Richard Lasko

Rich LaskoTerm: Winter 2014



“Foresters in Afghanistan: An Agricultural Perspective of the “Great Game”

The U.S. Forest Service tradition of providing international assistance, supporting civilian and military programs in war zones, stretches back to World War I and continues today in Afghanistan. The historical background, the geophysical setting, and social conditions of Afghanistan provided an interesting environment for agency foresters, range managers, and specialists working with the Foreign Agriculture Service in Afghanistan. Agency personnel serving on Provincial Reconstruction Teams encountered a collision of traditional Afghan social and agricultural practices with those from Europe and America. The wartime environment and continual change required a high level of innovation, flexibility, and patience by the participants as they initiated and implemented agriculture development projects.

I am developing one or two papers that would document and place our recent effort in a historical context with past agency involvement in the World Wars, and Vietnam, and provide commentary that would hopefully be useful to both historians and Agency leadership who might be faced with implementation of this type of effort in the future. I am also seeking to develop commentary on Gifford Pinchot’s and other early Forest Service leaders’ wartime humanitarian assistance activities.

My research at the Library of Congress and National Archives is continuing and entering the final phase. A final set of interviews with Agency participants is being conducted to capture thoughts regarding the humanitarian effort.


“The stay at Grey Towers is providing me with an extraordinary opportunity to reflect on this topic and begin to place it in to a broader historical context. Discussions with staff at Grey Towers and exploration of the on-site historical materials are giving me ideas that will add great texture to this project. The Grey Towers working environment is wonderfully stimulating, promoting focus and contemplation. The Forest Service and Grey Towers Heritage Association team have set a high bar for hospitality and service. It is good to have Grey Towers in their good hands. The opportunity to broaden my knowledge of the Pinchot family and their multifaceted contribution to American society was an added bonus, giving me several venues for exploration.”