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Soldiers Provide Relief to Snowstorm Victims in Afghanistan

By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service

DOHA, Qatar, Feb. 16, 2005 – A series of snowstorms in Afghanistan during the early part of February dumped several feet of snow that blocked roads, left travelers stranded without shelter and trapped families in their homes without adequate food supplies in Afghanistan's Zabol province.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Soldiers of 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, load humanitarian aid supplies onto a CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter operated by the division's 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, for delivery to victims of several recent snowstorms in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Maj. Joseph P. Walsh

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

Heavy rains have only made matters worse, making even roads that are cleared of snow so muddy that no vehicle can pass over them.

U.S. Army soldiers have responded to the crisis by helping displaced civilians and stranded motorists, and delivering food and supplies to villages.

Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, teamed up with aviators of the division's 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, and their CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters, to deliver humanitarian aid packages.

"There are people dying out there. People can't get to the marketplace and, even if they could, trucks can't get to the marketplace with produce," said Maj. Joseph P. Walsh, executive officer of the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry. "We have the capability to reach them and deliver aid, and we're glad to be able to help the people of this region."

The aid packages are supplied by a coordinated effort between the Afghan national government, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.N. World Food Program and other organizations. So far, the soldiers have helped deliver more than 288 metric tons of food and supplies over the past couple of weeks, according to Walsh.

Walsh said he is very pleased to see Afghan authorities reacting to the situation and working to find a solution to the crisis.

"It's gratifying to see the central government working with the local government, and to see the Afghan National Army and police forces working to help maintain order and take care of the people," he said. "This is very different than when we arrived here last year, it validates the work we've been doing in this area."

The infantry battalion's soldiers have been in Zabol province since April 2004. During that time, they have conducted combat operations against anti-coalition fighters. This type of humanitarian relief operation, however, may be even more effective than combat to achieve victory over remnants of the former Taliban regime and Al Qaeda fighters.

"The Afghan people are gaining daily a sense that coalition forces are not here to convert anyone. We're not here to take over, we're here to help," Walsh said. "Every bit of aid we deliver refutes the claims of the Taliban. This is just as sure a way of defeating the enemy as shooting him."

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