The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

THE DANCE |

November 20, 2006

THE DANCE
Name: Tadpole
Posting date: 11/20/06
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Milblog url: armysailor.com

We finished building a school today. It is one of many schools we have built throughout Afghanistan. Locals come to the ribbon cutting, everyone seems very pleased. Next week, the Taliban will burn the school. A week or two later we will repair it. Such is the dance.

The Afghan people are stuck in a strange situation. On one hand are the Coalition Forces. We do good things, try to help them, and try to make their country a better place. Our ultimate goal is to see Afghanistan become a functional citizen of the global village. The people see the good we do, and most appreciate it. Most want more. However, I cannot blame those who would rather we weren't here. After all, if there were Afghan soldiers in the streets of Philadelphia I'd be pretty displeased, no matter how much good they might be doing. No one wants foreign fighters in their country.

On the other hand you have the Taliban. The Taliban are a bunch of brutish thugs who impose a quasi-religious oppression of the people. In the name of God they strip their own people of their personal freedoms. The harsh reality is that they don't do it for God, but rather to keep themselves in power. The very methods they use are contrary to the teachings of the Qur'an. The vast majority of Afghans do not seem to support the Taliban, at least not in their hearts, but are sometimes forced to show their support.

I have a somewhat unique perspective on the plight of the Afghan people, as I grew up poor and in the inner city. The Americans are like the police, and the Taliban are common thugs. The residents don't like the thugs, but dare not oppose them or stand up to them for fear of reprisals, and the police seem ineffective. The fact is that, for generations of Afghans who have never known a life better than the one they have, it is hard to understand that lasting change does not happen quickly. It is hard to ask a man who has not realized the dream of freedom to be willing to lay down his life for that dream.

It is a most perilous and delicate situation that this country finds itself in, one which must be approached with a great deal of care. What worries me is that the world (especially America) is distracted. High-ranking officials in the UK seem to be damning our efforts in Afghanistan to inevitable failure, and the Canadians are calling for a withdrawal of their forces...The United States republic (arguably an empire) of the early 21st century will be judged in history by the actions it takes right now. Let's hope that our citizens will pressure their representatives to make the right decisions.

Comments

Your post seems an astute observation on the situation there. An instructor I had insisted that the form of the government in place was secondary to the cultural traditions and expressions of the society. The longer I look at this veiw, the more true it seems. So it all comes down to the question, how do the people treat each other in this country? That will determine how those in charge behave. How can standards be brought to some level of functionality? Probably by small, incremental changes. You know, the small stuff that takes forever. Making nice can be hard to get across when people think in terms of killing and abuse. A thought on the school burning, is there any way to de-centralize so that there is no building to burn? Pay teachers, give kids supplies, and meet at roving locations? Ha! preferably at the homes of known Taliban supporters? Could this happen? It would certainly make targeting confusing! How about micro AM stations broadcasting lessons, and then the class meeting for soccer somewhere? Kids can adapt to alot. Hang in there, my ideas may be bullshit but I do care what happens.

Hello, and thanks for the job you are doing overseas.

I wanted to comment on your statement that "the Canadians are calling for a withdrawal of their forces". This is not an accurate statement. The government in Canada and the majority of my fellow citizens believe that you and our Canadian troops are doing an important and admirable job. Canadians have answered the call in Afghanistan and we will be there until the job is done.

The truth is that our Liberal (opposition)party is in the midst of a leadership race and some of the candidates have taken anti-war stances. These positions get new-play and sometimes serve to distort what may be considered the national consensus. The leading Liberal in this race has not called for a return of our troops, and in fact, recently voted for an extension on the mission through 2009. This is the position of a majority of Canadian lawmakers.

Please continue to do your valuable work in 'the sandbox' and know that the government of Canada and the majority of Canadians support you and our troops.

Good on 'ya mate. Zelma's ideas have merit, but can you persuade your superiors? I'd like to think you could.
I too care what happens in 'Ghanistan

The analogy you draw to the American inner city has a further truism--Punishment /retaliatory opportunities for the criminal against the innocent are immediate and ongoing, while those who bring order respond from crisis to crisis, and work rather than live in the problem area. I think that Americans are aware of Afghanistan only tangentially, with most news crowded out by the daily carnage in Iraq. Had we used the goodwill generated by ousting the Taliban with concentrating on projects like yours and making the country properly secure, the Taliban would be far more marginalized. By trying to do two things at once, we shortchanged the very people we want to help.
Keep the faith,and know that you are in our thoughts and prayers; you are what America is really about.

The analogy you draw to the American inner city has a further truism--Punishment /retaliatory opportunities for the criminal against the innocent are immediate and ongoing, while those who bring order respond from crisis to crisis, and work rather than live in the problem area. I think that Americans are aware of Afghanistan only tangentially, with most news crowded out by the daily carnage in Iraq. Had we used the goodwill generated by ousting the Taliban with concentrating on projects like yours and making the country properly secure, the Taliban would be far more marginalized. By trying to do two things at once, we shortchanged the very people we want to help.
Keep the faith,and know that you are in our thoughts and prayers; you are what America is really about.

Tadpole,
You are on the money. The US did not focus on Afghanistan where it should have and now there is a real problem. I like your inner-city analogy; it makes a lot of sense. Pity the upper echelon doesn't have your smarts.

I think it's helpful to agree with you, Afghanistan is different. Talibans are invaders from the mountains of Pakistan, whoses power came from an absence of gov't authority and illiterate citizens. Afghans will eventually take on the role of police, and the children will learn, on their own land. imho.

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