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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 END OF HEARTACHE |

December 02, 2009

THE END OF HEARTACHE
Name: Edda2010
Posting date: 12/2/09
Returned from: Afghanistan

My unit came off orders to Iraq recently. This frees us up to go to Afghanistan. Below are a list of reasons, in no particular order, why it would be a good idea for me to spend 12 of the next 15 months of my life back in that blasted land.

1) We made a commitment to the people of Afghanistan when we invaded their country and toppled the Taliban regime. Unless we feel comfortable allowing adulterous women to be stoned to death, or women in general to receive no education, or whatever non-Muslim culture remaining in the country to be savaged and destroyed; unless we feel comfortable going back on a promise we made to a country filled with poverty, devoid of natural resources, mired in hopelessness and ignorance; unless we are comfortable with an idea of ourselves as individuals who are not capable of making promises as a nation -- we must stay for a little while longer and give these people the legitimate shot at development that we offered them when we first put boots on the ground in 2002.

2) If we abandon Afghanistan, it will fall to the Taliban, which will give the insurgency that is building in Pakistan a safehaven from which to stage attacks. A vulnerable Pakistan--a country that boasts nuclear capabilities--is not in our interest. By remaining in Afghanistan, we allow Pakistan some breathing room in its struggle against extremist Muslims in their country.

3) The Afghan people like us. We may be perceived as invaders or occupiers by some of the Afghans -- which should not come as a surprise, unless one has the political naivete of a six-year-old (many people in our own country felt as though the Bush administration was essentially a foreign occupation) -- but my experience was that the big gripe from the villages on the border was that we didn't have enough soldiers to offer them protection.

Everyone wanted roads, everyone wanted wells, everyone wanted their lives to improve, and recognized that the Taliban and the criminal networks operating from inside Pakistan were robbing them of vital economic opportunities. Americans were welcomed by children and village elders alike -- everywhere we went, we were handing out HA* and making friends.There was absolutely no confusion as to what our motivations were; we built schoolhouses and mosques, and gave out oil, food, fuel, and clothes, asking for nothing in return. Nobody I talked with confused us with the Russians.

Those people who seem concerned that we may be perceived as an imperial power must have some sort of personal issue that causes them to see the world in those terms; it was not the reality that I experienced during the time I lived there. The biggest impediments to progress, when I was in Afghanistan last, were institutional on our side, and corruption on the side of Afghans. Which brings me to my next rambling point.

4) Recognition on the part of Afghans that their government is corrupt, and that there should be a different result than the one they got in the recent election, is a mark of political progress. Corruption has been the norm in Afghanistan for as long as anyone can remember. Tribal chieftains, Taliban, Communists, Monarchists -- all this country knows is corrupt governmental models. Here, for the first time in recorded history, we see the people of Afghanistan legitimately outraged that their political will is being thwarted. This is not a moment for hand-wringing on our part, but rather celebration -- we have measurable proof that Afghanistan is beginning a true political, democratic / republican awakening. Good job, us! Let's stick with it a bit longer and see what else develops. Rather than throwing our hands up in disgust and walking away, leaving these people to the depredations of the savage, murderous Taliban.

5) The administration's tactical alternative -- "counter-terrorism" versus "counter-insurgency" -- was last experienced strategically during the Clinton Administration. Its failure led to an incident we remember every 11th of September. The bottom line is that firing missiles from Naval vessels and targeting specific terrorist cells with Delta operatives is the smallest, least effective type of band-aid, besides ignoring two crucial factors:

-- The Taliban and Al Queda are friends. They are separate entities, but should not be treated as such. If the Taliban (a grass-roots organization capable of being fought only by counterinsurgent tactics) retakes Afghanistan, Al Queda will have a safe haven there for as long as it takes for the Taliban to be toppled, or to topple Pakistan.

-- Our intelligence gathering assets are impressive to us, and our allies, and that's about it. Unless they are employed in direct support of tactical operations, they're pretty shitty. That's a fact. Many's the time when those unmanned drones totally suck. And we're supposed to believe that pulling eyes off the ground, and putting Delta / SOF* A teams on standby on airfields up to an hour away is going to be adequate for defeating a mountain-based enemy with robust and politically invulnerable safehavens?  Our administration is seriously considering this -- throwing missiles and bombs through UAVs and specifically targeting individuals / camps with squads of highly-trained soldiers. If you think this sounds like a good plan, please watch Blackhawk Down, then get back to me.

6) General McChrystal is a f***ing genius. If he feels that we can do the job with the resources he requested, let's get them to him, stat, and let him go. He's got the right idea, and is a just man. What more could you ask for. Our allies -- the British, no less! -- think this is worth fighting for. Sweet Jesus, let our great country and this noble purpose not be unmanned by the British of all nations.

Bottom line: we can do right by ourselves, by the Afghans. Let's do it. And be out five years from now.


*

HA: Humanitarian Assistance

SOF: Special Operations Forces

Comments

Excellent summary. May we (& you) go for it!

I agree with your assessment, however you conveniently seem to forget that Bush was president for eight months when 9/11 occured. Bush was briefed on the threats from Al Queda and supposedly told the briefer that you have covered your ass, okay. Bush never mentioned the threat again until after 9/11. Revisionism (politics) ruins your otherwise excellent article. .

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 12/02/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

http://www.thunderrun.us/2009/12/from-front-12032009.html

Dear Edda2010,

You rock. If you would be willing to talk to abc Radio News Los Angeles about going back to Afghanistan AND what you learned last time we would be SO honored.

[email protected] is the way to reach me.

It's Thursday, Dec.3rd at 2:55pm pst and I would LOVE to have your input on our show.

Most Sincerely,
Audrey Antley
Producer
abc(AM 790)

What have been our successes in the last 7 years? How would you deal with the corruption? Is the enemy destroying what we built? If not how has that been prevented? If so how should it be prevented? From what I see through the eyes of the milblogs and honest journalists is that the Bush years had political operatives running much of our redevelopment initiatives and did not know their a** from a hole in the ground .. just how to collect pay checks and throw money to the corrupt government officials. We need take actions and do PR that will show that the corruption is being vanquished.

Concerning Pakistan - the secret police / intelligence of Pakistan set up the mullahs' seminaries for the purpose of fomenting religious fervor and unrest in the border areas. The imbalance leaves them very much in power. Peace might vanquish them!

this is the plainest-speaking explanation i have read on the afghan war...no bells and whistles.its too bad it can't be required reading for those who oppose the POTUS's plan...i am not a military person, but i do recognoze plain speaking when is see it... thank you and success in your efforts.

Edda 2010

It is too bad, that there is not more enightened commentary like yours posted in the mainstream media. This is one of the more moving posts that I have read on why our country should stick it out in this forsaken corner of the world. The fact that it is written by one of the warriors who is putting his life on the line makes it even more powerful.

I wish that more of my civilian counterparts who express strong opinions about our "inevitable defeat" would research the milblogs to see what our troops actually think.

Keep up the good work, I wish you a safe return.

Georandy

Thank-you, thank-you from one that has been her life on the line before, and now stands both proud and fear filled as her son steps up. God he is so young, no mother ever feels that their child is old enough.

But there are many reasons why, why you go, and why my grown son goes. You very briefly but completely covered most of them.

Do your duty with honor, you all are in our hearts and in our prayers.

Great article. Takes away all the crazy, foaming-at-the- mouth shouting and boils it down to simple truths. This should be mandatory reading for anybody who's open minded enough to listen!
Thank you for your words; thank you for your service...stay safe, be careful, come home soon.

Thanks for your well written post. I respectfully don't agree with your conclusions, however.

The tribes and groups of the Middle East have been fighting for thousands of years. Why do you think that will change as a result of our forces being there for an additional 5 years? We've already wasted lives and resources in Iraq and Afghanistan, why continue this waste?

The points you bring up about trying to minimalize Al Qaeda are of course valid. Why not come up with a different, more precise way of eliminating them, while, at the same time, win the hearts and minds of the people by helping them improve their lives discreetly, FROM A DISTANCE. Sound idealistic, yeah, but IMHO it beats the hell out of continuing the waste.

Peter H
First Infantry Division
C.I.B.
Purple Heart

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