Robert Young Pelton: America in Afghanistan 1951 –

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Robert Young Pelton

A tale of two countries…

In Afghanistan, the rise and fall of ‘Little America’


Washington Post, 5 August 2011

Paul Jones arrived in a Chevy pickup, dust clouds billowing as he crossed the desert. He had set out soon after first light from his base in southern Afghanistan, an encampment that, thanks to his employer’s logistics savvy, had an ample supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Almost everything there had been sent by sea from California or Oregon, and then trucked up from Pakistan.

The 63-year-old, khaki-clad engineer came that February morning to observe a massive development project aimed at transforming the valley along the Helmand River into a modern society.

Irrigation canals would feed farms that would produce so much food that the country would export the surplus for profit. New schools, modern hospitals and recreation centers would rise from the sand. So, too, would factories, fed by electricity from a generator at a dam upriver. Jones had seen a similar transformation near his home on the outskirts of Sacramento, and he was certain it would materialize here, too. In the desert expanse, he saw “the beginning of a new civilization — a new way of life abounding in the riches of worthy endeavor.”

It was 1951.

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