Once known as “Little America,” Helmand Province in Afghanistan’s southern region is now considered one of the most volatile provinces in the region. Afghanistan is responsible for producing more than 90 percent of the world’s opium, more than half of which comes from Helmand. Helmand is also permeated with insurgents and warfare.
Before the Soviet invasion in the 1970s, the U.S. Agency for International Development poured in vast resources and projects to help the province prosper. It built dams and irrigation systems and was welcomed by Afghans in this fertile area. Afghans who remember the old days have warm memories of the American presence in Helmand. Many told me anyone who remembers the 1960s and 1970s welcomes America’s return to the province.
US aid is fighting its own fight, working to ensure the people and the province thrive once more, investing in old projects as well as the new, distributing seeds and fertilizer to farmers so they can grow something other than opium poppies.
“If you can just help the people of Afghanistan in this way, the fighting will go away,” farmer Abdul Qadir told me to share with the world. Qadir explained that building infrastructure and helping the people of Helmand will have more of an effect than any gun or bomb ever will.
[Excerpt of an article by Atia Abawi, CNN Correspondent]