joy. Shah Joy is a region just north and east of Qalat. Qalat is where I’ll be…most of the time…while I’m in Afghanistan. Until this very moment it didn’t really dawn on me that Zabul Province is in a mountainous region. I’m fully aware there are a lot of peaks in Afghanistan and they are one of the reasons why U.S. and NATO forces are facing challenges; however, in my mind’s eye, because I will be embedding with an Agribusiness Development Team, I figured Afghanistan’s agricultural regions would look much like Minnesota’s farm land. Not until this morning did I learn the elevation of Qalat is just over 5,000 feet.

Wiki provides a stark view of what I’ll face while with the 135th ZADT. “With its sparse population, insecure border with Pakistan and little central authority, Zabul is a fertile ground for insurgents fighting against the current Afghan government, although the province is considered more secure than some of its southern neighbors. The province has especially struggled with retaining NGO’s and teachers in the face of Taliban attacks and threats.”

Qalat and Shah Joy are the two most-populated regions of Zabul Province. The estimated population of the Province is right around 275,000 people.

Zabul Province

Zabul Province is in SE Afghanistan, highlighted in red

Zabul borders Oruzgan in the north, Kandahar in the west and in the south, Ghazni and Paktika in the east. It has an international border with Pakistan in the south. The province covers an area of 6,700 square miles. For reference Lake Ontario has a size of just over 6,000 square miles. Two-fifths of the province is mountainous or semi mountainous terrain while more than one quarter of the area is made up of flat land.

Currently the 135th is facing a winter with much more snow than we are here in Minnesota. Recent photos posted to the DVIDS web page show that the Minnesota National Guard is doing more shoveling and scraping than their families back home.

Snow on the FOB

DoD photo by - Lt. Col. Daniel Bohmer - FOB Apache covered with snow

For our troops serving on FOB Apache I have heard word that the snow provides a change in scenery and keeps the dust down, but is a pretty serious nuisance as it leaves behind a thick muck as it melts. Lovely, I’m sure. What will I face while I’m there in April? April in Qalat isn’t bound to be like an April in Paris, but with the almond groves and pistachio trees around I may see some blooms. The weather in April appears to provide lows and highs between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Comfortable enough and by then it is my hope to be able to see some things growing so I can get footage of the ADT working with Afghans and providing them with advice on planting and harvesting techniques.

My learning process continues. Over the course of the next few weeks I will be meeting with experts to get a better lay of the land. I’ll meet with a professor from North Dakota State University to learn about the partnership between NDSU and the ADT. I’ll also meet with a professor from Hamline University in St. Paul to learn about the history and culture of post-1970s Afghanistan. I will also have an opportunity to meet with a local area physician with a wide breadth of knowledge on Afghanistan. I look forward to these opportunities to learn a whole lot more about the the region and the country I’ll be visiting.

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