11 November 2012

Week 18 from AFG

Hope all is well. It was a mixed week this week, but some incremental progress on several projects. Not having much effect yet, but I am hopeful and we are on the cusp of changes that should improve performance. We have some folks doing very good work, and some others that are not--hopefully we can bring everyone up to a similar level. When our guys are effective they are saving lives and taking Taliban off the battlefield.

I had a chance this week to travel to see some of our top troopers. When you talk to elite troops, you see some of the very best America has to offer. The folks from these high intensity units will deploy for four months at a time, because they are doing raids every night of the week. It is a pretty intense environment. One soldier I met was on his 18th such deployment.

I had a chance to go out on a mission with some of my Air Force guys. They were out on operations into a village sympathetic to the Taliban that have been launching rockets at the Air Base. Pretty tough place. Its nothing like what I saw in Iraq. These people live in dirt. Literally. For some reason, they chose to build a village in a pile of dirt. Its not desert like the west, it is a very fine dust. I couldn't see any water around, but they must have a well somewhere. They make mud huts on top of the dirt and lay carpets down on top of it for flooring. When we were walking into the village there were about 100 or so kids following us around (there is no school), trying to break into our security cordon. We wouldn't let them in (Taliban will sometimes use kids as suicide bombers). Finally they gave up and started playing this crazy game where they would run around, throw a kid into a pit, beat him for a while until he could escape, and then they would run around until they caught someone else to throw in the pit. At this particular location I was helping pull security for a team that was conducting a meeting in the village, so I watched this game go on for the better part of an hour until we started to leave. Then the kids followed us out of town. They didn't seem to like us much--they were throwing rocks at us as we left. Anyway, that was my first encounter with an Afghan village and I'll have to admit--if I grew up in a pile of dirt, had no education, got pounded my whole life, and worse (there is rampant pedophilia among the Pashtuns), with no prospect of work--I'd probably be a Taliban member too. Why not. There's nothing else to do. Its a local cause and gives them something to "stand for". Sad stuff.

Anyway, it was great to see my guys in action. They are much better at what they do than we were a decade ago in Iraq. Lots of lessons learned. It was good to see. I should have some photo's up soon. They look a bit like homeless people in uniform, but they like those beard in Afghanistan--it is a sign of maturity and experience.

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