Category Archives: Culture

Ranger graveyards swelling in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is taking it to the Rangers.  Not the U.S. Army Rangers or the Texas Rangers but the Ford Ranger.  Unfortunately, many of them are ending up in vehicle graveyards.  Maybe this is a method for improving the mineral wealth of Afghanistan:
Any redneck would be proud of this boneyard.  If your Ford ever needs a part, you’ll probably be able to find it in Afghanistan.

If you ever wondered how Ford Motor Company survived without the bail-outs given to GM and Chrysler, it may have had something to do with the sky-rocketing demand.  At $50,000 for a crewcab and $30,000 for a 2-door, it doesn’t take much uptick in business to keep the balance sheet in the black–even if the product was built in Thailand.

According to BG Tim Ray, the Afghans have suitable “stick and rudder” skills.  Unfortunately, their ‘wheel and brake’ skills aren’t quite as advanced.

Bubba could retrofit this for his parts hauler. . . too late

Not to be left out, the Afghans haven’t had much success driving International Harvesters either.  But there aren’t quite as many to wreck, so their numbers are a little lower. 

Of course, every boneyard must be colocated with a bar–it keeps supply AND demand booming.

Honky-tonk on a box:  Just add neon

Southern Afghanistan Economics:  Combine a drinking establishment with a boneyard and Class IV yard and you have a recession-proof business.

How do you say “Bubba” in Dari?

The Fog of Peace

The quickest way to end a war is to lose it.”  –George Orwell

It should come as no surprise that this blog is not especially optimistic about the sustainability of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.  A new blog at www.foreignpolicy.com doesn’t shake that pessimism.

Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason hit the nail on the head with their article “The Fog of Peace.”  Discrediting any optimism embedded in the United State’s peace talks with the Taliban, they list three reasons why the optimism is not just unfounded but delusional.

1.  There is no “Taliban” in the sense the proponents of talks envision it.

Just as the Knights of Malta did not agree on policy matters with the Knights Templar [in the First Crusade], and carried out radically different strategies in the Holy Land, so the various groups of the jihad often fundamentally disagree with one another on how to achieve their common goal of establishing religious rule over disputed territory.

2.  The enemy is interested in pre-withdrawal concessions, not a settlement, in an alien culture in which seeking negotiations to end a war is surrender.

The motives of any such representatives simply do not now and will never coincide with our own. The Quetta Shura has no genuine interest whatsoever in any “peace talks” or negotiations except to gain concessions such as the release of their comrades in Guantanamo Bay.

3.  No understanding with senior clerics in the Taliban movement has ever outlived the airplane flight back to New York.

 The Taliban of 1996-2001, which was infinitely more centralized and controllable than it is today, never kept a single such agreement for more than a week.

 Johnson and Mason strike a serious blow with a startling comparison of Afghanistan to Vietnam.  Noting that the Afghan National Army has maybe 100,000 under arms in a country 4 times the size of Vietnam, the South Vietnamese had 1,000,000 under arms with a modern air force and yet collapsed after just 3 weeks of fighting.

Afghanistan is like a boat; It’s just a hole the U.S. government is pouring money into.

Afghan women gaining respect 9 millimeters at a time

The cover of the December 2011 edition of NTM-A’s magazine Shohna ba Shohna (Shoulder to Shoulder) shows Dutch female police officers training Afghan women in pistol marksmanship.

Both Shohna Ba Shohna and the Netherlands Ministry of Defense reported  the graduation of several women from a two-week security course in Kunduz Province last October.  Since men are unable to touch women according to muslim law, women are vital to ensuring security at check-points around the country.

With the women learning to use pistols, handcuffs, and conduct body-searches and pat-downs, their husbands may not need to ask American medics how to get them pregnant.  

Don’t expect a sexual revolution to overtake Afghanistan anytime soon as there is a catch.  Afghan women are also being taught GIRoA law, human rights, and self-defence which may introduce Afghan men to a truly miserable existence!

Big Boy visits Afghanistan

Someone must have been on their last day at Camp Eggers; something is just not right about the automated announcement from the NTM-A JOC.

If you aren’t in the military, this will not be funny one way or the other.  But for anyone familiar with military installations, this is funny, especially for Afghanistan. 

If you’ve been in Afghanistan and understand the affinity for boys, this announcement takes on a whole new meaning.

Hopefully, the exercise helped prepare the Embassy because when they use their their “Big Boy Voice” there is likely to be an uptick in interest from Afghans.

Coalition vs. Culture

As navy lore goes, submariners deploy as 110 men and return as 55 couples.  But hey, they’re not gay because they are deployed, right?

Holding hands, beard rubs, chai boys, dancing boys, and Bacha Bazi.  It’s ok because it’s Afghanistan, right?

A Human Terrain Team (HTT) attached to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Battalion in Helmand province documented even more hideous cultural norms among the friendly, peace-loving, muslims that make up much of the country in a report documenting the culturally accepted pedophilia embedded in the Pashtun culture of Afghanistan:  Pashtun Sexuality.  Attributing much of the behavior to misapplication of principles from the Koran, the breadth of deviance from western cultural norms speak to deeply-rooted beliefs that are nearly incompatible with a healthy society and are unlikely to be overcome with computers and literacy training:

[A U.S. Army medic] and her male colleagues were approached by a local gentleman seeking advice on how his wife could become pregnant.  When it was explained to him what was necessary, he reacted with disgust and asked “How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean, when one could be with a man, who is clean?  Surely this must be wrong.”

Fox News uncovered the HTT report in January 2010 and filed this report:  Afghan Men Struggle With Sexual Identity, Study Finds.  Save yourself the read–Afghans are not “struggling” with their sexual identity; they are completely comfortable with it.  PBS filed the documentary, The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan, in April of 2010 which exposes the sex-trade in the country where families sell there sons to wealthy men for entertainment.  In Afghanistan, such Bacha Bazi are regarded as a status symbol.

Do U.S. senior leaders read these stories?  What do they think, “Let’s teach women to fly helicopters and then the men will desire them instead of boys?”  The culture has marginalized women so much than men prefer boys over women!  What are we thinking when we try to integrate women into the ANSF (at great expense no less)?  That somehow the men will respect them and finally find them “clean?”

The opening lines of Maura Reynolds’ Los Angeles Times report in April 2003 gives the following account:

In his 29 years, Mohammed Daud has seen the faces of perhaps 200 women. A few dozen were family members. The rest were glimpses stolen when he should not have been looking and the women were caught without their face-shrouding burkas. “How can you fall in love with a girl if you can’t see her face?” he asks. 

Daud is unmarried and has sex only with men and boys. But he does not consider himself homosexual, at least not in the Western sense. “I like boys, but I like girls better,” he says. “It’s just that we can’t see the women to see if they are beautiful.  But we can see the boys, and so we can tell which of them is  beautiful.”

These stories reflect behavior embedded far more deeply than most westerners think.  It’s natural to think “They’re just like us” but spend a little time with them and you learn that they do think differently.  That said, attempts to westernize their military and modernize their country reflect just as greatly on the coalition as Afghan behavior does their culture.  The big question is not “can Afghanistan be a stable hedge against terrorism” but “can a culture so foreign to the west sustain a modern, pro-western government military?”  As an aside, is the behaviour environmentally or genetically driven?

At least in Iraq some of the men like women:  an Iraqi officer (with four wives) offered a concubine to a fellow officer in Iraq, “because it was unacceptable for a man to abstain from sex during long separations from wives” and “it was ok in Islam.” 

Where the hadiths speak of 72 virgins, the Pashtuns are not thinking of 72 women.  Blame it on their DNA.

Bureaucracy successfully implemented in Afghanistan

As inconceivable as it may be, Afghans could teach our politicians (and military) a thing or two about bureaucracy.  Imagine requiring the Secretary of Defense’s signature to purchase this truckload of supplies. 

The $2,000 of building materials required 26 signatures and was ultimately bottom-lined by the Afghan Minister of Defense.  A similar amount of supplies purchased by the U.S. government is regarded as a micro-purchase and could be signed-off by an E-5 with a government-issued credit card!

NTM-A and IJC may struggle getting the ANSF to build terrain models and use Port-o-lets and HMMWV‘s properly, but there is no problem developing multi-layered hierarchies and worthless flow-charts that inhibit real work while promoting ample opportunities for corruption.

Frozen Lemons Construction Company

The Afghans are definitely resourceful.  With billions of dollars available from through coalition efforts, there is no shortage of initiative and creativity.  But what do “Frozen Lemons” have to do with construction?

At least “Frozen Lemons” has a fighting chance in Afghanistan; naming your enterprise “The 39th Construction Company” would be a sure loser.

But you haven’t “arrived” until the locals name their companies after you, as is the case with the “Rusty Rhoads Construction Company.”

Merry Christmas from Afghanistan

From 2009, an authentic Afghan-style Christmas Carol:

If you couldn’t keep up, here are the lyrics:

Merry Christmas from Afghanistan, oh man, it’s that time of year,
and the birth of Jesus doesn’t seem to please the terrorists down here;
I’d like to take a moment for you folks at home to make it clear;
Merry Christmas from the Eastern Hemisphere.

Merry Christmas from Afghanistan, way back in the USA,
You’ve got mistletoe and falling snow, we’ve got sandstorms and grenades
But what the hell, it’s just as well we celebrate it anyway,
Merry Christmas from 5,000 miles away.

And I remember many Decembers, sitting ’round that tree,
And now I’m in an outer cordon sitting ’round an IED,
I’ve traded yams and roasted ham for a chicken noodle MRE,
Merry Christmas from out here in the middle east.

So merry Christmas from Afghanistan, from our AO to yours,
I’ll be watching illegal DVDs and defecating out of doors,
Put my pedal to the metal man, I’ll settle for that medal of honor when I win the war,
Single-handedly from my armored driver’s door.

Yuletide salutations from our vacation in the sand,
from this E-3 Lance Coolie and up the whole chain of command
Between Al Qaeda, Al Jazeera, Mujahadeen, and the Taliban,
It’s a very merry Christmas in Afghanistan.

From south Montana, to northwest Indiana, to the shores of North Caroline,
From NYC to LA’s beaches and down the Mason-Dixon Line,
It’s that season where we’re freezing, but all in all, we’re doing fine,
So merry Christmas from Afghanistan tonight.
It’s that season where we’re freezing, but all in all, we’re doing fine,
So Merry Christmas down the Final Protection Line!

Merry Coalition Christmas from Kabul

Nothing says unity like the boss’s dry erase board:

Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas at the DFAC without reindeer and a Sewage Pump Truck.

In Afghanistan, you should worry about Santa “poppin’ a cap in ya.”

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good Overseas Contingency Operation!

Laying the Groundwork for Civil War

Dec. 5, 2011 Cover Page

Wow.  

Rarely am I so dumbfounded that I cannot conjure up some cynicism to summarize another’s viewpoint on Afghanistan.   

No amount of commentary could replace reading the entire article Laying the Groundwork for Civil War written by Christoph Reuter for Der Spiegel.

Being hardheaded, I will provide a glimpse with a few interesting quotes.  Make no mistake. . . these snippets  are no substitute for reading the entire article.

At the grand council, or loya jirga, held in mid-November, the delegates argued less passionately over a strategic agreement with the United States than over who was to be appointed to the 39th of 40 committees — until they decided to simply skip the number. “In Afghanistan, the number 39 has a very strange meaning which it is not fair for me to tell you,” said jirga spokeswoman Safia Sediqi.

The Afghan government troops do go into combat, but only when the soldiers haven’t just gone AWOL for weeks, or when their officers haven’t been selling gasoline on the black market. On several occasions, the Bundeswehr soldiers in Kunduz have used cameras and night-vision devices to observe their Afghan allies siphoning off gasoline from their own vehicles at night. General Fazil, who was the commander of an army unit in Kunduz until last year, was notorious for stealing and selling tens of thousands of liters of the army’s diesel fuel every month. His nickname among the Germans was “Diesel Fazil.” He had even got the gasoline-stealing expeditions organized for a period when he was attending training for senior staff in Germany.

“The [Americans] are all assholes. Assholes!” It isn’t that they are bad people, Nadir says, toning his rhetoric down a notch, but because they have spent billions to train an army of corrupt opportunists whose loyalty, if they have any at all, is reserved for their own ethnic group. “Without the Americans,” Nadir predicts, “our army will break up into Pashtun, Tajik and Hazara units.”

. . . the Taliban, who, according to NATO, must be defeated if stability is to be restored . . .

The Americans are not repeating the mistakes of the Russians, as they are often accused of doing, but are in fact making their own. Just as they armed warlords and war criminals in the 1980s to fight the Soviet occupation and again in 2002, merely because they were the enemies of their enemies, they are now turning gangsters into allies.

“What we are now seeing,” explains Ruttig, “is an uncontrolled proliferation of competing militias, as well as oversized armed forces whose loyalties tend to lie with their former commanders rather than the Kabul government — and with nothing that could hold them together, especially not after a withdrawal of the Western troops. This is a recipe for civil war.”

So much for the guarded optimism:  Laying the Groundwork for Civil War.