Some U.S. troops in eastern
Afghanistan are angry as the brass for barring them from buying cigarettes, and
other products, from Afghan shops. It all began back in July, when two members
of Task Force Currahee (a reinforced brigade of the 82nd Airborne) fell ill,
after having smoked some locally bought cigarettes. The two were evacuated to
Germany, then the United States, and an official report of what caused their
collapse has not yet been released. That's what annoys the troops in Task Force
Currahee, because the brass seem to have hit the panic button without really
knowing what's going on.
Phoenix (a brigade sized unit composed largely of U.S. Army reservists) issued
a warning to its troops to be careful about buying from Afghan shops. Task
Force Duke (a brigade size from the 1st Infantry Division) banned tobacco
purchases from locals, along with lotions, soaps, body washes, mouthwash and
particularly annoying to the troops is that for many of them, stationed in
small groups out in the hills, the only place they can get these things is from
a local shop. And buying from these shop helps build relationships with the
locals. Moreover, most Afghans felt insulted with the implications that they
would allow their customers to be poisoned. The troops also miss the cheap
prices. A carton of Afghan cigarettes cost only four dollars. The troops, when
pressed by the Afghans for the reasoning behind these bans, have responded with
shrugs, or snarky comments about clueless, and career obsessed, officers. Many
troops also believe that the lack of an official report, on what actually took
the troops down, indicates that they were smoking heroin laced cigarettes.
These can be had, and some troops indulge, safe in the knowledge that they will
have time to stop before they go home, and are again subject to the random drug
tests that have made the U.S. armed forces the most drug free on the planet.
But that hasn't stopped some troops from looking for a way to get high. Heroin
and opium are cheap in Afghanistan, as is marijuana. But heroin enhanced
cigarettes are the most discrete way to get ripped. But if there's too much
horse in the tobacco, the user can be a few tokes from blackout, or death.
the troops, and the local merchants, just want to get their shopping privileges