Afghanistan 2017 — Mission Improbable

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One of the bigger problems in the Stan is continuity. The Military come and go with a frequency that is mind numbing.

They also have the WIAS tasking group. They come in one of the following categories:

  1. SMs not wanted at their command
  2. ROAD Scholars
  3. Guys who volunteered

Category 1 are usually exemplified by a willingness to sit around and do nothing (aka shitheads or duds). They either don’t want to do anything and don’t care about the mission or they truly suck and are incapable of doing anything but damage.

We recently had the pleasure of a guy of the second sort receiving the heave ho from our area. He tried poorly to do everything and I mean everything but accomplished nothing. We likened him to a puppy chasing around silver, bouncy balls. He’d catch one. He’d start a project. Then he’d see another shiny ball bouncing down the path and chase after that one. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

This, of course, left others playing catch the ball behind him because much of what he’d start affected other lines of effort or, more accurately, threw wrenches in other lines of effort. We had just been getting the Afghans to take responsibility for themselves and to actually DO things on their own. It all ended within a month of his arrival as he let them do what they do all too well. They suckered him into doing their work so that they could sit back and relax. This Captain thought that it made him popular with the Afghans. Alas, they all saw him for what he was and couldn’t stand him.

He also had an issue with Black people. I couldn’t pin it down but the guy had problems with any Black person who did not outrank him or couldn’t help him chase bouncy, shiny balls around camp.

This guy was worse than worthless. He did real damage to the effort.  This should not be tolerated. Unfortunately, this is the affect of a great many of the WIAS Tasking output. In many AORs, WIAS tasker is a profane curse.

Another of these WIAS worthies used open source email to put out SECRET information. This mental giant was actually an Intel Officer. Yes, they’re that bad.

Category 2 are usually lazy and are just riding out the year. Some of them can be motivated to act. Some of them can be tricked into acting. Others couldn’t be dislodged from their complacency and F’hobbitian methods with a strike from Thor’s Mjolnir.

Category 3 are usually guys who are motivated and will help get things done. Most of these folks will listen to those who have been here a minute. They have military imperatives that they must, at least, attempt to accomplish and that a guy like me must understand and, if possible, assist him in accomplishing.

Cat 3 guys usually do some good. Especially if they listen well and/or have taken some time to learn about Afghan culture and the history of the ANDSF.

Unfortunately, Cat 3s are about One in 10,000.

Some Special Units rotate in for 90 days a pop. These guys are hard chargers who want to go to war and kill something. Some of them do well and do good. Others…well, not so much.

Last but not least, the Commanders. We get guys who go with the flow. We get guys who think they are making GREAT CHANGES that are mere reinventions of wheels tried in’ 07 or ’13. You get Commanders who land on the ground with a Squadron of Good Idea Fairies with unworkable nonsense. And you get some good Commanders who try to take what is working and improve it, discard foolishness and try to rework seemingly insoluble problems.

Back to continuity.

Individuals pop in and out of Afghanistan on 90 day to 9 Month tours. The WIAS tasker guys may stay a full year or may not. We’ve had quite a few of these guys get Pink Slips and head home 3 to 6 months early.

Some Contractors do a year and roll out.

However, you also have Contractors who stay for years at a time and know the lay of the land.

By and large, the Contractor is ignored…as long as he’s doing something. The Contractor doesn’t have to accomplish anything as long as it looks like it is delivering on the DELIVERABLEs.

Deliverables may or may not be vague as hell.

You’ve got some Contractors who do some really great things AND you’ve got some who sit around and do as little as possible. Skaters who do just enough to seem relevant and not be descoped.
There are contractors over here who are hot shit and WANT desperately to accomplish something…anything. BUT, for the most part, if a Contractor makes a suggestion, the suggestion is all but ignored.
It’s not an atmosphere conducive to accomplishing much.

Contracts in the Stan are horribly written and are, oft times, inflexible.

Another huge problem is the low pay of the interpreters. The interpreter/translator is key. You get what you pay for. When I worked with Dyncorp, I was able to draw in the best around the country because we paid them better than anyone else.

Other contracts throw interpreter/translators into the verbiage as if an afterthought. “Oh yeah, we need some of those local talky fuckers.” That makes for some wretched hiring practices. You get guys who can barely speak English and can’t translate to save their lives.

These are some of the issues.

With high Military turnover, no one really cares. They’re here to do their year and roll out. You get a few who do care but not many.

We have one Major who thinks that it is his job to make the Afghans fail.

We have Generals who tell us that the Afghans cannot fail.

There are zero consequences for failure, corruption, incompetence, outright criminality, etc within the Afghan Army.

The ANSSF conduct something like 80% of the operations against the enemy even though they make up less than 15% of the force. The regular ANDSF who make up 80 to 85% of the force can’t fight their way out of their own FOBs.

It’s a seriously and incredibly strange endeavor in the Stan.

Personally, I think we’ve done about all we can do. UNLESS we have a serious leadership paradigm change.
And maybe we’ve got that with Trump/Mattis. Somehow, I doubt it.

Oh yeah…don’t get me started on the ISAF folks. The turks are worthless.
The Spaniards can’t do anything. The Italians drink wine. The Brits look hard but do very little except create rules that adds red tape to everything that they touch.

I went over to RS HQ once. You need a letter signed by a Colonel in triplicate just to get a room for the night. Everything else is correspondingly difficult to accomplish there.

The RS (ISAF) Badge is a great example of the cohesion of the effort here.

US bases won’t accept the ISAF badge for much, if anything.

In order to get onto HKIA, one must have an ISAF badge or one must be escorted. Even if one has a CAC.

It is quite possibly the dumbest thing in the world.

All of this is before anyone even thinks of going outside of the wire which doesn’t happen for about 99% of the US and Coalition Forces. Thanks to Dan Bolger, the whole of the US and Coalition Forces are F’hobbitized. Stuck on some base somewhere and can’t find their way to a local Nan shop much less a Taliban stronghold even though most any Afghan knows exactly where the Talibs. Insurgents and bandits are holed up at any given moment.

Hell, I used to be able to ride around Kabul and tell you exactly where the insurgents were hiding. I could point out bandit houses.

Now, though, I doubt that there are more than 20 American SMs who know jackshit about the Afghan countryside or where and who a local insurgent, bandit or bad guy might be.

Yet, even Hekmetyar has come in from the cold. lol That old bastard is playing some game. I can smell it.

 

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Bigotry in Afghanistan

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Let me preface this by saying that I am by no means making the statement that all Afghans are bigots or racist.  Nor am I stating that all Afghan National Security Force personnel are bigots.  That said, racism and bigotry are rampant in Afghanistan.

It is a shame that folks come to Afghanistan from all over the world to try to lend a hand and their efforts are repaid with racist attitudes.  Bad enough that corruption has made it all but impossible to make real progress here.  Measurable progress inn our endeavors in the Stan is extremely difficult to sustain.  This is bad enough.  When advisors are ignored simply because of the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes, this only makes the job more difficult.

I have served in mentor and advisory positions for roughly 5 years in Afghanistan.  I’ve worked with the Afghan National Police in Herat, Farah, Ghor and Badghis as well as with the Afghan National Army in Kabul both with the Kabul Military Training Center and the Afghan Partnering Unit.  In each of these locations, I have discovered that Afghans, who see themselves as “White,” have harsh and negative opinions of peoples of Asian and African descent.

If one has the appearance similar to Hazaras, one is automatically looked down upon.  A mentor who looks Hazara is all but ignored.  I have discovered the same attitudes shown towards African Americans and all other African peoples.

While I was in Herat, the ANP would make disparaging statements about Barack Obama during his candidacy openly mocking him because of his skin color.  They started calling my African-American counterparts “Obama cousins.”  They had this attitude towards anyone who looked remotely African American.  This attitude carried forward in their mentor/advisory relationships with African-Americans as well as any Asian peoples.

Asian peoples would be called Hazari and thenceforth ignored being seen and treated as valueless.  African Americans would be treated similarly.

I experimented with this a few times by having one of my team members discuss subjects with them and make suggestions about areas well within his expertise.  None of the Afghans would take him seriously or attempt to put these suggestions into action going so far as to tell said team member that the suggestion would be impossible to implement or that it was a bad idea.  Usually they would employ the favored Afghan tactic and say; “This is not in our culture.”   I would make the same suggestions a week or so later.  The Afghans would usually act on the suggestion within a week or so.  Same suggestion, sold in much the same way.  One Black person, one White person.  Completely opposite reactions.

At my newest location, I discussed these racial attitudes with my interpreter.  He replied that I may be correct.  I have been able to step in here and get positive results in a much shorter time than my counterparts.  I have noticed the relationships between my fellow advisors and the Afghans.  From my vantage point after watching and listening for a month, there is no reason that more improvement could not have been made in a shorter time.  However, two of the advisors with whom I work are Black.  Both of them are experienced.  Both of them retired military.  They have the expertise to get the job done, to advise and to mentor.  Both of them have been here in Afghanistan around 4 years as civilian advisors as well as having deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq while serving in the military.

Neither of them have made great strides in this position.  Something toxic existed.  That toxicity was, I surmised, the racism of the local Afghan officers.

Fast forward to a week ago, I told my interpreter that the reason that one of my counter-parts was having issues was the racism of his Afghan counterpart.  My Interpreter gave me that “OKAY…” look and laughed it off.  A couple of days later, this Afghan told me that he didn’t like “Africans.”  His word for Black people.  I looked at my Interpreter with raised eyebrow but said little.  I’m not here to preach at anyone concerning moral issues.  That said, I decided to put into action a plan to turn this Afghan Colonel towards the side of light and away from racism and prejudice.  I’ll have to be subtle but anything is possible.

I’ve run into racism all over the world.  For some odd reason, many Americans and especially the more naive people on the Left, believe that racism is “America’s special shame.”  I don’t see it that way.  Racism in America is mild as compared to that of Thailand, the Gulf and Central Asia.  I’ve encountered racism, bigotry and prejudice the world over.  It has hit me from all sides.  I’ve been treated preferentially in places like Afghanistan and Cambodia because of my “bright skin.”  I’ve also been treated as if I were less than human or automatically judged negatively due to the color of my skin and my national heritage.  Being an American pays off well in most cases across the world.  At times, though, being an American will be cause for instantaneous and harsh judgment.  This is mostly the case with liberal Europeans who have a special hate for all things American.

I find it unfortunate and shameful that African Americans leave behind racism in America only to find racism on the opposite side of the planet.  That same racism can be found all over, though. It is not unique to Afghanistan.

Myself, I’ve found it best to see people as they are.  Through their actions and their interactions with humanity.  Judging a person by the color of their skin or because of their place of birth or religion of birth is a wretched lens through which to see the world and interact with our fellow humans.  I have met good people and evil people of all races, nationalities and religions.  There is not special combination that magically informs me as to a persons goodness or lackthereof.

Judging on superficialities is the only sure way to close oneself off to the beauty that exists in the world.  I have met wonderful people because I have refused to judge people based upon anything else but their individualism.  We are each of us unique.  No person should be judged based upon any subset or group.  To look at another and instantly come to the conclusion that they are unworthy of me is in and of itself a shameful sin.  To come to this conclusion simply because they have darker skin than I…that must be the greatest sin against humanity ever conceived by man.

ANA Combat UK Patch

I had these made out of an Afghan National Army Combat Uniform.  I don’t know why.  Sometimes, ya just do what ya do.

If I thought he’d get it, I’d send one to MKG.

1. I’D TAKE MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST OVER ANY PLAYER IN AMERICA

Some people told me I was crazy when I made that statement prior to Kentucky’s win over Louisville on Saturday but when you watch “MKG” play, it’s tough not to see why he’s more valuable than anyone else in college basketball. Whether it’s a tip in on the offensive glass or a taking a charge in the paint, everything Kidd-Gilchrist does affects one thing — winning. In the Wildcats 69-62 win over the Cardinals on Saturday, the freshman wing tallied 24 points and 19 rebounds while shining brighter than any other player in a game that was loaded with star power. It’s amazing to think that John Calipari welcomed back three starters from last year’s team that reached the Final Four last season in Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller and Kentucky’s two best players are two freshmen — Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis.