The idea of winning hearts and minds dates back decades. Higher command believes that if allied forces do favors for and give material gifts to the enemy, they'll be influenced by the acts of kindness and, perhaps, change their way of thinking.
Since that plan rarely works, many ground troops will appeal to the enemies' children, thinking they can steer them over to the good side while they're impressionable. In America, the idea of strange men giving candy to little kids is reprehensible, but on deployment, it's cool.
However, in a country like Afghanistan, where most of the population is dirt poor, little kids have no problem with walking up to a patrol and asking an infantryman for "chocolate," which means they'll take any candy you have.
Sure, the kids usually have good intentions, but there are a few reasons why you shouldn't give them those sugary snacks from your MRE.
1. It might piss off their parents
Some Afghan parents don't want their kids socializing with American troops because they don't want the bad guys to see it happening — or they just flat-out hate America.
The last thing a grunt wants to hear is a potential Taliban member screaming at them.
Lance Cpl. Randy B. Lake talks to some children during a foot patrol.
(Photo by Marine Cpl. Adam C. Schnell)
2. What if the kids have allergies?
Some kids are allergic to chocolate, coconuts, or peanuts — and you can be sure that they won't read the nutritional facts to see what's in the small treat you gave them. Most of the kids think all candy is called chocolate and they want that piece you have stowed away in your cargo pocket. Once they get it, they just pop it in their mouth.
If they eat that bite-sized Snickers bar you gave them, suddenly go into anaphylactic shock, and their airway closes, you've just made the local populous even more pissed off than they already are at you for being in their country.
3. A friendship going bad
Grunts are people, too, and they have one or two strands humanity floating around in their bloodstreams — somewhere. Frequently, the infantryman will notice a little kid who reminds him of someone back home. In this moment, they might "bro down" a little and give them some candy.
However, Marines wear dump pouches that they use to put things in, like empty magazines or extra bottles of water. There could be a time where their new little friend sneaks up to them, discreetly steals something out of the dump pouch (or puts a ticking grenade in there) and takes off running.
That troop could die because he trusted that little sh*t. We're speaking from experience here.
It's hard to learn a little trust, but easy to place an explosive in a poorly placed dump pouch.
4. They might sell it for drugs
Countless kids we encountered on patrol while in Afghanistan were high off their asses. They were entertaining as hell, yes, but doped out of their minds. It's possible that the piece of candy you gave them was what they need to sell to get the cash to buy their next fix.
We could put a photo of some Afghan kids getting lit below, but this article isn't supposed to depress anyone... right?