Monthly Archives: February 2012

ANDU, ADU, NMAA, ANSU. . . Let’s call the whole thing off

The following is an NTM-A version of a “snuff film” since the British Advisors prohibited its filming due to security concerns surrounding the upcoming grand opening of the “West Point” of Afghanistan (don’t worry, the film is completely G-Rated although the millions spent on British pet-projects is unfit for any audience).

Keeping a $200 million dollar project on the “down-low” is tough enough with the neighbors stealing building supplies (allah providentially providing, of course), but for the Engineers to publicly proclaim the project via YouTube is over-the-top.

Western building materials are in great supply near ANSU (or pink EIFS buildings and double-pane windows have become de rigueur)

Since the Brits refer to the site as the Afghan National Defense University (ANDU), others refer to it as Afghan Defense University (ADU), the Engineers refer to it as Afghan National Security University (ANSU), and the site will be the home of the National Military Academy of Afghanistan (NMAA), Religious and Cultural Affairs (RCA) Branch School, Legal School, and numerous other schools, the operational deception is sure to confuse anyone looking to cause trouble. . .

. . . Until now.

Advertisements

Afghan past created on Hollywood set

Just as some nuts are inclined to believe that a missile took down the Pentagon and President Bush orchestrated 9/11 (yet was the dumbest president in history), Foreign Policy filed the photo essay Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan. . . which is bound to create some doubters.

Industry, education, medicine, textiles, public transportation, music.  It seems like an impossible past for the city of Kabul.  The older Afghans assure us that this is the way in was (at least in Kabul) and books and movies like The Kite Runner attest to the same.

It’s a good story that gives hope that Afghanistan can climb its way out of the middle ages again–even if it requires a moon shot.

Truth, lies and Afghanistan

Armed Forces Journal publishes another reality-check for the war (or whatever we are doing) in Afghanistan.  LTC Daniel L. Davis writes the latest feature, “Truth, lies and Afghanistan: How military leaders have let us down.”

There are plenty of good news stories in Afghanistan but even the PAO’s best efforts can’t keep up with the bad-news stories.  LTC Davis sobers up the most optimistic American by reviewing conditions on the ground 10 years after our war in Afghanistan started.  First hand accounts demonstrate that the Afghans are far from taking over security in any meaningful way but one wouldn’t know any better from the open-source reporting.

Anthony Cordesman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies is quoted by Davis with the following: 

Since June 2010, the unclassified reporting the U.S. does provide has steadily shrunk in content, effectively ‘spinning’ the road to victory by eliminating content that illustrates the full-scale of the challenges ahead. They also, however, were driven by political decisions to ignore or understate Taliban and insurgent gains from 2002 to 2009, to ignore the problems caused by weak and corrupt Afghan governance, to understate the risks posed by sanctuaries in Pakistan, and to ‘spin’ the value of tactical ISAF victories while ignoring the steady growth of Taliban influence and control.

Politics theoretically stop at the water’s edge.  Clearly politics is driving how and why we continue in Afghanistan.  Certainly there are other factors at play such as our ability to keep Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan long after we “leave.”  But, as asked by Davis, at what price?  Is the full price even recognized?  Put yourself in the shoes of this officer’s shoes:  “How do I look [my soldier’s] wife in the eye when I get back and tell her that her husband died for something meaningful? How do I do that?”

The Afghans recognize the price that will be paid and are taking action.  From one advisor, “Already all across this region [many elements of] the security forces have made deals with the Taliban.  [The ANSF] won’t shoot at the Taliban, and the Taliban won’t shoot them.”  For those that can’t flee the country, survival takes on many different forms.  Is anyone surprised by the self-preservation? 

Davis completes his essay with the following:

When it comes to deciding what matters are worth plunging our nation into war and which are not, our senior leaders owe it to the nation and to the uniformed members to be candid — graphically, if necessary — in telling them what’s at stake and how expensive potential success is likely to be.  U.S. citizens and their elected representatives can decide if the risk to blood and treasure is worth it.

Likewise when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose.  That is the very essence of civilian control of the military.  The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years.  Simply telling the truth would be a good start.

Generals will be quick to point out, “Hope is not a plan.”  If so, why is it the only logical thing that explains the current conditions?

Life is cheap–labor is cheaper

Proverbs 6:6, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”

The ant may be a good model for working hard and doing what we should be doing without needing to be told, but that doesn’t mean that the ant’s methods are the best.

No one will accuse the Afghans of being efficient.  But they do know how to get the job done (even if not to western standards).  Consider the following video recorded at Camp Eggers, Afghanistan:

These Afghan construction workers refuse to let a second floor keep them from accomplishing the mission.    The solution isn’t always the easiest but it just may be the most expedient.

Innovative?  Efficient?  Safe?  Back breaking?  You decide. 

Since it seems that one of our goals here in Afghanistan is to pump as much money into the economy, this is a most efficient way of doing it.  Unfortunately, it does little to modernize a country stuck in the Stone Age.

Maybe these guys should audition for “Afghanistan’s Got Talent.”

Marines caught on video. . . again

Thankfully, these Marines are just clowning around.  Only Ralph Nader would be upset about the possible safety issues.

NOTE:  If you see bored Marines doing this, count your blessings (and run).

All the world’s an asylum

The Associated Press exposes an interesting leading indicator in the report posted at FoxNews.com, Afghan asylum bids hit 10-year high.  “More Afghans fled the country and sought asylum abroad in 2011 than in any other year since the start of the decade-long war, suggesting that many are looking for their own exit strategy as international troops prepare to withdraw.”

The announced end date for our presence in Afghanistan is going to suck more than just troops out of the country; anyone with the means and sense to leave will probalby not delay much longer (i.e. the people needed here if this country is to have a chance).  The quotes from the ‘man-on-the-street’ in the AP report likely reflect the dominant perspective of the al-Gaeda (see Confessions of a Mullah Warrior, Masood Farivar, p. 290) but will certainly be discounted by Washington as anecdotal.

Regarding the “progress” the coalition is making:

“I don’t think anything will improve in three or five years, so it’s better to leave now,” said Ahmad, who expects to leave for Iran within a few weeks. He asked to be identified only by his first name for fear of being arrested.  “If foreign troops leave, the situation will only get worse, not better,” he said.

 Regarding the influence of the Taliban:

Some Afghans fear that once most foreign troops leave, the Taliban will take over more territory and civil war could erupt along ethnic lines, as it did in the 1990s.

[Esmat Adine] says he left his wife and infant son at home in Afghanistan and paid $5,000 to travel to Australia after the Taliban threatened to kill him for working with American aid workers.

Regarding the economy:

Others worry the Afghan economy will collapse if foreign aid dries up.

There is little doubt that the coalition demand for goods and services has inflated prices in Afghanistan.  Many planners assume a decrease in such costs when the ‘big money’ leaves which will stretch the foreign aid dollars provided.  I’m not an economist but this may not happen as hoped; rapid deflation will result in a decrease in purchasing power leaving merchants unable to sell their products, unable to buy new product, unable to pay their employees.  The result is a downward spiraling economy (F.A. Hayek is rolling over in his grave after that analysis).

Another common perception is that the Afghans that assisted the U.S. and Coalition in any way will be the first targets when security decreases and the Taliban or Haqqani Network moves to restore their prominence in the country.  The one silver lining of announcing a withdrawal date is that those friendly (or at least neutral) to the U.S. have a chance of survival by preparing now. 

In any case, while the numbers in Afghanistan of those that like us will decrease significantly after we leave, the number of people that don’t like us will probably remain unchanged.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

–Shakespeare, As You Like It

One man’s warlord is another man’s police chief

A little good news is always worth passing on.

This blogger has grown to support the idea of putting the warlords friendly (or at least not opposed to) to the U.S. in positions of official power and responsibility.  An example of this is the appointment of Mattiulah Khan as the Provincial Chief of Police (PCOP) in Uruzgan. 

Since Khan’s taking office, he has been targeted by the Taliban but has survived and the locals are taking note of the security improvements in his province.  The Victoria Times Colonist of Canada filed this report essentially endorsing the appointment of the warlord as the PCOP:  Column: A rare sign of hope in Afghanistan.

Pockets of sanity in Afghanistan will prevail long after the U.S. departs but are unlikely to be in a western image.  The secure areas will largely homogenous groups united around their culture (Bamiyan) and/or leaders (such as Mattiulah Khan).  Few believe a central government in Kabul has any chance of lasting power without western intervention and money; federalism may be the only solution to retaining some image of a unified Afghanistan.