Battleland

Solar Systemic Failure

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Marine Photo / Lance Cpl Shawn P. Coover

A freshly-sprouted solar-powered street light in Marjah, Afghanistan.

It was just over a year ago that a senior U.S. military officer in Afghanistan was raving about the solar-powered streetlights popping up in Kabul:

There is no reliable electric grid here in this city of 5 million people, and so we looked at putting in solar street lights as a way to provide safety, security, improve commerce in an otherwise dark city at night…These lights are working great.

Battleland recalled that while reading Dexter Filkins’ piece in the latest New Yorker on what to expect once the U.S. military leaves the country. He tagged along with U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Curtis Taylor on a visit to an Afghan town, whose bazaar was once illuminated by such lights:

…he looked up, at the solar-powered street lights that lined the road through the bazaar, another woebegone American project. Each light had been stripped of its solar panel, its fixtures, its wires. In some of the panels, birds were building nests. “You have to really admire the people who built those,” Taylor said, shaking his head, and then he climbed into his troop carrier and drove away.

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