Adopt-a-stan

Lithuanians bring supplies to district hospital at Chaghcharan.

18 October 2009
By Michael Yon

The inbox was peppered with hyperlinks to Dexter Filkins’ story in the New York Times, Stanley McChrystal’s Long War.  One message came from Kathryn Lopez at National Review, asking if I had seen the article and for any thoughts.

It should be said that I respect the work of Dexter Filkins.  Mr. Filkins is a seasoned war correspondent whose characterizations of Iraq ring true, while Stanley McChrystal’s Long War resonates with my ongoing experiences in Afghanistan.  Despite the great length of the article, the few points that did not resonate were more trivialities for discussion than disagreements.  Mr. Filkins did a fine job.

To be clear, I have developed a strong belief that the war is winnable, though at this rate we will lose.  Mr. Filkins seemed to unfold a similar argument.  In my view, we need more troops and effort in Afghanistan—now—and the commitment must be intergenerational.

In Mr. Filkins’ article, a couple of seemingly small points are keyholes to profound realities, and to a few possible illusions.  For instance, the idea that Afghans are tired of fighting seems off.  Afghans often tell me they are tired of fighting but those words are inconsistent with the bitter fact that the war intensifies with every change of season.  The idea that Afghans are tired of war seems an illusion.  Some Afghans are tired.  I spend more time talking with older Afghans than with teenagers, and most of the older Afghans do seem weary.  Yet according to the CIA World Factbook, the median age is 17.6 years; meaning half of Afghans are estimated to be this age or below.  The culture is old, but the population is a teenager.  Most Afghans today probably had not reached puberty when al Qaeda launched the 9/11 attacks.  Eight years later, Afghanistan is more an illiterate kid than a country.  The median age for the U.S. is given at 36.7.  In addition to the tremendous societal disconnect between Americans and Afghans, there would be a generational gap even if those distant children were Americans.  Clearly this could lead to frustrations if we expect quick results.

We ask Afghans for help in defeating the enemies, yet the Afghans expect us to abandon them.  Importantly, Mr. Filkins pointed out that Afghans don’t like to see Americans living in tents.  Tents mean nomads.  It would be foolish for Afghans in “Talibanastan” to cooperate with nomadic Americans only to be eviscerated by the Taliban when the nomads pack up.  (How many times did we see this happen in Iraq?)  The Afghans want to see us living in real buildings as a sign of permanency.  The British at Sangin and associated bases live in temporary structures as is true with American bases in many places.  Our signals are clear.  “If you are coming to stay,” Afghans have told me in various ways, “build a real house.”  “Build a real office.”  “Don’t live in tents.”  We saw nearly the opposite in Iraq where pressure evolved to look semi-permanent.  The Dr. Jekyll–Mr. Hyde situation in Iraq seemed to seriously catch hold by 2006 or 2007, by which time Iraqis realized we were not going to steal oil and might decide to pull out while leaving them ablaze in civil war.

A great many Iraqis wanted to know that we would stay long enough to help them stand, but were not planning on making Iraq part of an American empire.  It became important to convey semi-permanence, signaling, “Yes we will stay and yes we will leave.”  Conversely, Afghans down in the south, in places like Helmand, tend to have fond memories of Americans who came mid last century, and those Afghans seem apt to cooperate.  That much is clear.  But Afghans need to sense our long-term commitment.  They need to see houses made of stone, not tents and “Hesco-habs.”

Ghor Province, Afghanistan.

It’s crucial to hold in constant memory that Afghanistan is the societal equivalent of an illiterate teenager.  The child-nation will fail unless we are willing to adopt the people.  Many Afghans clearly hope this will happen, though of course we have to phrase it slightly differently.  Afghans are, after all, proud and xenophobic.  They are not just xenophobic but also afghanophobic.  Most houses are built like little Alamos.

Half-solutions failed in Iraq and are failing in Afghanistan.  There will be no cheap, easy or quick compromise that will lead to long-term success in AfPak. Erroneously adopting a paradigm that scales back to a counterterrorism approach would be like dispatching the potent but tiny Delta Force to the Amazon jungles with orders to swat mosquitoes.  We can give them every Predator and Reaper in the arsenal, yet twenty years from now they’ll still be shooting Hellfires at mosquitoes.  Gutting mid-level enemy leadership has been very effective in Iraq and Afghanistan, but only in a larger context.  Using strictly a counterterrorism approach, we’ll end up killing relatively zero mosquitoes—the birthrate alone will see that we never win—before coming down with war malaria and nothing will change.  Counterterrorism in today’s context remains important but CT is only one of many subheadings in the great accounting.  It’s time for CT to crawl into the backseat, not take the wheel.  Afghanistan was a special operations playground for more than half a decade.  Nobody can argue that special operations forces were not given plenty of assets and discretion with special affections from the White House.  They also got more than a half-decade of free press passes.  Many people argue that the press lost the war in Vietnam, but that argument has no fizz in Afghanistan.  Nobody knows that better than Stanley McChrystal, who today is asking for more troops, not fewer.  We need to provide General McChrystal with the resources to win and nobody is in a better position to know what he needs.

Children at school in Chaghcharan, Afghanistan. (Thanks to Lithuanians and other international support.)

If Afghanistan is to succeed, we must adopt it.  We must adopt an entire country, a troubled child, for many decades to come.  We must show the Afghans that together we can severely damage the enemies, or bring them around, and together build a brighter future.  The alternative is perpetual war and terrorism radiating from the biggest, possibly richest and most war-prone drug dealers the world has ever seen, and what could eventually reverse and become the swamp that harbors the disease that eventually kills Pakistan, leaving its nuclear weapons on the table.

Adopting this child-nation means more than the relatively simple task of building security forces bankrolled by foreign governments.  Afghanistan cannot finance its police and army, much less the education and vast infrastructure needed to fashion and fuel a self-sustaining economy.  The Coalition has already adopted the Afghan security forces and this remittance arrangement is perpetual until we squeeze the account and watch it die, or Afghanistan stands.  The illiterate people of Afghanistan are multiplying like rabbits, and so thousands of schools, teachers and entire educational infrastructure must be raised up; uncontrolled population growth, among Afghanistan’s countless other problems, is born in the bed of ignorance.  Only through education and opportunity, and eventual meritorious inclusion into the international community—if meager—can narcotics production, criminality, warlordism and fanaticism be eroded and whittled back.  By adopting Afghanistan, bringing peace and creating a nucleus for progress, the many private donors who profoundly help develop countries such as Nepal can operate freely to spread seeds of civilization not just in Afghanistan, but in the region.

Finally, we are not the Russians, nor the failed Soviet Union.  It is important to learn from Soviet success and failures, but comparing too closely Coalition efforts to theirs quickly becomes silly.  The Coalition can succeed where the Soviets failed, and it should be remembered that the Soviets failed in the “easy” places where democracy now thrives, such as Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and a distinguished list of others who this moment are helping in Afghanistan, and whose countries are today thriving and where we are welcome.

The 'Impossible' regularly becomes common sense: former members of the Soviet empire, whose fathers fought in Afghanistan, have returned.  Today they come and build schools and infrastructure, not to spread communism, but to seed freedom and prosperity.

I remember Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania and others during the dark days.  It is no wonder to me that the Soviets failed while freedom and democracy succeeded.  People who saw Prague then and can see it today likely will have great difficulty explaining the differences to the uninitiated.  The Coalition in Afghanistan is largely comprised of nations who have suffered greatly in recent times.  They get it.

We should adopt Afghanistan for the long term.  If not, there will be perpetual and growing trouble.  This Coalition can succeed in Afghanistan where others failed.

 

Comments   

 
0 # Exothermic 2009-10-19 20:08
After first read-through at this late hour, my gut tells me this is one of the best short pieces you've written. I've been an avid reader for years. Perhaps my senses are clouded and I'll reconsider upon awakening, but right now this hits me where it counts. Clarity is not to be undervalued, and your analogies are more than helpful. Stay safe. I'll keep praying for your safety - and for the writing "muses" to continue to bless you.
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0 # Kevin 2009-10-19 21:56
It will take at least one entire generation for this to become stable. I see and hear the detonations every day. It's hard to "build" when you have to worry about getting blown up. That being said we have to try, or get out and the whole thing will go up in smoke. It's a choice. Long and slow or get out. There is no easy middle.
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0 # William Scott, M.D. 2009-10-19 22:01
Yes Michael you have hit the nail on the head with this analysis. This is what I saw when I traveled in Afghanistan in 1987 as a traveling physician. They love Americans and wanted more of us to show up and stay. We need civilians with skills and comittment to show up. I would love to show up but I don't want to become a hostage or a headless victim of the Taliban. Until the security situation is vastly improved people like me are not going to show up.
I outlined a plan to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding this issue but have heard nothing back for 6 months now. A lot of us Baby Boomers are looking for a cause to give ourselves to similar to the Peace Corp in the 1960s. Personally I am sick and tired of catering to a bunch of 'entitled' good for nothings who complain about the free medical care I give them every day. The Afghans by contrast treated me like a true hero when I was there.
Take Care and watch your back.
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0 # Chris in Kabul 2009-10-19 22:07
Mike, insightful, reasoned writing coming from someone who truly understands the country and people. But if we are to adopt Afg, it must be a determined all out effort by all countries who stand to benefit from bringing Afg into the 21st century. Can that be achieved?
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0 # Chris Pugrud 2009-10-20 00:58
I continue to be amazed at the lack of permanent structures, as you mentioned. There has been a marked change, at least on KAF, where there seems to be more permanent structures under construction than workers to build them. By what I see here, there should be almost no nomadic structures within six months, though this is not very visible to anyone not working on the base. Perhaps it would benefit for you to spend a day photographing all of the construction happening here to let the Afghani's know of the change.
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0 # Phillip H. Childers 2009-10-20 01:45
I am ever so glad everytime I receive a new dispatch, Michael. You don't pull your punches, and no one else can even come close to the context like you do. My 2 younger nephews are both in the army; one just got back from his last tour in Iraq (3) while the younger is gearing up to afpak beginning of the year as a medic (was EOD) anyway I've told him about you, hopefully he'll be able to say hello and give you a personal "handshake" to thank you for all your hard work. Keep it up. Air Cav!!
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0 # NF 2009-10-20 02:36
I follow your writing quite closely and agree that this is one of your best. This is "must read" material for our nation's leadership (political and military). I hope you carbon copied them all on this one.
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0 # Bill Chambers 2009-10-20 02:48
This makes sense. Only good argument I've heard for true nation building. Iraq was giving them the chance to build their own nation; this would give them time to see what a nation could be rather than what they've known in most or all of their history.
How could our small community of Farmersville, TX adopt a community there and trade stories and finances to uplift both? Money will be the cure-all but pictures and thoughts would tie us together and make us understand the cultures that are different but have needs and even desires that are alike. What other items could we trade that could make a difference to us and them?
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0 # Bill Chambers 2009-10-20 02:50
This makes sense, good sense. Can we as a community adopt a locale there?
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0 # Pencil Neck 2009-10-20 03:01
Mike,
I agree completely with most of your assessment. However, I must ask 'to what end?' Even if we make a 50 or 100 year commitment and we 'leave' Afghanistan a perfect, secure, functioning democracy, what does that do for the US in the even-longer term? Surely denying Al Qaida a playground can't be the only thing we accomplish. Al Qaida doesn't need Afghanistan - they have almost all of northern Africa to run around. Yes, Pakistan and Afghanistan can be considered a single issue on some levels - enter the nuclear problem. But, left to their own design, does anyone beleive that the Taliban has the will or means to go after Islamabad? Would/could Al Qaida?

Keep up the great reporting and keep your powder dry - we need you.
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0 # Nate 2009-10-20 04:40
Mr. Yon, as always, great article. What strikes me about this article is the maturity in the eyes of those children. They have seen more adversity and destruction than anyone should. These are the future leaders of a free Afghanistan if we have the courage to continue liberating these people from the Taliban and from ignorance.
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0 # Patrick Wood 2009-10-20 05:25
Amid all of the political bombast and spinning your reporting is as the morning sun chasing the darkness away. Back here in the USA sometimes it is hard to know what to believe, but your vivid and insightful reporting dispells the darkness of political spin and disinformation. Until this dispatch I was wondering if we can win in Afghanistan, but you have shown the way. You put a face on the Afghan people and read the pulse of the country like no one else. They need us and we need them. We need to show them and the world that we are still the good guys.

I know some of the Special Forces that were the first in the country and a number of the 82nd Airborne. Our country is blessed with men and women of courage and patriotism in the best sense of the word. I thank you for honoring my friends who deserve all the love and respect we can give them. But our best weapons are schools and hospitals and genuine friendship that sticks with them for the long haul.

Thank your for having the courage to tell it without the political spin. Thank you for letting see through your eyes. You do deserve a Pulitzer.
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0 # Scott Dudley 2009-10-20 05:42
There are no simple solutions. As evidenced even here. I respect that the national leadership is carefully parsing the facts to define objectives and then resources.

If we are trying to nationbuild a democracy, it will take huge amounts of time, blood, and money (and willpower/suppo rt at home). Their Constitution will have to be radically revised. In fact, with so little to work with, we would be literally starting from scratch.

Enemy strengths are well documented. They own the mountains and control the roads at will. They are living with the people. We play to their strengths by staying on our FOBs, away from the populations and are vulnerable when we go out. Our strengths are Satelllite, electronic, and UAV surveillance, the ability to strike from the sky at will, and much bigger bombs. Yet we handcuff ourselves with the ROE.

If our objective is to deny AQ reentry and training sites, we have the ability to do that remotely, supplemented by CIA ground assets.

Give McChrystal the troops he requests to blunt this fall offensive. In a month or so, it will not be fighting weather. Use the "downtime" to bribe enemy factions to not oppose us...it worked in Iraq. Develop intel assets. Convince Kharzai to fight corruption.

Consolidate
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0 # David M 2009-10-20 06:00
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 10/20/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

http://www.thunderrun.us/2009/10/from-front-10202009.html
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0 # Sean 2009-10-20 06:14
It's Unfortunate that more Afghans can't read. If they could, they could read about Vietnam and how the United States of America walked away from our Montagnard allies despite well-meaning assurances from troops on the ground.

That is the fate that awaits the foolish Afghans who trust our uncommitted nation. We will abandon them, long before the fight is over, and all those who foolishly trusted us will be slaughtered like farm animals.

The PEOPLE of the U.S. need to commit to this fight. Not the politicians, not the military, but regular everyday Americans. If we aren't going to allow this fight to be continued, then lets not fuck over more Afghans by getting them to side with us. Afghans who could live some semblance of a life under a Taliban, which is probably better than getting your head sawn off for having trusted the words of a capricious and unprincipled nation.
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0 # Sean 2009-10-20 07:08
Michael,

Someone, and I mean you, needs to make a compelling video of the situation on the ground there to humanize the Afghans. That is really the only hope of reversing the trend of dwindling public sentiment. No news media will do it: they want out.

I hate to say it, but if you could focus on the fact that large numbers of Aghans are, in essences, caucasians and not arab that would probably help. Watch our news channels. Little blue-eyed girls pull at America's heart strings like nothing else.

I'm not asking you to make propaganda, but tell the story of the Afghans and what they face and why they need a generational commitment.
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0 # Richard Nelson 2009-10-20 08:14
I get the adoption of an illiterate child analogy, but understanding the mission is not, I think the problem. Rather the salient issue is the crafting of a strategy in Afghanistan that can both win and is politically and militarily sustainable. The cold war containment of the old Soviet Union stands as an excellent example.
Now, how does this work in Afghanistan. We have been at this long war for eight years, mostly wasted in and on IRAQ. So now the American people are “tired” of the Afghanistan effort. We have been fighting with a too small volunteer Army. Grinding the volunteers and their equipment into a fine dust that mirrors Afghanistan and IRAQ. Do we need a draft to bring our forces up to the levels necessary to establish a sense of full time sustainment in Afghanistan? Can we fight this thing with a smaller yet permanent footprint? I don’t know and hope someone has the answers.
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0 # maddy 2009-10-20 09:22
Sean is probably correct,unless the Obama adminand those to follow, go along with the adoption!

Let's send enough troops. whatever it takes, to roust and kill the group of terrorists and their coalition, that flew the planes into the World Trade Center buildings, the Pentagon and the plane that was downed by the passengers in PA and killed thousands of Americans and other nationals on 9/11/01.

Remember, President Bush said he would do this that day on that pile of rock in NY and that he would go into ANY country that harbored their ilk, with, or without permission....b ut we stopped at Pakistan So, let's get it done and move on. We can leave a large coalition contingent of (UN) troops in Afghanistan after the war is won, to insure security and build the buildings, roads and infrastructure.

If the current admin and others to follow, do not buy into this effort, then Sean will be right and they Afghan people will pay with their blood, just like the South Vietnamese did. I hope Sean is wrong this time!

Thanks Michael for creating this forum with the news we need to hear! Be safe! Maddy
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0 # Colin Perry 2009-10-20 10:54
I like best, your ability to "strike between the eyes" on this subject with clear prose and stunning photos. All of us "Yonaholics" prior to my comments seem to agree with your basic premise on ASTAN. A TV special with you as a narrator/commen tator would help the public understand. Where's the MSM producer who is willing to stand up? BTW, USMC son in pipeline en route home from his FOB.
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0 # Charles Griffith 2009-10-20 11:37
Michael Yon, your analysis sounds correct, alas.

I hate like anything to see America "adopt" Central Asia (...really, it's more than just Afghanistan...i t's that whole tribal, medieval part of Asia) for the next couple of generations or so. Breeding like rabbits (..I'd say fish is more like it..) will create an entitled population in no time; and they will be everlastingly sending tentacles out to our Treasury and expecting America to proffer the lives of our men and women fighting on their behalf. Not to mention the inherent corruption, and pervasive drug cultivation. We can't beat that "establishment" . I'm not sure we can "win" amidst that teeming cauldron.
I was taught in school way back in the middle of the last century that one cannot legislate social change. Any local governments set up in Central Asia under our auspices, judging from the media accounts about voting in Afghanistan (if these are a true indication of what's going on there now) bodes ill in this needed "social change" department.
Yes, I know our shores are in jeopardy right now and will continue to be so. But can we not isolate and contain this nasty area as we did the Soviets during that long war? Have we not advantageous technology, and superbly trained and motivated special forces? But, our resources are finite.
Realizing that these central Asian artificial borders were created by colonial French and British Foreign Offices, and recognizing that the English, at least, have troops in combat there, why must it be ....America.... stepping in here, there, everywhere, and enduring the international scorn and backbiting politics, and always having to cope with all this hypocrisy?
Others are always too willing to let America do the heavy lifting. This American thinks we're being used.
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0 # Christian 2009-10-20 11:45
Michael, first I want to say that, in the month or so that I have been reading your posts, I have found them all enlightening, helping this 20 year old with no connection to the military to understand to some extent what is going on, without any of the crap thrown in by most of our media outlets.

However, while I found the substance of this post to be characteristica lly enlightening, the condescending tone you adopt when you refer to the Afghans seems to me like something from the days of the British Empire, like Rudyard Kipling's "The White Man's Burden." I am not comparing the U.S. to the British Empire. Just be aware that it is dangerous to think too lowly of the people there. Using your analogy, though, remember that children are the fastest learners. The people could very well surprise you, perhaps in this presidential run-off (even I think that's unlikely, though).

That said, this article was interesting and informative, and I hope that you will continue to provide us with your excellent coverage of the situation over there. And please, if you see something wrong in what I said, correct me. You certainly know more than I do about what is going on. I just hope to give you the perspective of a fresh pair of eyes. Thank you.
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0 # craigspr 2009-10-20 13:32
great article. what a very awakening post!

http://www.craigspr.org
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0 # dennis 2009-10-20 13:46
Michael. very good read. good to have someone on the inside. who can give the folks on the outside, a view of whats happening there. but if all of the HA.workers, rebuilding teams, can't or don't leave there compounds, out of fear of kidnappings, being shot at. or whatever, then the Taliban have won one. corruption has taken hold of Afghanistan in a tight fist. and for some, i don't blame them. the need to feed a family out ways honesty. Afghanistan has learned one thing. "show me the money."
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0 # J.F. Sucher 2009-10-20 15:49
Thank you for this continued informative blog. You photo "Ghor Province, Afghanistan" reminds me of the famous Steve McCurry photo from National Geographic, published in 1985.
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0 # Ken 2009-10-20 23:27
We need to stay the course in Afghanistan regardless of what it takes. The well-being of their
people, AS WELL AS THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES, is at stake.
The native Afghanistans, in my opinion, want freedom from the Taliban, who want only to use them.
They are indoctrinating children to fight and hate Americans.
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0 # john sanford 2009-10-21 01:52
I disagree. In one word, 'Logistics'. The Logistics tails for any US forces in the 'stan pass thru either Pakistan or Russia. Neither is an ally nor an enemy. That means they cannot be trusted. The Maximum number of troops that can be supported thru the 1 airport capable of handling US Cargo planes is about 100,000 on US Army logistics tables.
That is nowhere close to enough to 'adopt'. the 'stan. To work a Conventional CT ops plan such as McCrystal wants, it would take between 500,000 and 1 million soldiers, based on a population of 25 million. McCrystal knows that, which means he is being deceitful and trying to 'rock soup' his way up to the required numbers. That is what was done in Vietnam and labeled 'mission creep'.
Where are those troops coming from? What are they going to do when they get to the 'stan?
Nobody in this administration has ever voiced a Strategy or operational objective for the 'stan. No evidence that anyone in the White House even knows there is a difference between strategy and operations. How many riles will it take to cram democracy down the throats of the 'ganis?
The real risk in Afghanistan isn't of another Vietnam, but another Bataan. How long would a President as weak as Obama stand up under the daily, prime time beheading of US troops? Do you think Stanley has ever heard of Yorktown or Stalingrad or any of the countless other places where superior military forces were foced to surrender by having their supply lines cut?

Afghanistan is a fiction, not a nation. Nothing America can do will make it a nation in less then 3 generations. So forget nation building and CT. The reason we are in the 'stan is to prevent terrorist groups from using it for a 'safe haven'. So go with that and use an area denial ops plan.
Get the Army out ( did you know that the US Army has a patriot battery in the 'stan? That is to shoot down all those Taliban fighter bombers!), put in Marines and Special Forces and hunt bugs. Use the 'stan as a very advanced AIT. With enough live fire drills to make everybody happy.
After all, Marines love tracking down things and killing them. Gani's love tracking down things and killing them. Terorists love tracking down things and killing them. Everybody happy.
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0 # David 2009-10-21 02:49
Michael, it is always a pleasure to read your dispatches. I cannot tell you how liittle quality information is distributed to us via mainstream news outlets. Foxnews does its best, but nobody, and I mean nobody, gives us the down and dirty of this fight like you.

Permanent structures demonstrate commitment and here we have inculcated ourselves with the belief a small footprint would be necessary in this battlefront with terror. Just goes to show to win the peace all we have to do is listen to the indigenous population.

One more thing...Great pics!

Kudos,

Dave
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0 # Charles Griffith 2009-10-21 05:56
Re: John Sanford's comment...

I'm heartened to read here that someone remembers Bataan. Our inevitable Asian withdrawal must be organized very, very carefully and simultaneously morphed into a special ops and remote aerial-controll ed leadership-kill ing effort without massed troops. This can also take generations, but is more efficient. Asian demographics are indeed against us.

Afghanistan is indeed a fiction, that fictitious border hand drawn, if I'm not mistaken, by Winston Churchilll while he was Foreign Secretary. I wish people would also read up and refresh themselves on the Sykes-Picot Agreement and also the widespread carve-up of Central-and West-Asia after the First world War when we defeated the Ottomans who were allied with the Germans. Look up that old Berlin-to-Baghd ad Railway....the Paris-Simplon-O rient Express to Instanbul.....o ther commercial tentacles, British Petroleum....Es so...on and on. A very complicated milieu.

Remember, these remained basically tribal and ethnic and religious districts shifting over the centuries, until Colonialism settled in and made superficial alterations to suit the limited perceived needs of the day. This primitive cultural inertia remains immense; and we Americans, particularly this naive and vaporous administration, are bound for disappointment if we think we can make lasting social changes in our favor in this kaleidoscopical ly changing area. I've not even mentioned the American lives at huge risk in large scale battles. I think our European associates know this better than we do, they have much longer memories of ultimately unsatisfactory results. Review all the British, French, and Soviet Euro-Asian adventures here. Then, their current lukewarm participation makes more sense. But, don't expect our European associates to say this openly. But surely, that is discussed beyond the eager ears of the media.

Lastly, that logistics morass....take a look at a globe, not a flat paper map, and a better perspective is apparent regarding the length of the supply lines required, both surface and aerial, to maintain the mountainous stockpiles of materiel an army requires for extensive mobility over difficult terrain. Forward bases in areas of questionable loyalty to America., on and on.

And, keep 9/11 freshly in mind, don't think our Islamic terrorist enemies aren't planning more.
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0 # Al Pipkin 2009-10-21 11:29
Michael, your article is the most cogent assessment I've read on the current conditions in Afghanistan and the way forward. Were the US and a couple of willing partners take on such a mission as you've outlined, it could become a labor of love, rather than the de trop chore it has been for the last six or seven years. Such an effort would be very hard, but then if we had the leadership that would inspire us to assume the mantle, it could be used as something to bring us back together as a nation.

Sure, there are those who would say it wouldn't be worth the cost in terms of both blood and treasure. But to be able to hold up a free and self sustaining Afghanistan to the rest of the world as a demonstration of what freedom means would demonstrate that worth.
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0 # Sue 2009-10-21 15:33
I had posted this at Gather, but Cathi said you would want to hear it from me :-)

"Cathi, please tell Michael that there will be a donation as soon as I get the rest of the insurance money. I believe in tithing, so it will be $400 - $500. Please tell him that amount is pledged to help."
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0 # Jo Byrd 2009-10-21 18:04
This is definitely the best piece you have written, in my judgment. Touched my heart and soul and others too, I see. If only major newspapers and magazines were publishing your articles, people would gladly re-get behind the war in Afghan.
May God keep you safe. You're in my prayers.
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0 # Big D 2009-10-21 21:20
Michael, as I am sure you are aware, the US already spent 25 years at the height of the Cold War trying to modernise Afghanistan & introduce new technology & advanced capitalism there in the period running from just after WW2 until the early 1970's. A lot of the theories & strategies developed in Afghanistan were transferred across to Vietnam in the 60's. A good overview is given on the blog of British filmaker Adam Curtis:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2009/10/kabul_city_number_one_part_3.html
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0 # Tim Jedlicka 2009-10-22 20:43
Michael, thank you for these types of dispatches. You've enabled me to take your "intergeneratio nal support" of Afghanistan to heart. These are the types of dispatches I share with my 11 yr. old. Showing US kids what life (notice I didn't say war - but life!) is like in Afghanistan will be necessary for long term success. Don't stop being a war correspondent - but please continue to be an occasional cultural correspondent as well ( http://www.michaelyon-online.com/sangow-bar-village.htm and http://www.michaelyon-online.com/searching-for-kuchi-finding-lizards.htm ).
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0 # Mark 2009-11-02 14:10
Great article. If this really requires decades, maybe 50-100 years to accomplish, how do we pay for it? Who supports a war tax? Or do we just continue to run up the debt and deficit? How many trillions of dollars? Or gut our own infrastructure or impoverish our own people. No nation has ever been built like this before. And the US would be an occupier in the eyes of many people for the same 50-100 years. It's really sad. But I just don't see how the US can afford this.
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0 # Mailman 2009-11-03 04:39
As I see it, right now America needs a strong leader...someon e who is prepared to stand up and do the right thing by his country.

Unfortunately you have Barry as your President who is the complete opposite of what is needed today.

What you dont need is someone who cant make a decisions, someone who panders to his party and worries about politics before he worries about the men and women in harms way.

It seems that anyone who can think for themselves believes there are two options right now. Either support the general YOU put in place OR pull your troops out. Anything in between will just be a bandaid and will have to be addressed by the next President (who most likely wont be the current one today) in 3 years time.

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