Posts Tagged ‘Karzai’
I’ve posted a new portfolio of photos I took over a month spent embedded with US and Afghan troops in Arghandab in 2011. You can see the photos here: Afghan Local Police.
The story focuses on the Afghan Local Police. When General David Patraeus assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in 2010, one of his priorities was to launch a new country-wide program called the Afghan Local Police.
Overseen by American Special Operations Forces, the A.L.P. recruits, trains, arms, and pays Afghan men in rural communities to defend their home villages against insurgents. While the military claims the A.L.P. has had great success in clearing areas of Taliban, many experts and human-rights advocates have accused the program of empowering criminals and warlords who grossly abuse their authority.
The allegations of abuse have included charges of theft, kidnapping, rape, and murder. Many Afghans are alarmed by what the program might become once American oversight diminishes; they see it as a potentially regressive step toward the 1990s, when armed gangs ruled the country with impunity — a period still referred to by some Afghans as “the time of the men with guns.”
The whole website is available at www.johnwendle.com.
Interesting, in a story entitled “An Array of Relationships for Obama to Strengthen and Redefine” and speaking of “cliffs” in foreign policy – and not a single mention of Afghanistan, Karzai or any of it… Only China, Iran, Russia and the Middle East warrant concern and attention “for a leader seeking a statesman’s legacy.” NYT story here: An Array of Relationships for Obama to Strengthen and Redefine
As the US and NATO begin to pull out of Afghanistan, much attention has been given to whether the Afghan military will be ready for the fight they may have on their hands. But few have looked in detail at the different parts that make up the Afghan National Army. This story tries to outline the specific problems facing Afghanistan’s artillery corps – an essential combat element in the mountainous country. Part of the story is below:
At Forward Operating Base Shank, with Wimberly, the challenge appears in starker relief. Standing behind a D-30 painted a light yellow, a crew of six loudly counts off in Pashto, only to have artilleryman number five shout “seven!” They start over and get it right, then lustily shout, “Enemy! Death! Enemy! Death! Enemy! Death!” Then organized chaos breaks out as they swarm their gun, trying to ready it for action in a minute and 10 seconds. They uncover the recoil system, unclip clips and crank cranks so fast their arms become blurs. Then one soldier cannot unclip a clip, and he just stands there. The commander comes over and shouts, and he hops to it again.
At the same time, across a gravel lot, Afghan officers who learned that morning how to use sight to calculate bearings and arcs for indirect fire — hitting a target they cannot see — teach junior officers and noncommissioned officers how to use it. One officer sat writing a cheat sheet on his palm. A majority of Afghans, though, cannot read, let alone decipher a map or do the trigonometry necessary for the exercise. Though not nonexistent, the technical exactitude, education and discipline needed for accurate artillery are all elements lacking in Afghanistan.
“Some of them, if you give them a map, they couldn’t point out where their house was. But if you showed them a terrain map, they would start to be able to use the terrain to show you where they live,” says Wimberly. “Depending on what level they’re at, they should be able to read and write. It takes them a long time to calculate. That’s the longest part.” But in artillery, delays can translate into infantry being overrun and killed.
Aside from the massive difficulty of teaching people complex mathematics in a foreign language through interpreters, there are other complications. U.S. trainers have had to teach Afghan officers that they need to have up-to-date maps and intelligence, so they do not shell civilian areas or compatriots they cannot see on the opposite slope of a mountain by mistake.
You can read the full story and see my photograph from the ANA training at Bombs Away: Will Afghanistan’s Artillerymen Learn How to Shoot Right? (As always, I did not write the headline.)
Razistan is now live and can be seen at http://razistan.org/. The site is dedicated to telling the untold stories of the war and the people of Afghanistan through in-depth photo stories documented by award winning international and Afghan photographers. You can take a look at the work by following the link.
Despite having millions of people wounded and maimed by landmines and UXO, Afghanistan has sent only one competitor to the 2012 London Paralympics. Power lifter Mohammad Fahim Rahimi will compete tomorrow. Though he doesn’t expect to win, Fahim has great pride in representing Afghanistan.
You can watch the short video the UK’s Channel 4 aired yesterday at From Afghan taxi-driver to Paralympian.
The weightlifter lost his right leg to a landmine – a continuing problem in this country – during the civil war. The loss depressed him, but, with the encouragement of friends, he pulled himself out of his depression by taking up weightlifting. He became so obsessed that he never missed a day throughout Taliban rule – partly because life was boring without something to do. He even carried his 40 lbs. bicycle up and down the mountainside he lived on, strapped to his back with only one good leg in the snow, just to get to the gym.
Today, the dedication has paid off. But even with his second trip to a Paralympics, his problems are not over. To compensate for a small government stipend (around $450 a year) he works as a minibus taxi driver, making around $20 a day. On these wages and benefits, he, his wife and their three young children live in a single room in a ramshackle house built on a mountainside overlooking Kabul.
He is afraid that as the US and NATO wind down their involvement in Afghanistan, the small stipend that helps them get through the winter will evaporate.
If you are interested in helping Fahim and his family, please contact me through this blog or send me a direct message on Twitter. Dozens of people who saw the report this week are donating money, which I will get to Fahim when he gets back.
To see more, follow @johnwendle on Twitter.
A little on Army jargon and slang –
When I asked Major Miller where the meeting was yesterday, he replied:
This is the MSC at BAF.
After reading back through the email chain, I realized I was in over my head when it comes to acronyms. The email was drowning in them and they were threatening to take me down with them. In just four emails to set up a meeting to talk about embeds (that’s another story), these were thrown at me:
SSG, ECP3, MSC, MAJ, MPAD, MSC, BAF. U/FOUO , OIC, DIV PAO
After a few years here, I know what all of these are, but its a shock to the system when you first land in Afghanistan and you’re trying to figure out what soldiers are talking about. They use acronyms all the time – not only because it makes a life befuddled by hierarchy and bureaucracy easier to understand – but also because all the soldiers have drunk the cool-aid – they all speak the same language. Besides worrying over whether you’ve put your helmet on backwards, dancing around like a fool trying to get at all the straps to tighten your body armor and picking up enough broken Dari to buy a round of nan in the morning, figuring out the acronyms is one of the biggest hurdles to reporting on the military in this country. You need one “terp” to talk to the Afghans, and another to talk to the military. “Terp” is short for interpreter – and is kind of a pejorative.
So, to sort out the above:
SSG is Staff Sergeant, ECP is a gate (though I still don’t know what it stands for), MSC is Media Support Center, OIC is Officer in Charge, DIV PAO is Division Public Affairs Officer, Maj is Major, MPAD is Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, BAF is Bagram Airfield and U/FOUO is Unclassified/For Official Use Only
That all has to be decoded just to set up a meeting on a Tuesday.
So, I’ve finally been picked up by the SSG at ECP3 for my meeting at the MSC with the MAJ who is the DIV PAO from the MPAD at BAF and we’re driving through the gate and Staff Sergeant Rutherford starts talking about “petting the dog.” They must have picked up on my silence from the backseat, because she quickly explained, “you know, going crazy.” Still lost, she said that after so much time stuck on base at BAF, she would be sent to the health unit to talk to a shrink and play with the puppy they have there to feel better. So, pet the dog is short hand for going nuts.
For more, follow @johnwendle on Twitter