I don't talk too much about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on this blog because frankly, there are a whole lot of people who are a great deal more qualified to discuss it. But I found these two graphics the other day and I thought that they were very interesting. The first is simply a topographical map of Afghanistan. Notice how much of the country is at 5,000-8,000 feet or higher. There are all sorts of issues that come into play when doing anything at such altitude, much less fighting a war. One consequence of the high altitude is that smaller helicopters have much more difficulty operating, especially if they are heavily loaded. Also, soldiers, who very often are carrying 60 or more pounds of gear, have no way to adjust to high altitudes other than spending time training at altitude. There are relatively few large bases in the US for this type of training, and virtually none east of the Mississippi.
This graphic is meant to show the relationship between the security risk in the various Afghan provinces and the amount of opium poppy grown there. As you can see, the greatest risk and the greatest area of opium production center on Helmand province, which is were a great deal of fighting has been. I believe that the recent offensive in and around Marjah is the red area just above Nimroz. There are also plans for 3,000 Marines to be based somewhere in the area of Nimroz by the end of the summer.
I will leave the rest of the thinking on this to people more qualified than I, but I think it is important for everyone to understand the challenges that we face as a Nation and as partners with Afghanistan's government and the rest of the Coalition.