Posts Tagged ‘Obama’
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.
A new portfolio of my photos are now live at http://www.johnwendle.com called Azerbaijan: Oil, Islam and Elections. The photos represent more than a year and a half of work from 2005-2006 and bring together some of the first professional work I did. Take a look and please share.
For more, follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/johnwendle
The recent spate of blue-on-green (or “insider”) attacks against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan prompted the Special Operations command to halt the training of its Afghan Local Police trainees this week – as part of a wider ranging implementation of more supposedly more stringent vetting and security measures across the Afghan army and police forces.
You can read about some of it here –
Seemingly simple questions often have no good answer in Afghanistan. When asked where he lived, Gul only said that “there are four or five houses between my home and the mosque.” Asked in what direction from the mosque, he, like many uneducated Afghans, did not know the meaning of north, south, east and west. He guessed his age as being “between 28 and 30.” His secondhand motorcycle was unregistered. He had no mobile number. It was even unclear at which mosque he worshipped, since he could not read a map and Staff Sergeant John Fox did not know the names of all the mosques in the area. Fox, working with experienced interpreter Aziz Mohammad Shirzada, was finally able to narrow it down to only: “Right there, when we come around that corner going into Bala Tabin.”
The answers were crucial since NATO and the U.S. uses registration numbers and interviews with mullahs and village-council members to find out more about the men who apply for positions with the ALP, as well as the army and the police. The vetting process was deemed critical after members of extremist militias in Iraq were inadvertently armed by the U.S. in a similar effort called the Sons of Iraq, put into place in 2005, after being insufficiently screened. But with no contact details, little verifiable history and no address or registration number, the Americans were running out of ways to figure out who exactly the young man was. Doing proper background checks to ascertain if recruits could have Taliban affiliations or sympathies is just one of the many challenges facing the U.S. and NATO as they prepare for withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
My full story can be read at: Can the U.S. and NATO Prevent ‘Green on Blue’ Attacks in Afghanistan?
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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.