(Balochi/Pashto: هلمند) is one of the 34 provinces of
Afghanistan. It is in the south-west of the country. Its
capital is Lashkar Gah. The Helmand River flows through
the mainly desert region, providing water diverted for
The population is 1,011,600 and the surface area is
23,058 square miles. The population is largely Pashtun,
while Baloch make up the minority.
Helmand produces 20% of the world's opium.
The current governor is Asadullah Wafa (since December
US AID Programs
Helmand was the center of a U.S.
development program in the 1960s - it was even nicknamed
"little America". The program laid out tree-lined
streets in Lashkar Gah, built a network of irrigation
canals and constructed a large hydroelectric dam. The
program was abandoned when the communists seized power
More recently the American USAID programme has
contributed to a counter-narcotics initiative called the
Alternative Income Project (AIP) in the province. It
pays communities to work to improve their environment
and economic infrastructure as an alternative to Opium
The project undertakes drainage and canal rehabilitation
projects. In 2005 and 2006 there have been problems in getting promised finance
to communities and this is a source of considerable tension between the farmers
and the Coalition forces.
Current Military Situation
It was announced on January 27 2006 in the British Parliament
that a NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would be replacing
the U.S troops in the province as part of Operation Herrick. The British 16th
Air Assault Brigade would be the core of the force in Helmand Province. British
bases are located in the towns of Sangin, Lashkar Gah and Gerishk.
As of Summer 2006, Helmand was one of the districts involved in Operation
Mountain Thrust, a combined NATO-Afghani mission targeted at Taliban fighters in
the south of the country. In July 2006, this offensive mission essentially
stalled in Helmand as NATO, primarily British, and Afghani troops were forced to
take increasingly defensive positions under heavy