Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Questioning the reliability of Afghans

President Obama issued an apology and is amazed that the violence in Afghanistan against U.S. and the coalition didn’t suddenly stop (By the way, why are we apologizing for destroying something the enemy is using to pass inflammatory, if not coordinating, information against us?). 

The GIRoA Ministry of Interior is conducting an investigation into the most recent killings perpetrated by ANSF personnel against coalition forces.  No doubt that’ll shed light on the situation.

ISAF leadership repeatedly asserts that infiltration and/or impersonations of Afghan Security Forces is not a problem even while “Green on Blue” violence increases. 

Now Fox News has stumbled onto something “new:” New violence stokes questions about reliability of Afghan partners in war.  For NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A), it is no big stretch to say that ANSF forces are the number one cause of death yet only now we are beginning to wonder if the Afghans are reliable.

Last year, an Afghan airman opened up an killed nine–and the Afghan Air Force is supposed to be among the most affluent groups in the ANSF.  Recently, the French suffered several dead due to the Afghans security forces. Short of an exhaustive search, it is safe to say these are fairly regular events.  Unfortunately, they have been treated as isolated and unrelated events and regarded as irregular which, coincidently, helps to preserve the illusion of progress.

Can there be any conclusion other than to question the reliability of the forces we’ve poured billions into over the last decade?  Maybe the solution is just to spill more blood and treasure.

AAF re-writing the laws of physics

All those years studying weight, lift, drag, and thrust and only now do I learn that what is needed to fly I knew all along.  According to a recent NTM-A blog, English makes flying possible.  So the stick-and-rudder skills aren’t as important after all.

The Soviets just taught the Afghans to fly using their native language as opposed to the international language of flying.  Not only was it easier, faster, and more cost-effective, it undoubtedly cut down on the number of defectors.

Back in the world constrained by gravity, Afghan ground crews are being trained how to repair and maintain the aircraft before they become lawn-darts:  Kandahar Airfield begins teaching its first maintenance fundamentals course

Lesson Number One:  Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.

Soldiers, Marines, and Nazis: Godwin’s Law overtaking blog

 “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” 

–Mike Godwin

So much for “to the victor go the spoils.”  We may have beaten the Germans in World War II, but we won’t be using their insignia any more. 

Even though the use of the infamous “SS” logo by the Marines goes “back to at least the 1980s” according to the Army Times report, Amos [is] sorry for Marine use of Nazi SS Logo

I honestly couldn’t care less that the Marines are using some logo from any notorious organization.  What’s really offensive is GEN Amos suddenly becoming sorry for the use of the logo which he has no doubt known about for a long time.  The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Mike Barrett is even a scout sniper who trained scout snipers! 

Whatever happened to standing-up for your Marines and not letting somebody (or even 31 somebodies) push you around?  I’m offended that the Commandant of the Marine Corps is falling on his sword instead of standing up for his Marines.  Maybe I ought to send a letter to the SECDEF.

“The Corps acknowledged that the inspector general at Pendleton’s I Marine Expeditionary Force was made aware of the “SS” flag photograph in November.”  Yep, I’m sure I MEF just found out about the practise too.   How dumb do they think the GAP (greater American public) is to believe this? 

And 1991 was the first time a woman was assaulted at Tailhook.

Equally incredulous is the innocence proclaimed by the U.S. Army’s 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in another Army Times report Combat outpost name sparks controversy.  At least the army has the guts to take a stand even if is seems hastily and conveniently contrived:

The reference was a misspelling of the name of Combat Outpost Arian, situated in Ghazni Province and named for an ancient Persian tribe that once lived in western Afghanistan. . . “Their name means ‘noblemen,’”

I’ll buy that. 

I believe they must be innocent:  our schools don’t teach history, the soldiers can’t spell by their own admission, and probably think Schutzstaffel is a processed meat product served at Oktoberfest.

Lactation and world peace linked?

This crazy headline from www.foreignpolicy.com caught my eye:  Clinton:  State drawing down in Afghanistan, building more lactation rooms in Washington.  The caption says it all regarding the State Department priorities. 

The headline wasn’t given a second thought at the time except to thing “more excess government spending.”   However, a very interesting thing caught my eye a couple of weeks later.  Perhaps these lactation rooms have some mystical power that we should have harnessed long ago–the Special Operators are apparently interested in them and planning for them at their facilities too:

Notice the label in the upper right of the site plan

Maybe the reason the Taliban is still mad at us is that we are only building for temporary lactation.  A little obtuse fun at the expense of our Afghan translators–the intended word is “location.”

But seriously–forget lasers, smart bombs, special tactics, and non-lethal weapons–maybe the Secretary of State is really on to something.  Lactation (and literacy centers) may bring the enemy to their knees.

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.”

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.

Renewable Energy ≠ Afghan Right

With the reconstruction of Afghanistan in progress, there are countless Good Idea Fairies circulating renewable energy as the solution to peace and harmony for Afghanistan and the Middle East at large.

Unlike the satellites that support the video phones NTM-A is buying, at least Afghans can feel the wind and see the sun, so solar and wind power would seem logical possibilities to the enthusiastic do-gooder.  Enter the solution:  a combination windmill and solar panel built within the past year.

Set against the idyllic Little Ghar, the energy farm looks like a picture of environmentally responsible modernity.  Closer inspection reveals that the solar panel is caked with dust preventing even a small amount of electrical generation.  What you cannot see is that, in spite of the breezy day, the windmill was frozen.

But someone was able to get a generator installed and running!  Afghans practice the time-honored method of break-down maintenance.  With U.S. funding, that usually means repair-by-replacement.  The one renewable energy solution the Afghans implemented themselves–other than the U.S. dollar–was working quite effectively (a formerly common American fixture–the clothes line).  In a dusty environment with equipment that requires regular attention, renewable energy is not a great solution for the technologically dearth Afghanistan.  Ultimately, Afghans resort to what they know and trust–clothes lines and generators.

Assuming a 30kw generator, the nearly $1,000,000 ‘renewable energy farm’ could have purchased enough fuel to power the generator at full load for 4 years. . . and pay for the generator!

The reality is that,  if/when Afghanistan becomes self-sufficient, their growing affluence will be able to afford and sustain advanced technologies that are better for the environment.  While academics may discount Kuznets curves (because of the belief that ‘dirty’ industries are just exported by richer countries to the poorer), as society at-large has progressed it has moved to cleaner forms of energy; free markets incentivize the reduction of waste in delivering any product, including power (at least in free-market societies), as it makes that product more affordable and attractive over a dirty, wasteful option. 

On the bright side, renewable energy does make us feel good about ourselves while enhancing a great corporate welfare program.

It ain’t easy being green.

Afghan right ceiling fans

There is a simplicity about Afghanistan that is sublime.  Ask for a ceiling fan and you get a ceiling fan:

The advanced safety features will keep the Afghans (and manatees) from hurting themselves when they try to turn it on an off.  I see an update to the MIL-SPEC coming.  Until then, there are will always be plenty of “Redneck Right” solutions.

One last problem the Rednecks can’t provide a solution for;  Someone needs to request doors f0r the shower stalls so the men can have privacy with each other.