Thursday, October 30, 2008

PBS's Frontline Report On Afghanistan

After watching the latest Frontline report on Afghanistan and reading their "Presidential Briefings," I am left with the impression that things are grim indeed.

I'm also under the impression that this impression is exactly what was intended.

While a number of experts on national security and counterinsurgency were consulted, the two who were quoted at the outset, eerie central Asian music in the background, setting the tone for the program, were the most negative of the experts. When you read the "What the next President will face" portion (under "Briefing,") you will see that Mr. Nasr and Mr. Scheuer are the most negative. Mr. Scheuer has written articles for You can draw your own conclusions about his objectivity as a commenter on Afghanistan from there.

Mr. Scheuer's grim prediction that the next president will find that his "dreams of straightening things out with two brigades are exactly that; they're dreams," sounds dire indeed. It actually sounds like it comes from someone that objectively analyzes information and has come to a profound conclusion. This is not true.

From a review of Michael Scheuer's book, "Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq,;"

Scheuer holds that the U.S. was safer with Saddam Hussein in power, that America's defeat in both Iraq and Afghanistan is a foregone conclusion, that federal support for democracy abroad is a terrible policy, that America's alliances are a hindrance, that "freedom fighter" is often a more apt term than "terrorist," that the theory of the Democratic Peace is "silly," that the U.S. should have little concern for civilian casualties in its war against terrorism and that Israel's continued existence isn't worth a single American dollar.

Most compellingly, Scheuer argues that we should take Osama bin Laden at his word: Al-Qaeda is attacking American foreign policies — support for "Arab tyrannies" and Israel and U.S. boots on the ground in the Middle East — not America's liberty and way of life.

Scheuer has a penchant for dubious statements, some of which include:
» "There's a clear necessity to have religion in order to have morality."
» After 9-11 we should have "firebombed Kabul and Khandahar, demolished whatever ruins were left, and sown salt over the length and width of both sides."
» Woodrow Wilson was "a human scourge who is not often enough ranked with the twentieth century's top bloodletters."

I disagree strongly with Michael Scheuer this very basic point; we are part of the world. Focusing on ourselves and our own interests only is the type of narcissistic self-fascination that we are famous for. Our foreign policy has been clearly flawed in many areas that have been dissected by far smarter people than myself. I don't have all of those answers; but I believe, because I have seen, that what happens in little valleys on the other side of the world sends tiny ripples across the face of the globe that reach into our neighborhoods here. It's like ecology.

If you pour a can of motor oil into a tiny stream up in the mountains, it will poison the lake miles and miles away. It will affect the river that flows from that lake, and it will pass through hundreds of not thousands of miles of countryside on its way to the ocean.

Butterfly in the Amazon; whatever. We are part of a big world, and we not only affect it, we are affected by it. It shouldn't take thousand-foot towers crashing to the ground in New York to see that. The world has become polarized, and Mr. Scheuer says that we should not take sides. While egalitarian of him, I agree with the statement that "all that is required for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing." He wants to be the fat kid who sits rocking in the corner counting his own candy and muttering to himself self-righteously, but who wants everyone to like him.

This fails to recognize that we are one of the poles. That's the way that it is. We have a job to do. One thing that I know of our allies, from having served with them, is that they expect us to lead and to support them. While they don't appreciate it when we are demanding and arrogant, what really pisses them off is when we don't lead. Leading is by example.

Mr. Scheuer has a relationship with PBS, having been a source for them before. That's the only reason that I can see why he is included in this panel of experts who are quoted throughout the report. Granted, Mr. Scheuer's bona fides should stand him in good stead; 22 years in the CIA and at one point the head of CIA's "bin Laden unit," he has also been complimented by bin Laden. He teaches at Georgetown. Well, Bill Ayers teaches at UIC, but that doesn't mean he's not a nutcase.

All I can say is that there is a chip on that man's shoulder.

He makes some good points; like when he says that we are fighting in Afghanistan "on the cheap." No doubt. I've said that. I'm still surprised, with his bent, that PBS included him on a panel with men such as LTC(R) John Nagl. I wonder if Dr. Nagl knew that Mr. Scheuer was also included. Mr. Scheuer is quoted more pointedly than Dr. Nagl, who is an expert on counterinsurgency and a strong critic of Big Army's failure to develop into a truly effective counterinsurgent organizational culture.

While Vali Nasr makes strongly worded statements, he is very strategic and, while critical, does not appear to be defeatist or isolationist. Mr. Nasr has been a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School and is currently a professor at Tufts University.

One of Frontline's basic errors is in concentrating on the most isolationist and violent little valley in Afghanistan. Focusing your study of counterinsurgency on the Korengalis is like focusing a study of the economic picture of America on Cincinnati's Over the Rhine neighborhood.

The most egregious errors in Frontline's examination of counterinsurgency is in focusing on Americans doing forays into Afghan villages without ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces.) Americans can keep the hard-core Korengalis bottled up in the Korengal so that the Pech is not infected further, but the failure to look at what can and is happening in areas where the ANSF are actually able to do their job is a tremendous failure indeed.

The Korengal is not Afghanistan. It is in Afghanistan. It is a trouble spot like no other, but it is not representative of all of Afghanistan. It makes for compelling television, but it is a keyhole shot of Afghanistan; the worst part of Afghanistan.

Nuristan is likely to be just as tough a nut to crack. The Korengalis are originally from Nuristan. Look at the reddened beards; that's a Nuristani thing.

In any case, Frontline has chosen the most dire of situations on which to focus, with no mention given to areas where the ANSF are doing well, where the IRoA holds sway or is at least contending strongly. Those areas would paint a more accurate picture of the challenges of counterinsurgency than a snapshot of vicious battles in the Wahhabist Korengal.

Most of Afghanistan is not Wahhabist. Does that matter? Yes.

The report fails to explore the issues that are concerns for Afghan men-on-the-street. Frontline fails to look at the tendencies in the Afghan government that are losing support for Kabul. It fails to examine and make recommendations on how to clean up the Afghan MoJ (Ministry of Justice) and MoI (Minstry of Interior.) These two ministries could have more impact on security in the huge area of Afghanistan that is not the Korengal than the Korengal has on them.

Frontline's examination of the state of the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) of Pakistan is timely. In the later parts of the program, Frontline examines how the Taliban have taken a strong role in Northwest Pakistan and are attempting to threaten the Pakistani government itself. It also discussed the failures by the Pakistani military and government to effectively control their own territory. One of the key roles of the Korengal is in its facilitation of movement across the Pakistani border; but that is not the only route (rat line) by far.

While Frontline's examination of the situation in Pakistan gives insight into the situation across the border and the challenges facing the Pakistanis in governing their own country, this program is fundamentally flawed in its examination of the state of affairs in Afghanistan as a whole. An excellent study of the Korengal, it totally ignores the development of the ANSF except for in a few comments by Dr. Nagl, a champion of advising and mentoring indigenous people to handle their own governance.

This failure to carry the only message that will bring success in Afghanistan or any other developing country casts this documentary into the "interesting view of the worst valley in Afghanistan" category. Frontline has showed us the freaks of Afghanistan; even the Afghans view the Korengalis as crazy.

Successful counterinsurgency in Afghanistan cannot be performed by Americans. We can add combat power in the hot spots, we can add mentoring, advising, logistical support and expertise to the ANSF, and we can demand good governance. We can treat corrupt officials as the great threat to security in Afghanistan that they are. We can push for economic development, opening markets to Afghan goods and Afghanistan to development of their own (tremendous) natural resources; but we cannot, must not attempt to govern Afghanistan.

Frontline's documentary is a great story of the Korengal, a poor study of Afghanistan on the whole, and an interesting primer on the Pakistani Taliban. As a briefing for a new president, it falls far short. As a briefing for Americans (its true audience,) it is deceptive. I don't know whether the deception was intentional, theatrically dramatic, or journalistically and intellectually lazy, but it is deceptive all the same. You never see 98% of the picture.
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Closing Ranks -OR- When Bloggers Attack

The past week has been full of excitement in the Milblog community. There has been amazing closing of the ranks in the Afghanistan community and beyond. Nick Meo has attracted as much attention as a marauding bear in a hive of bees.

Killer bees.

I have to admit that I feel quite small in this community. I'm certainly not the best known of the bloggers, and as my Sitemeter will testify, I have not been visited by nearly as many people as the more established blogs. However, after this week, it will never feel the same to me. I don't feel nearly as isolated, and has been an awesome demonstration of the power of little guys.

It's not the little blogger who really has the power. You do. You who are reading this right now have more power than you think. Many of you have written to the Telegraph and Nick Meo and have let them know of your displeasure at Meo's self-centered, lying, and insulting bit of "journalism."

Your voice has been, and is being heard. Keep it up, please. As General Nathan Bedford Forrest once said, "Put the skeer on 'em, and then keep up the skeer!" I'll put the email addresses at the end of this post again. Please go ahead and cut and paste them into an email to both Nick Meo and the Telegraph and send them another note; keep up the skeer.

It's working. Nick Meo is crying to fellow journalists in Afghanistan, explaining and justifying himself in his best Meoist manner. The Telegraph is trying to find a way to diffuse the situation. Don't let them just make it go away. Demand that they change their ways by never printing another report by Meo from a war zone. Send that "journalist" home and let him piss off the local dog show judges. Our men and women in harm's way don't need that type of distraction. Seriously.

The mainstream media has dropped the ball in many ways in this conflict. As GEN McKiernan points out, the media takes a slant and runs with it. Nick Meo's brand of reporting is only an extreme version of this, but there have to be some boundaries, some responsibility.

Realize this; you are, by virtue of visiting this lonely blog, not like the vast majority of consumers of news. The vast majority get their news from mainstream outlets and do not even question it. If they do question, it is only vaguely, for they don't take the time to look under the rocks like you do. You have turned over this rock, for instance. There are others; more informative, more anthological, more informed, even more opinionated. There is a wealth of information out here on the web for those who seek it. You are a seeker.

Most are not.

That is why the MSM actually has a responsibility. They, whether they admit to it or not, shape opinion at the grassroots level. For the vast majority, they are the information superhighway. They are the educators and the informers; and they are screwing us over in their depiction of the world in which we live.

People like to blame others for the way that we are perceived in the world, just like they like to blame others for having too much personal debt. The world calls us ignorant because, by and large, we are. Why?

Garbage in, garbage out.

We are ignorant because we are ill-informed or misinformed. Canadians have been more up to speed on Afghanistan for the past seven years than we have. Why? Because they have been informed about it. It's been all over their news. They've got skin in the game. Why did Afghanistan become the "forgotten war?" Because our MSM couldn't be bothered to report effectively on two campaigns at once; and because they couldn't get enough of the doom and gloom and what seemed to be American embarrassment in Iraq. Now that Iraq seems to be headed in a positive direction, attention has shifted to Afghanistan. Lo and behold; gloom and doom.

Hell, Afghanistan was there all along; it didn't just magically reappear. Ask any soldier who was there when it was "forgotten." People like Bouhammer were warning that the Taliban were regrouping a couple of years ago. The MSM? Not so much. Trust me, Iraq is still there. It still has its problems, too.

Demanding better from our MSM starts with demanding better from the reporters who are there. Nick Meo is a great example of someone who needs to be chastened (read "sent home,") but as GEN McKiernan pointed out, we are not getting an accurate depiction of the situation on the ground over there. Why are the best reporters in theater independents?


Why are the Yons and Kestersons anomalies?

Because we allow it. We don't hold our outlets accountable. We don't make the effort to force them to quit feeding us garbage. Your answer is to find your own fresh brain food. Good answer. It doesn't help the vast majority out there to actually know what is going on beyond the number of my brothers and sisters who risked all and had their bet taken. Casualty numbers are horrifying when there is no apparent gain from it; no reason to give.

It's a big job to force the MSM to be responsible in their reporting. Maybe it's too big. But here we draw a line; slandering our troops who have proven themselves for over six months in what is arguably Afghanistan's most dangerous province and dishonoring their dead will not be tolerated. We may not be able to force the MSM to tell us more than that the number of attacks are up; like telling us how the government of Afhganistan actually has some patriots on its side. We may not be able to force them to tell the story of hard fought tiny successes that should show us that there are some there who "get it" and are accomplishing something for the people of Afghanistan. We may not be able to force the MSM to help us correlate how happy villagers in a little valley in Afghanistan translate into security for our children when they go to the mall or when we take them to a major sporting event; to tell us why we should care. Maybe we can't do that.

By God, we can hold them responsible for lying about our soldiers to make themselves look like little heroes. We can tell them that their hurt feelings are no justification for trying to paint men who go in harm's way in tiny numbers, and pay for it, to look like boobs.

It's working, but don't stop now. Send an email if you haven't. If you have, send another. Keep up the skeer.

Keep an eye on Susan Katz Keating's blog. In the very near future she will be putting out some new developments in what she has named, "l'affaire Meo."

In the meantime, here are the email addesses again. Take General Forrest's advice.,

Notice that I put them there so you can just grab them both and put them on the same address line. Let's be upfront and show them that we are lambasting them with equanimity. Oh, and try to keep it civil but uncompromising. No need to threaten; just let them know that we find them, for lack of a better word, reprehensible; but they can solve that by sending Meo home to report on dog shows.

This is having an impact. It's actually a significant event; making a difference.

It's not the power of the blog; it's the power of the blog reader.
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Monday, October 27, 2008

Now You're Going To Make Me Talk About You

Now there is another installment of the penny-dreadful British "journalist," Nick Meo. The Telegraph has printed Meow's retort in a screed entitled, "Nick Meo hits back at Afghanistan battle report slurs." I encourage you to read it, because I am going to dissect his outraged cry of "injustice!"

I would like to personally thank all who have written to Nick and to the Telegraph to voice their outrage at Meo's self-serving article. I will also ask that any further correspondence with either of them remain civil, yet uncompromising. Perhaps you can consider this an open letter to Nick Meo and the Telegraph.

Nick, there has not been enough justice done in this case. You could have taken the high road and taken your well-deserved spanking with reddened cheeks. You could have printed a clarification, admitting to your faults and some well-made points. You could have copped to the melodramatic flair with which you portrayed this traumatic event. You could have reclaimed some semblance of dignity earned through humility. No, you chose not to do that. You have chosen to wriggle again; to justify an article so self-centered that even though a good man actually did die, the title of your article is all about you.

No, not enough justice has been done because you are still being printed in a publication which has lost yet another notch on the scale of journalistic integrity by not following up on these complaints and Telegraph's editors have not sought conversations with those who have thrown the bullshit flag at your feet. Instead, they allow you more ink with which to dig your hole deeper. You have taken up your shovel with gusto, and I am going to do my best to fill the hole in with you in it. I was not one of those who called for your sacking by the Telegraph, but now I am joining that call.

You have, by not taking your well-deserved black eye with humility and thereby gaining some grace, made yourself an object of study. The Telegraph has fallen down on their responsibility by not performing this study on their own. Had they, I assert, they would have fired you posthaste. I encourage them to correct their mistake now.

Perhaps with a little help from my friends, it will work.

The title of your latest article uses words like "hits back" and "slurs." Nick (et al,) a slur denotes a denigration that is undeserved. These were not slurs. You deserve every bit of ire directed at you. By not taking action to resolve this issue, the Telegraph is complicit. You all deserve this.

Your article begins with the words, "Last week the Taliban tried to kill me." Again, such self-centeredness. Yes, Nick; you are so valuable an asset that the Taliban have put a price on your head.

More likely your next job offer will be from Al Jazeera.

While your initial article contained some uncalled-for insults, such as your unflattering attempt at petty humor in the description of an American officer's haircut, I'll largely let your bitchy little slaps go and focus on your "factual" depiction and other assertions. However, I would like to point out that these and other lines in your first few paragraphs did set a negative tone, positioning you for your later lies. Flowing from your self-centered lie at the head of it all, the melodrama runs thick here.

I would also point out that a writer can choose from any number of adjectives to set a tone for a piece. You are not a rookie, and you know exactly what you were doing. You probably chuckled warmly to yourself when you read it before you submitted it for publication. You knew what you were doing, and it was taken in exactly the light that it was intended. Your problem is that there are a lot of people who have done that job and who knew as soon as they read it that you were full of it. Then the question becomes, "why?"

We'll get to that.

A wise person once told me that when you get multiple stories about the same occurrence, there is a lie (or lies) involved. It's not enough that in this case there are multiple stories regarding the same incident. Some of the inconsistencies are in your own piece, where you refute yourself.

That means that there are definitely lies involved. Yes, I have just called you a liar. As a "journalist," you are so dishonored that you should only be employable by propaganda machines such as Al Jazeera. There is no room for liars in the world of honest journalism. You are one of the reasons why journalists are held in only slightly higher esteem than used car salesmen. That may have changed with this. You may just have single-handedly lowered the trustworthiness of the media to below that of the purveyors of pre-owned conveyances.

Now, to your depiction of the facts; you claim in your article that as you were still inside the inverted Cougar, there was the far-off thumping of a heavy machine gun. You stated that this indicated a Taliban ambush to you. Later, you attempt to portray the Americans as banging away at nothing. You have pointed out your own lie.

You portray a young American soldier as looking as scared as you felt when he assisted you in evacuating the vehicle in which you rescued your camera but left two soldiers trapped upside down in their harnesses. You were too afraid to leave the relative safety of the IED crater. I would point out that he left the safety of cover to reach you. Some were exposed enough to be standing in the light of their headlamps, as your own video shows.

You then claim that the Americans are pouring out thousands of rounds, but your video does not demonstrate this. I did see the young soldier in the headlights; I did not see the "hammering furiously." As a matter of fact, their fire seemed to be selective and if not carefully aimed, at least aimed at a particular site.

You further editorialize what British soldiers would have thought of the volume of fire and put the round count in the thousands. You actually used the words, "trigger-happy." Nick, what conclusion is it that you are working your readers towards?

At this point you begin to question the incoming fire, where before you had heard the far-off thumping of a heavy machine gun. You are so disjointed that you are torn between portraying yourself as being in mortal danger and your attempt to discredit the Americans who were protecting you.

You admit being directed by a soldier to cease filming, so you climb into an undamaged Cougar to, as you put it;

" safe from any enemy fire - and from the panicky soldier if things got nasty."

Ah, yes; because when Americans panic, they often kill foreign journalists who are embedded with them. That's why you needed so desperately to get on that MEDEVAC bird, isn't it, Nick?

But, after being directed by an American soldier to cease filming, you surreptitiously filmed while you were inside that Cougar, didn't you? You can't be trusted in combat by those who would gladly let you shelter in their armored vehicles, who took care of you under fire.

You claimed that the Americans didn't have any night vision "cameras," but then suddenly there is an NCO with night vision directing fire against a bunker "although God knows what it really was." God knows that you sure didn't know what it was, because you couldn't see it. But you can sure cast doubts on the man who did see it with night vision.

"My mouth was dry, so I drank a bottle of water. Then I needed to urinate, but when I got of the vehicle I was so scared of being shot I couldn't go."

That's a well-documented fear reaction.

"I wasn't wounded, except for bruises, but I didn't want to take the same road back, so I asked to go aboard the Black Hawk if there was room.

That's another fear reaction. The rest of those soldiers couldn't just bail out in mid-mission on the nearest convenient helicopter. Normally, MEDEVAC birds don't carry the unwounded, either; so they reported you as wounded. You didn't just stroll out and hop on without any discussion. You told those soldiers that you wanted out, and they made sure you could go.

It was pointed out on Neptunus Lex that journalists don't sign up to get shot at.

You know, journalists - whatever they may think of themselves - didn’t sign up to get shot at. There’s no particular dishonor in non-combatants bugging out when the rounds start to fly. But you’d think they’d have the common sense and humility to be just a little less condescending and sneering about those who’ve volunteered to turn to the sound of the guns, rather than flee from them.

I guess every man is the hero of his own tale.

He is a great blogger... much more successful than I, no doubt. I do disagree with him on one point; journalists who embed do, in fact, sign up to get shot at. They certainly have no reasonable expectation of not being shot at.

Other embeds have had close calls before. Other embeds have lost their rides and found a way to stay embedded. Can you imagine Yon hopping a MEDEVAC bird just to get out because he didn't want to take that road again?

No. No one can imagine that.

Now for some serious lying;

"As I walked towards the terminal, not quite able to believe that I was back to safety, a young woman in army uniform introduced herself as Amy Bonnano, the Public Affairs Officer who had arranged my "embed".

"It's great to see you," she said. "We had you listed as Category A."

What did that mean? "It's the worst scenario. It means deceased."

Now here's where it's time to get real, Nick. 1LT Bonanno wrote you a letter about that, Nick. She was the other party in that "conversation," and she says that it didn't even occur. Did you read that letter that she wrote you? What made you think that she would keep your dirty little secret? What made you think that she wouldn't let others know that you are a liar?

The note about being reported as KIA? Yeah, she threw the bullshit flag at you on that one, too. Great high drama, Nick. Total lie. Called on it by the officer on whose desk that note supposedly resided; yet you protest.

Now let's look at the matter of your protestation, again self-centered in the extreme;

The small unit then fired thousands of rounds blindly into the night – from automatic rifles, grenade launchers and heavy machine guns — in an area where there are many villages, as well as Taliban guerrillas.

More denigration of the unit who saved your lying life so that you could write penny-dreadful self-aggrandizing lies about them. Even though your video demonstrates a measured rate of fire, you insist on portraying the American soldiers as the perpetrators of an Iraqi Death Blossom. You then go on to give a lecture on US doctrine with is also a complete lie. You have no idea what you are talking about, and real American soldiers, including myself, are adding to the massive pile of bullshit flags adorning your feet.

More shining character here;

There was also reaction from family members of soldiers involved in the attack – they knew, for instance, that I had been told to stop filming and were angry that I hadn’t, although as an embedded journalist I was entitled to do so and was not hampering operations.

A man dies; his compatriots say that the fun and games are over with for now; they have a body to recover and you are now filming a death scene, which is inappropriate when they say it is. No wonder the family is pissed. But it's really not about them, is it? It's about you, as demonstrated in this line;

Things got nasty even during the incident because the soldiers, clearly badly shaken, didn’t want to be filmed and demanded my camera. I didn’t hand it over because such footage of what happens in the aftermath of a bomb attack is rare.

You wanted the rare footage. The soldiers just lost a man who they have served with for years, and you want to film their reactions; and you're disturbed that they're not okay with it. You are truly a noble bastard, aren't you? What a journalistic champion.

Not. What a self-centered, self-serving little cat of a man. You are a soldier's nightmare; not because you are a champion of the truth but because you are the duke of lies. Why would you lie? Why? We'll ask that question again; but let's table it for now.

I'm not finished with you.

Following an ambush it is standard US military procedure to switch weapons to fully automatic and pour out rounds. This is called suppressive fire and does not involve careful aiming. It kills attackers, saves soldiers’ lives and keeps the heads of ambushers down.

But such devastating gunfire also kills and wounds civilians. Hundreds of Afghans have been hit in the past two years in such incidents.

I've never seen a less cogent, less informed depiction of a "React to Contact" drill. You, sir, don't know what you are talking about. You then go on to spew pablum about caring so much about "peace-loving Afghans out there in the dark." Nick, the walls of an Afghan house are feet thick. I know; I've searched a lot of them with my ANP. A .50 won't penetrate a khalat wall. The Afghans who are peace-loving go to bed pretty much when the sun goes down. It's pablum, designed to evoke sympathy for your righteousness from civilians who don't have any idea the nature of your lies.

the US military prefers to highlight the courage of their soldiers — men such as Scott Dimond, the father of four who died because, like all Easyrider volunteers, he wanted to stop terrorism. I certainly did not want my story to dishonour his death.

For not wanting to dishonor him, you did a great job of dishonoring him and his team. I suspect this is a lie, too. The fact is, you never gave it a second thought. 1LT Bonanno pointed out in her letter to you that you wouldn't even do the man the simple dignity of attending his ramp ceremony... but you did ask to film it. When you were denied permission to do that, you wanted nothing more to do with it. Class. Sheer, unadulterated class you demonstrated there.

That and your real character. Oops; your slip is showing.

What happened that night on the Kandahar road was not part of a struggle between square-jawed good guys and bad guys wearing black turbans, as the bloggers perhaps imagine the war to be.

This is the "pompous ass" passage. Nick, I'm going to clue you in to a little something. I don't have to imagine war. I don't even have to imagine Afghanistan, or even Taliban. You see, I've met Taliban, I've been shot at, and I've lost good men in IED strikes. You are such a pompous ass that you haven't even bothered to read the blog behind the post that punched you in the mouth. I left the theater in April after spending a year there. Bouhammer was there, too. We both worked with ANP. We lived that life. Imagine the war, you say.


One more quote:

The US military has not challenged my reporting and the bloggers’ criticism is vague.

This author does not believe himself to be vague in this post. If I've not been specific enough in my criticisms of your lies, let me know.

The military is challenging your future as a reporter, Nick. Good luck with that. Good luck with finding decent assignments there. You might be better off covering the dog shows. I don't know exactly what definition of challenge you are using there, but when the officer who was responsible for embedding you writes a complete refutation of what you wrote, that is a challenge.

Now; why are you such a liar? Why did you write outright lies, some of which are evidenced by your own video? Is it to cover your cowardice? The other possibility is that your behavior during the fight was so poor that you were warned not to stay and you left in an act of self-preservation.

In any case, you definitely made a concerted effort to cast a poor light on my colleagues. You attempted to cast men who have successfully operated in Afghanistan's most violent province for over six months as boobs and yourself as an expert critic. You have attempted to cast myself and my fellow milbloggers as those who "imagine" a war that we served in at the dirt level and know intimately. Finally, you mouth words about honoring the dead when you wouldn't even attend the ramp ceremony for the actual dead while you write about your own near-death experience.

I've got news for you, Nick; you are the boob. You are the panic-stricken liar who bailed on his assignment, and who tried to film men reacting the death of a comrade as some journalistic feat when all you were doing was being disrespectful in the extreme to their loss. Then you wrote an article about an event that was the end of a good man's life, and even its title was all about you. What a callous ass.

I would never take you into combat with me; you're a liability. I've seen men like you, and they're not welcome in groups of tried and tested men. You are a liar, a slanderer, and a coward. I detest you, all that you stand for, and all who stand with you. I am only one man, but I am a man who knows what it is truly like. I recognize you because of that; and if you are wrapped in a flag, it is the bullshit flag.

Note to Telegraph; correct your mistake and salvage some honor. Is this the type of man who you employ? Is this the type of man with whom you choose to associate? We are painted by the company we keep. You are currently painted an ugly shade of Meo.

Dear readers; I ask once again that you take a moment and send a note to Nick Meo and the Telegraph. You don't have to join me in my call for Meo's job, but please let them know of your disapproval of this type of yellow journalism.
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Friday, October 24, 2008

Waxing Kipling

Many factors go into the new focus on Afghanistan, including the perception that the end of our deep involvement in Iraq is in sight, the increase in American casualties in Afghanistan, and the focus brought upon the mission by statements and policy projections made during the presidential campaign. Afghanistan has been seen as "the good war," even as it ground on as "the forgotten war." The new focus has brought, and is bringing, changes.

While both candidates seem to agree that a renewed effort is required in Afghanistan, any increase in troop strength brings more than just capability on the ground. Afghanistan is resurfacing in the minds of average Americans, where it had lain dormant in their perceptions. In my own experience; when I informed my co-workers of my upcoming deployment, one of them actually asked me, "Is there still a war in Afghanistan?" Iraq was the subject of discussion, media and perception, but not Afghanistan.

Many of us who served there felt as if we were engaged in an unnoticed task. We felt that pointing out any opportunities for improvement, any discussion of where the mission was at risk, any indication that more was needed; all were wasted exercises. No one was paying attention.

Now America's consciousness has become aware of Afghanistan anew, as if awakening from a daydream. Discussion of Afghanistan begins with the new attention being paid by the media, who are latching on to statements made by public officials from various countries, including our own. Headlines quoting our own Chairman of the Joint Chiefs saying that we are not winning (leaving off the part where he said that we can,) seemingly compete with statements by British Generals and French diplomats. The theme is all gloomy.

America awakens to the gloomy news, wiping the sand of Iraq out of its eyes to find something new to become depressed about; and a mysterious new enemy that everyone already thought had been destroyed. The Taliban's "miraculous" resurgence came as a big surprise to everyone except those who had been intimately involved in Afghanistan before America's trance like fixation on Iraq was broken.

The truth is that the Taliban were never destroyed; they escaped. A budding new government needed to exert itself over a land that had not had a unified government since the days of its last king. Even the vaunted Taliban had not controlled the entire country, nor did they enjoy the support of the majority of the population.

Without going through the entire history of the mission to assist in the establishment of a functioning government in Afghanistan and to rebuild some semblance of a working state, there is one point to be made; the Afghan mission has been run on a shoelace. Every commander in Afghanistan has stated that more is needed.

In each case, more was not to be had. We were fixated on Iraq and the need to be proven right in the face of vocal opposition. It was the political hot spot, the proverbial squeaky wheel. Iraq was the focus of government and media; and therefore the consciousness of America.

The consciousness of a nation is no different than the consciousness of a single person. We all depend on our senses to determine what is around us, to perceive the world in which we exist. For the public, our senses are limited. The information available boils down to what we are presented with easily and that which is not as easily available but can be found through other means, such as the internet.

Like this blog and others like it.

I would submit that the vast majority of people do not seek further information other than what is made easily available; MainStream Media. Other than a few veterans who have returned to Afghanistan at this point in a series of pivotal moments in the Afghan mission, many in the media are new to Afghanistan and the insurgency there. Afghanistan's insurgency is greatly different from the one in Iraq. Of course the terrain is entirely different, but so are the human and political terrains.

Now the pundits turn their attention to Afghanistan and, being largely unfamiliar, they do their quick study job and come forth with Kiplingesque pronouncements about Afghanistan, Afghans, the tribes, Pashtuns, and the Taliban. Suddenly, everyone's an expert.

Their nods to Rudyard Kipling, the British Army of the 1800's, and the Soviets of the 1980's are gripping tales. They set the Afghan upon a pedestal as some mysterious, unbeaten, somehow invincible foe. Gloomy pronouncements are seized upon by the other voice that had previously used Afghanistan to their purpose in opposing Iraq; the war protester voice. Iraq having lost the limelight for the present, they turn their gaze to Afghanistan as well. Now, it is to bring their ire to bear on this campaign; for there really is no good campaign to them.

"So Afghanistan now is the good war. He (Obama) needs to prove, as a Democrat, that he too can kill brown people." - Nir Rosen

Being the obscure campaign was good for Afghanistan in that regard. Being the "good war" to juxtaposition against the "bad war" in Iraq was good for Afghanistan. No one was publicly questioning, no one was spreading defeatist propaganda to sway public opinion against the NATO mission in Afghanistan; not in the United States.

That has all changed.

Between those whose interest lies in discrediting anything that has US stenciled on it and those who write "informed" opinions educated by a quick jaunt through the garden of the internet and perhaps a couple of books on Afghanistan, this conflict is being painted as another venture into a mysteriously powerful man-eating machine, like the jungles of Viet Nam and the indefatigable "Charlie."

Bullshit. I've thrown the flag.

Afghanistan is no land of deep and abiding imponderable mystery. Most assuredly, they are a proud people with a long history. The landscape of Afghanistan is dramatic, and the society of Afghanistan is an ancient lifestyle emerging into the 21st Century on crutches. Crippled by ancient practices that are not complicated, the only thing that is difficult to make sense of quickly is the tangled web of relationships in a seemingly undefined mass. Most are boggled by the intermingling of interests and allegiances and just walk away shaking their heads and spouting mysticism.

That's the easy answer; the intellectually lazy answer. Look, Afghans do not have some secret superiority. They are simply survivors. No one has conquered Afghanistan for Afghanistan. Many have conquered Afghanistan; but they were on their way to somewhere else, or they were there to interfere with or foil someone other than the Afghans. The most notable exception to this was the Russians, and they were doomed to failure by two things; the atheistic nature of communism and the brutality of their methods.

The Afghans are tough; no doubt about it. They have to be tough to survive, and they are above all survivors. They are smart, even though most of them can't read. Here's the best part; many of them are on the side of the IRoA. Remember, 60% of all Afghans are not Pashtuns, and not all Pashtuns are Taliban. Many of the Mujaheddin from the Soviet days are sitting this one out or working with the government because they believe that the coalition is not there as an occupation force, but as an assistance force to help the infant IRoA survive the birthing pains of coming to being under the pressure of the Taliban, who will not go quietly into that good night of history.

Here's what I can tell you about Afghans; they are people. They have a culture that is different from ours in many respects, but it is not rocket science to learn their culture and be respectful of it even if we disagree or don't understand it. Afghans hate arrogance. You can show an Afghan a good way to do something and they will adopt it, if it works better, because they are supremely utilitarian. If you try to force them to do it your way, you are in for a struggle.

Afghans are not some strange otherworldly creatures, although many would be happy for you to believe that they are. They are neither Predator nor Alien. They are people who can and do learn. Most are good, some are bad, and most just want to be safe, have some hope of justice, and be left alone. The ones who can provide them with that will gain their support and who wins that struggle wins the war. Everything should be done with that in mind.

Our leaders need to avoid the intellectual laziness of the legion of MSM pundits, who have never spent a night in an Afghan village, who have never sat in a shura and who have never been served chai and opinions from a real Afghan on a rug laid over dirt. Spouting geopolitical pablum while ignorant of the concerns of the Afghan villager is to completely miss the point.

Keep this in mind; we are not trying to conquer Afghanistan. We are attempting to help Afghanistan conquer itself. I've been there, I know what my efforts were directed towards and what I was directed to do, and it was all in that vein. No matter what conspiracy theories you hear or what Taliban or HiG propaganda says; I was never there to conquer, I was never there to occupy anything other than my own personal space. I was there to help Afghans conquer their own country, and there were plenty of them who were grateful for that help.

The MSM has a responsibility to this nation, to be part of our senses, and to portray what is going on without waxing Kipling on us. Come on, guys, knock it off and actually learn about what you are talking about without spinning it to please your own sensibilities. Do your job. I'll know you get it when you start sounding like some of the independent journalist types who are there now. When you start sounding like Kesterson or Yon, then I will know that you get it.

I won't hold my breath. The only thing that would accomplish is to make me pass out.

What does "victory" look like in Afghanistan? That's another story, perhaps next.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Call To Arms

When you are called by a brother in arms, you answer the call. Whether it is O calling from an ambush on Route Vermont, the Marine ETT's asking for escort to respond to a call to blow up a suspected IED, our ANP reporting that they were under fire, or when characters are being assassinated, it's the same; you respond.

Shoot at one, draw fire from all.

Especially, for me, when it's ANP mentors putting out the call. Grab your helmet and body armor, check your weapons and fuel, grab your terp and mount up; we're riding out.

Recently, a British journalist named Nick Meo from the Telegraph embedded with a PMT (Police Mentor Team) in Helmand Province, one of the hottest parts of Afghanistan. ARSIC South (Afghan Regional Security Integration Command - South) was responsible for coordinating the embed. One night in the past week, the team left Kandahar Airfield to head back to their AO (Area of Operations,) heading out into the darkness of the Afghan night in Helmand Province. I've done plenty of night moves in Afghanistan. While they can be spooky, sometimes it actually felt safer than traveling in daylight. If you stay out of each others headlights, it's harder to tell what you are, making ambushes more difficult to time properly.

Nick Meo rode in that convoy. He rode with Major Becker, the team leader, and two other soldiers; Mitch Chapman and Scott Dimond, in a Cougar MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protective) vehicle. The combat patrol was struck by an IED and apparent ambush about an hour later.

This is where the story takes a left turn at Albuquerque.

Nick Meo was uninjured in the IED strike. MAJ Becker and Chapman were injured, strapped upside down in their seats. Meo released his seatbelts and made his way from the vehicle, leaving the two injured soldiers hanging upside down in their belts in the mine-damaged vehicle. Scott Dimond, a 39 year old father of four from New Hampshire, was crushed under the vehicle when it flipped over from the force of the blast; a common danger for turret gunners on combat vehicles.

Nick Meo began doing what he thought he was supposed to be doing, shooting video of himself, soon after leaving the stricken vehicle. Shortly thereafter he was safely ensconced in another, undamaged armored vehicle while the American soldiers he was accompanying dealt with the deadly situation outside. He had been asked not to shoot video by this point, a directive that he flouted. It's clear to me that the video he shot inside the vehicle was shot surreptitiously.

I've seen uninjured people hop on MEDEVAC birds before. The man who did it in Tag Ab did it not once but twice, and everyone considered him a coward for it. Meo, uninjured, did not want to be on the ground any longer. I guess embedded journalism isn't as much fun when you are actually under fire. In any case, Meo lost his taste for the assignment and begged a ride back to Kandahar on the bird.

This is where the fun begins, and I suspect Meo's justification for his panicked flight from his assignment.

Meo wrote an article, filled with contradictions and published in the Telegraph, that was exceedingly unkind to the men who he was with and who kept him uninjured on that fateful October night in southern Afghanistan. Meo crossed the line in so many ways in his incredibly self-serving article, criticizing everything from the Major's standard "high and tight" Army haircut to the fire discipline and overall professionalism of the team of men who had functioned successfully in Helmand for over six months. These same men who successfully got him MEDEVAC'd without injury were pretty thoroughly panned in his article.

I would ask that you read the article and view the embedded video. Then ask yourself if those sound like "thousands of rounds" being expended in the background or if the soldier speaking to higher on the radio sounds fearful or like a man who is agitated by having one of his own crushed to death under a vehicle, two more who require MEDEVAC, and a jerkweed reporter in the back seat who won't follow directions and is trying to be sneaky about filming things that he shouldn't be filming. Watch the soldier's movements as he sends up an FBCB2 (Blue Force Tracker) Spot Report on a system that shouldn't have been filmed by a foreign national reporter and judge if his actions are panicked or the actions of a man in combat doing what he is trained to do.

Then go and view this, and this. Blackfive and Bouhammer, men who I have nothing but respect for, have things to say about this, too; and they are worth reading.

Now consider this; Scott Dimond, a 39 year old who had already lived a career as a police officer in his home state, a soldier who was described as "stellar," died that night. First, Meo brags about having the good fortune to not have spoken with the man prior to his death. Then, back at Kandahar, he refused to have the respect to attend the ramp ceremony for this hometown American hero unless he could film it (which is a big no-no for ramp ceremonies out of respect for the dead.) That's what we in the business call, "class."

Please read the above linked posts, including Meo's despicable article. Then please take a minute to do two things; write Nick Meo and his boss a quick note and let them know that you don't appreciate his slander and his self-aggrandizing. Nick Meo took the worst day of several men's lives, and the last of one's, and made it his personal "legend-story." Even the title is all about him.

Here are the emails for Nick Meo and the Telegraph:

On a dark night in the "Indian Country" of Helmand Province, Afghanistan, a small group of Americans experienced the ultimate nightmare; they lost one of their own. One man rode with them; an outsider, a "journalist" whose safety they took responsibility for and whom they delivered back to Kandahar unscathed by the event that took one of their lives and left two others injured. The work that these men do and have done for over six months has been unheralded, dirty, frustrating and dangerous. No one knows of their daily struggles, grinds, disappointments, or successes. Now this one self-important blow-hard takes it upon himself to trash their names and their actions after riding away on a helicopter meant for the wounded and dead, refusing to honor the man who gave his life that night, and congratulating himself for having been spared the emotional pain of having had even one conversation with the honored dead while he stood on earth.

All, apparently, to cover for his own cowardice in hopping uninjured onto a MEDEVAC helicopter when he lost his nerve to stay on the ground and continue doing his job.

Please don't let him get away with it. Many say, "support our troops." Here's an opportunity to do so. It won't cost you anything but a few minutes of your time. These aren't just anonymous "troops;" they're real men. Show them that you care. Show Scott Dimond that you care about his sacrifice by taking the time to shoot off a couple of emails, or even one with both addresses, and condemn the behavior of this coward who justifies his abandonment of his assignment by slandering good men.
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Nir Rosen And The Temple (Mosque) Of Doom

Nir Rosen's newest tome in Rolling Stone is all the rage. The first reference to it was from a good friend of this blog, and then a reference on Abu Muqawama. Of course, the title gives away a bit of the theme of the article; but Muqawama described it as a "must read," so I did.

I did not share his enthusiasm.

While Dave Dilegge panned Rosen's article due to an objection to journalists embedding with insurgents, my disappointment was with the content. In reading it, I wondered what Abu Muqawama would have found attractive about it, and further wondered about the esteem in which AM seemed to hold Rosen himself.

Being unfamiliar with Rosen, I decided to look into his writings. I found that this article was consistent with his previous work.

I must say that Rosen has nerve. He also showed courage in not screaming like a little girl as he nearly suffered the result of extremely poor judgment. It appears that Rosen's "watch me embed with these insurgents" trick has become his signature move. Abu Muqawama is excited by this as a social scientist, which is the reason for his approval.

My sense of Rosen's article is that he endangered his life for very little, other than a sensational stunt. Yes, he got to meet real live Taliban. So have I. In as far as developing a real sense for what is going on in Afghanistan, or even in Ghazni Province, I feel that his mission was a failure. As an IO tool for the Taliban, his article was a success. This, I believe, was not the result of his being duped, but suited his purposes as well. I'll get to that.

In the meantime, Rosen's presentation of Afghanistan leaves a lot to be desired. Not having been to the "Green Zone" myself, I contend that Kabul is not some immense Green Zone in itself. I also contend with a number of his other assertions.

Rosen's misrepresentation of the number of civilians killed by NATO action has been well documented elsewhere. While it is not something on which I will focus, because I don't have to, it does indicate either sloppy journalism or an intentional slanting of facts in order to make a point.

Nir Rosen's experience of Afghanistan and of the Taliban during this "embed" was extremely limited. He does not demonstrate a greater knowledge of either Afghanistan or its issues beyond the few meters that he could see through the dust-covered windows of the Corolla in which rode. His depiction of the Kabul-Kandahar road as the only major route of its type in the country was patently untrue, for instance.

When first presenting in an Afghan village which was unfamiliar, we would meet the "village leadership." After more visits, we would find ourselves sitting down with the real village leadership. Afghans often present lower level leaders to outsiders. Leaders? Yes. Senior leaders? Not so much. Not yet. I think the same thing happened to Nir Rosen; based on the way that his handlers were treated by real senior Taliban leadership.

There have been other inconsistencies pointed out; like how Rosen was free to text away madly while his hosts dickered amongst each other regarding his fate. It has been pointed out that he never really embedded with the Taliban, most of his adventure being spent in wondering if he was to be tried by a Taliban judge instead of doing or observing anything operational at all.

His descriptions about the ascendancy of the Taliban were entirely based upon his hosts' claims. While they were not confronted by any ANSF or coalition forces, I think that it would be a surprise to TF Currahee to know that they were irrelevant to their Area of Operations. I am not surprised by the ability of the Taliban to drive on the roads, to move about Kabul, to walk about their own villages. I would point, once again, to the video shot in the Tag Ab Vally by Al Jazeera showing Taliban walking freely in a village in the Tag Ab being greeted by townspeople. When the ANP and I walked those same paths, we were greeted similarly.

The unarmed often greet the armed with deference.

The Al Jazeera footage was clearly propaganda. The Taliban there claimed control, and I'm here to tell you that they had control of that village for exactly as long as they were there. We often walked about uncontested in the village they were in that day. Their bold statements notwithstanding, those days they were not so bold. They frequently chose not to exert their "control" over the area when we were present.

One thing that Rosen was correct in repeating from the Taliban is that very often the ANP are not viewed very highly by the people. I saw this firsthand. The Police often shake down citizens. While I was there, their excuse often had to do with their pay. Raising their pay to be on par with the ANA's pay was supposed to help address this problem.

The only value in Rosen's article was the behavior that he documented. The "changes in attitude" by the Taliban, designed to make them seem more palatable to westerners, are not likely due to some kind of eye-opening change of beliefs; but an attitude of expedience and a demonstration of the dilution of the movement's moral base. As for his parroting of Taliban memes, there is no great surprise there. Mir Rosen disclosed plenty to me in this statement;

So Afghanistan now is the good war. He (Obama) needs to prove, as a Democrat, that he too can kill brown people. I think that's what it comes down to, that we're not weak; we can kill foreigners, too.

Brown people? Killing brown people. Uhhhh... okay, Nir; sure. Bent much? I mean, that's making your agenda pretty clear. In Nir Rosen's eyes, we can't do anything right. We are only there to "kill brown people."

How arrogantly insulting to those of us who have been there.

While Abu Muqawama finds all of this to be exciting, I find it to be unacceptable. Becoming part of the Taliban IO in a widely-read magazine like Rolling Stone is just beyond uncool. Andrew Exum (Abu Muqawama) may be a social scientist who is unimpeded by Rosen's slanted journalism, but most Rolling Stone readers are not. What Exum finds to be a heady jaunt into the minds of a few Taliban, others will find to be a first-person account of Taliban primacy in Afghanistan. Rosen simply does not have the experience upon which to base such conclusions. Half-baked investigative journalism filled with misrepresented numbers about civilian casualties and piped-in Taliban IO doesn't make for an exercise in responsible journalism.

Personally, I don't think that it was intended to be.
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Friday, October 17, 2008

The Promised Ride Through The J-bad Pass Switchbacks

I made the trip through the J-bad Pass a number of times during my deployment. Twice in one day, with one of them at night; which was crazy. It was one of the most dangerous things that I did the whole time in country. One of the drivers later told me that he had started hallucinating from fatigue during the trip.

This particular clip was shot on December 15th, 2007. The total trip from Kabul to Jalalabad takes over three hours and is about 90 miles in length. Along the way you lose about 5,000 feet in elevation. This clip is nearly seven minutes in duration, and is the most exciting part of the trip; the switchbacks. It is the most dramatic elevation change, probably around a thousand feet or so. The first time I made the trip there were no retaining walls, which was really interesting as I was driving at the time with O in the turret.

It may sound like I am talking to myself during the clip, but we use an intercom in the humvee, so you can't hear anyone talking back.

Yes, humvees really do rattle like that.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Orion In Shades Of Green

Of all the posts that I have written, only one exceeded the response that Nighttime In Shades Of Green received. People said that they felt that they had been there on that roof in Alingar looking through my AN/PVS-14 NOD (Night Observation Device) with me.

Well, I've got a little taste of that for them. Before I left FOB Kalagush, I used my simple little HP digital camera to shoot a few seconds of video of the night sky over Nurguram District, Nuristan.

The little camera was challenged by the task, but it didn't come out too badly.

The sound in the background is one of the generators at FOB Kalagush.

When you look through the NOD it with your eye, it doesn't seem so much like looking through a toilet paper roll. The camera is a little limited that way. It also confuses the auto-focus a bit. You can adjust the focus of the PVS-14 to your eye so that you have a clear image. The result is like a green "black and white" TV image; in one eye. If you set it up right, your vision with the unaided eye matches the image you get with the NOD, giving you the full range of your assisted senses, plus the unaided sight as well. NODs rob you of your depth perception, and this arrangement helps a little with that.

You get the idea. Can you believe how dense that star field is with the NOD? It reminds you that there's a lot more out there than we can see with our eyes.

Would anyone care for a ride down the switchbacks on the J-bad Highway in an M-1151 Up-Armored Humvee, losing about a thousand feet in elevation in just under seven minutes?
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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pictures From Northern Kapisa

While we spent a great deal of time in the Tag Ab Valley, we also worked with the ANP in northern Kapisa Province. On our trips into the northern districts, I took some pictures of the much more peaceful and orderly life there.

On this mission, we went up the eastern boundary of Kapisa, the "back door" into Koh Band.

Heading north from Kohistan into Koh Band through the back door, a quiet village comes into view.

A lovely little villa in northern Kapisa.

Drying laundry in the sun in northern Kapisa. Who needs a Maytag?

This young man just realized that his future as the village Maytag Repairman is bleak.

The Taliban sabotaged my lens cover. It's still beautiful.

A man washes his feet in an irrigation canal in northern Kapisa as our convoy passes.

A shop in the bazaar in Koh Band.

This tiny shopkeeper is the toughest businessman in Kapisa.

Afghan Stop 'N Go.

Koh Band District was nearing completion of the new District Center.

A humanitarian aid (HA) drop at a boy's school in Koh Band.

Afghan taxi. Are those ski racks?

Eddie Murphy's character from Shrek made an appearance and was quickly put to use.

A home in the shadow of the mountain.

A burqa-clad Afghan mother and her daughter stroll home from the bazaar in Koh Band.

Sheep grazing in Koh Band District.

Two shots of mountains in Koh Band District.

Koh Band District, Kapisa Province, Afghanistan

The northern districts of Kapisa Province are a model of what could happen in all of Afghanistan. The Taliban are not welcome here. Local tribal leaders and ANP leadership work hand-in-hand to govern the area, using traditional village leadership methods like Jirga's to dispense justice on village-level issues, much like a Mayor's Court in a village in the United States. The ANP are respected here.

Children go to school, farmers farm, shopkeepers do business in a busy and peaceful bazaar. While the districts are not technologically advanced, there is a fertile atmosphere for growth. The Afghan government is able to begin to deliver basic government services. It's not Utopia, but it is peaceful. This is what Afghanistan can be in the short term, establishing a framework for what Afghanistan can be in the future.
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