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Afghanistan: Been there and going back again

Book outlines counterinsurgency at work

December 25, 2011
By LARRY KERSHNER, For The Messenger , Messenger News

Dan Green, 35, a naval reserve officer who does civil affairs work in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has family ties to Fort Dodge, has written a book, "The Valley's Edge," about his counterinsurgency work in Afghanistan, with the goal of showing Americans the human side of the Afghan people.

"So many books about Afghanistan are about combat," Green said, "but Americans aren't getting the complete picture." There's fighting, to be sure, but the real work of counterinsurgency, he said, is working with communities to turn them away from the Taliban.

Green, whose grandmother is Doris Green, of Fort Dodge, has served two tours in Afghanistan and is soon to go back for another eight-month tour. When that is complete, he will have spent two years of his life there.

Article Photos

- Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Author and naval officer Dan Green, who has ties to Fort Dodge, poses with his new book, “The Valley’s Edge,” where he describes his experiences in counter-insurgency in Afghanistan.

He'll be returning to the same province - Uruzgan - where he worked with tribal leaders twice before. His departure date is confidential. Uruzgan Province, situated in southcentral Afghanistan, has a population of 200,000 mostly Pashtun people, Green said.

"It's off the beaten path," he said of the province. In the first years of the Allied presence, from 2001 to 2005, he said, there were about two dozen insurgents in the area during his first tour - January to November 2005 - where he worked with local leaders to build roads, erect schools and drill wells.

But when he returned for his second tour - June to August 2006 - the insurgency had grown to several hundred. "On the first tour, we didn't have a car bomb, no IEDs (improvised explosive devices), no ambushes." But in 2006, he said, the insurgency "got a little dicey." He spoke briefly of a two-hour firefight he was in. "I saw my first dead Afghan then."

Green said his book looks at the history of how the province was affected by the war against the Soviet Army, as well as Operation Enduring Freedom, which started in 2001. It also documents how U.S. counterinsurgency policy has gradually adapted to the specific needs of the people, especially as those carrying out the policies learned to understand the culture and those who live there.

"We have to understand the human terrain," he said. "We need to engage the community and talk to the people as people.

"I want Americans to see that in 2009 and 2010, we're doing things right."

He said the local populace was tiring of the Taliban and the constant struggle. U.S. forces are scheduled to withdraw in 2014, but Green thinks there will have to be a U.S. presence afterward, "but transition into a very light footprint."

His third tour, Green said, will be in village stability operations working with Afghan local police.

He said being there is personal for him. He was working at the Pentagon, as a civilian presidential appointee, on Sept. 11, 2001. The day of those attacks led directly to the invasion of Afghanistan by U.S. and British forces, plus other allied countries.

Green's book was published in November by Potomac Books, based in Dulles, Va. An estimated 700 copies have been sold. "That's pretty good," he said, adding that he's satisfied with that.

Green's father, Dennis Green, grew up in Fort Dodge, and now lives in Vero Beach, Fla. Green said he has a grandfather buried in Fort Dodge, who was a Bronze Star recipient from the Italian campaign in World War II. His grandfather was later transferred to The Philippines, where he was waiting to be part of the invasion of the Japanese home islands, when the war ended.

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, ext. 453 or kersh@farm-news.com

 
 

 

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