Jennie Green and Sarah Chayes are determined women. Instead of living a contented life in the glow of the Ivy Leagues or academia, they are entrepreneurs amid the chaos and violence of Kandahar. Since 2005, they have conducted business while braving death threats. Green and Chayes have gained a following among hawks, journalists, NGOs, expatriates and the military. They also appeal to garden variety peaceniks, whose outlook is questioned as Chayes and Green lay out the complexities of the situation in Afghanistan.
Green works with Chayes who founded the work co-op Arghand International. In November 2009, Green wrote an important eight-page "Note From The Field." Its straightforward manner is devoid of eye-glazing political-journalistic assumptions. Green conveys a shoes-on-the-ground point of view about the latest happenings in Kandahar. What Green noted in this field note last month was a precursor to war journalist Michael Yon's latest dispatch, which details a heavy battle for Kandahar.
Chayes is the former NPR reporter who grew disenchanted with the way the mainstream media wanted the war reported in 2002. She quit. Chayes wrote a book called The Punishment of Virtue, which chronicles her experiences in Kandahar where she learned the maze of power structures from the local war lords, to the military system. Chayes is now highly sought for her opinions from journalists such as Charlie Rose to high ranking military leaders. While still involved in Arghand, Chayes is at ISAF headquarters in Kabul.
Arghand International is a co-op that provides jobs for 15 local Afghans from the Kandahar area. Chayes and Green founded Arghand to provide an alternate revenue source for men and women with few options. They use locally grown plants to produce oils that go into making creams and hand-formed soaps for export. Their recent progress includes putting locals to work, installing the most powerful solar generator in Kandahar, and producing 1000 kilos of handmade soap for export to the U.S. That they do any of this is an example of fortitude and smarts for what's going on. Their headaches include the Canadians, who abruptly decided not to let Arghand use an APO address earlier this year to ship merchandise inexpensively and safely in and out of the U.S.