Locals say it’s unusual for rain to be falling in the deserts of Zabul Province in early August, but in the past few days we’ve gotten several long showers. It’s warm and windy, so everything dries out quickly and you forget that a lot of rain has fallen – until you try and cross a river.
The district government in Shinkay, such as it is, meets weekly to discuss security and economic issues with U.S. and Afghan military leaders. Getting to the meeting from Qalat, the provincial capitol, is an eight-hour drive through high desert and 9,000 foot mountain passes.
After negotiating the Dab Pass, once a notorious ambush point, soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment found their route blocked by a raging river where a creek once trickled south to Pakistan. The unit’s operations officer jumped in to test the water’s depth, but was soon in over his head.
The U.S. soldiers were being escorted by Qalat’s 2nd Brigade, 205th Afghan Army Corps, and were supposed to meet up with Shinkay’s 1st Brigade — but all the two units could do was radio each other from opposite banks of the river. A small crowd of local travelers sat by the banks on both sides, as if they were waiting for the waters to recede.
The soldiers had no choice but to turn their Strykers around and take the long road back to Qalat.