KANDAHAR — In an apparent mix-up over a resupply order of humanitarian aid to Afghan villagers, an Air Force crew recently dropped AIDS-stricken laboratory monkeys into the wartorn nation.
The air drop -- meant to bring goodwill to the Afghan people -- instead brought widespread disaster to the Panjwai district, where hundreds of villagers have since contracted the disease.
The incident brings another black eye on International Assistance forces in the midst of other scandals.
"We sent a message over the SIPRnet to request some further supplies of humanitarian stuff -- blankets, pencils and books for the kids, that sort of thing," said Lieutenant Colonel Martin Stringer. "But since we send these requests all the time, we just sent a shorter message with the location."
The request to supply headquarters read: AIRDROP AIDS // OPERATION VIRAL GOODWILL // LOCATION GRID 82988923.
"Specialist Jones sent the message and apparently he isn't the best typist. Who knew an extra letter could be so serious?"
Officials from Air Force Materiel Command say they take pride in "always getting the order right."
"It was a little difficult to get this one out right away. We finally got a hold of a laboratory in Kentucky who had some subjects there for testing," said Chief Master Sergeant Roger Kennedy. "We just figured it was some new biological warfare strategy. We were actually pretty excited, like we were the flyers of the Enola Gay or something."
As part of a strategy to regain the trust of the villagers, ISAF forces have conducted numerous Medical Civic Assistance Programs (MEDCAP) in the area -- including one with an appearance by Ervin "Magic" Johnson.
"That one was actually pretty good, because we got some great photos to put up on Facebook for our PR strategy," said LTC Mike Wolfton. "The storyboards for the General really look terrific."
Despite the mix-up, there has been some good to come out of the tragedy. The disease has apparently gone beyond the village and is ripping throughout the insurgent community.
Through intercepted radio communications out of Pakistani tribal lands, Taliban leaders have said that AIDS has been spreading rapidly through the ranks, apparently due to sharing of unsterilized bomb-making materials and their insistence on a practice they call "Man-Love Thursdays."