quelle


 29 Jul 2009 @ 1:50 PM 

One thing that I’m being reminded of is how differently Afghans view their national issues from the way that Westerners view them. Americans are often the furthest from the Afghan view. If you toss individuals from Afghanistan and, say, seven other nations in a room and have them all come up a viewpoint from an Afghan perspective, the Americans will often miss by the widest margin. It’s in the mindset. That’s not to say that Americans are bad, or that our intentions are less than pure. It just means that we have to ask the right questions in order to reach solutions that are appropriate for the environment and people here.

There have been numerous examples of the phenomenon this week. The coursework here involves a number of Practical Exercises. In one group, a mixed bag of Americans, a Canadian, a Norwegian, and two Afghans were working together. All of the Coalition troops were officers. The two young Afghans, Sergeants in a special Anti-terrorism unit that did yeoman’s work during the orchestrated attacks in Kabul recently, were a little intimidated and had to be coaxed out of their shells. Sometimes their input really surprised the group.

Like 180 degrees out.

Each class gets to take a trip to Darulaman, the Queen’s Palace. I almost didn’t accompany them, since I’ve seen it. It’s still impressive. I took a few pictures, of course. Roaming around the palace evokes a hint of glory past, ethereal as the ghosts of past regimes seen through the lens of destruction and sorrow of war. The senselessness of failing to arrive at a political solution to human differences becomes profoundly obvious in such a place. Much blood was spilled in and around the grounds of the once-grand edifice.

I view it through American eyes. These eyes, a shade of blue almost never seen in native Afghans, are every bit as different in their perception as in their hue. Although I feel that my eyes were forever changed by my first tour, which is what adds value to my second, still do not see Afghanistan as Afghans do. I was about to be reminded of this.

As I roamed the shell of the palace, wandering through what was once a grand hall on the third floor, my eyes were drawn to an Afghan civilian who stood deeply considering the graffiti on the wall. I assumed that he was feeling the great sorrow of such a place, representative of the hope that Afghanistan had once held and the destruction of that same. I greeted him in Dari, asking how he was. We exchanged the traditional pleasantries. He told me his name was Mirwaz. (No he didn’t… but that’s what I’ll call him here, just to protect him.) Then I asked him why he appeared to be so deep in thought.

“I am reading what has been written on the walls,” he said.

“What does it say?” I asked.

“Taliban. From Pakistan. There is a lot of that in this place,” he offered.

“Pakistan?”

“Yes. See here; this one says, ‘Fazel Achmad,’ and here is where is from… ‘Pakistan,’ above the name,” he pointed out.

I took a picture, for this space, and asked him how Darulaman made him feel.

Fazel Achmad was here

Fazel Achmad was here

He thought for a moment, fingers on his chin. “Proud.”

“Proud?” I asked, incredulous.

“Now, I am proud; and I’m thinking, ‘Do something in your life unique like this,'” he told me, “I pray to God to give me energy like this, to kick all of these insurgents out of here and I will tell them, ‘Hey, 80 or 100 years ago, they made this place. Why you made this place like this?'”

“It doesn’t make you sad?” I quizzed him further, intrigued at his outlook.

“No. I feel this sorrow, but I cannot change these things that happened. But, this man, Amanullah, did a unique thing. I can do a unique thing too, inshallah.”

I was struck by his ability to let go of the past and live in today. The powerful simplicity of the release freed him to look to the future.

“When I am President, this will be the Ministry of Culture,” he said, his smile becoming a chuckle, “and that,” he indicated the King’s Palace in the distance, “that will be where the Loya Jirga sits.”

A Canadian officer passed by and took note of Mirwaz’s pronouncement. “Now that would take some doing. It’s pretty damaged. I heard it was unstable.”

“I will be President,” Mirwaz grinned, “it will be a small thing.” With a wave of his hand, he had solved that problem. He knew it wasn’t that simple, or a small thing, but he saw that destruction and loss doesn’t have to be forever.

“Amanullah did this unique thing, and it calls us to think of him,” he explained to me. “Many men have done the unique thing.” Mirwaz rattled off a list of names, some of whom Americans would question as being admirable, but they were Afghans who had made dramatic changes in their country in their attempts to fulfill their visions for Afghanistan. I could see him talking about such men in the same way that we might speak of Lincoln, Roosevelt or Wilson.

Mirwaz and I talked as we walked through the building, then the road down the hill that Darulaman dwarfs with her mass. He works for what is probably the single most influential ministry for the coming years, the MRRD, or Ministry of Rural Reconstruction and Development. This ministry, more than any other, brings Afghan problems together with locally accountable Afghan solutions to problems that face communities. Largely directing foreign funding, MRRD utilizes elected boards in each locality to select and manage projects which MRRD oversees.

He explained to me how he had been a refugee in Pakistan during the Russian and Taliban years, and how he had earned a Bachelors degree in economics in Pakistan. He returned overjoyed after Taliban were forced to flee. “I was happy,” he said, “but also disappointed by what had happened to my country.”

“Every family is like this place,” he said, sweeping his hand around the palace gutted by war, robbed of it’s finery and scored by weapons. “Every Afghan family is the same as this.”

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Categories: Afghanistan, COIN, development
Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 29 Jul 2009 @ 01 50 PM

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 23 Jul 2009 @ 11:46 AM 

Tadd Sholtis at Quatto Zone raises an interesting COIN question. (Don’t worry, At Park Place, I haven’t forgotten that I owe you something.) He muses over what the Taliban are doing with their message about air strikes and CIVCAS (Civilian Casualties.) Everyone knows that GEN McChrystal has stated that our metrics will be centered around protecting civilians… including from us… and that he has moved a few things around the house. What the Taliban want is an intriguing question, though. Let’s take a peek into what that clever manjammie-wearing Mao-trained thug may be thinking.

Sholtis poses this question about the demands from the Taliban that the coalition end air strikes in certain areas in return for permitting PFC Bergdahl to continue to draw breath and make propaganda tapes for them:

Why do this unless air power represents a significant threat to the organization? And while it’s clear that the Taliban try to provoke strikes that will cause civilian casualties, it’s unclear whether this tactic is designed to whip up popular rage or encourage restrictive rules of engagement that will grant insurgents more breathing room. The answer is probably both.

Money. Right on the money. It is both. Remember a few things when looking at an insurgency;

  • 1. the population is the prize
    2. their actions are designed to support Information Operation (IO) message
    3. they are all about preserving their force
  • You have to listen to the insurgent IO first. Not just truly listen, but listen from the viewpoint of the population. The population is what gives the insurgent his strength. The population is the water in which the fish (insurgent) swims. The population provides sustenance, information, shelter, concealment and recruits, as well as other aids. Without the population, the insurgent is irrelevant. What matters is not necessarily what is true, but what the population believes to be true. The insurgent IO (what is also called propaganda) is the conversation, the love call, of the insurgent. It is his attempt to either woo and seduce or to intimidate. The insurgent is a date-rapist. If the population buys his pickup lines and gives up the support willingly, so much the better; but if force is required, he’s prepared and willing for that, too.

    The message about the air strikes is two things at once. First, it is in support of the message that the United States and her allies are forces of occupation attempting to dominate Afghanistan and all Afghans. His message is that we simply do not care about Afghan lives, especially Muslim Afghan lives. That would be just about… all of them. The implication is that the Taliban does care about Afghan lives; that they are the defenders of Islam, Afghan sovereignty and Afghan lives.

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain… the Afghan civilians killed by insurgents. That’s the other side of the coin (pardon the pun.) That supports a whole ‘nother message.

    Secondly, it is an attempt to force us to quiver our most feared arrows. Air power is a decisive edge in any engagement. Their objective is to get us to shoot ourselves in the foot either way. If they can goad us into the indiscriminate use of air power, then they can portray us as completely unmindful of Afghan lives in the pursuit of our goal of world domination. This supports their messages locally, nationally and even internationally. Is it believable?

    Do you ever read the bizarre-far lefty blogs? Hell, some of our own citizens willingly further this Taliban IO. Yep, it’s believable to enough people to keep repeating it.

    Failing that, if they can reduce their own casualties and preserve their strength, they bring themselves closer to having the strength to enter the Strategic Counterattack Phase of insurgency. This is a Maoist insurgency doctrinal term that we have heard the enemy actually use in communications from commanders to subordinates in the field in Afghanistan.

    *DING DING*

    Folks, while we are struggling to learn Counterinsurgency Doctrine, the enemy is well-versed in Insurgency Doctrine. These guys may not always be accurate as can be with their weapons, but they are plenty smart as insurgents.

    Just because the Taliban portray themselves as the defenders of Afghan lives and property doesn’t mean it’s so; but that doesn’t matter. What matters is how the population sees it. If they see the Coalition as willing to bomb civilians in a heartbeat, slow to admit the truth and having been caught in several untruths (another word for, oh… I don’t know… maybe… “lies?”) then the insurgent wins. We can see that the Taliban are perfectly willing to shoot at us from occupied houses or villages. We can see that the Taliban will slip us information about a massing of forces and get us to bomb a wedding. We can see them endanger civilian lives with reckless abandon. It matters not what we can see.

    It matters what the man on the street sees… through the lens of the insurgent message.

    All too often we have obliged him. We are so eager to kill the enemy that we can usually be counted on to reflexively lash out with as much firepower as we can get on that target. If we made tactical nukes available and didn’t make it too complicated to use them, I guarantee that someone would have employed one in some valley in Afghanistan. We like to swat flies with bricks.

    There is another side to this coin (ooops, did it again…) and that is that the insurgent tells you how to kick his ass. He tells you what is important. If it’s not a deception, which is possible, he may be telling you where he is planning something or where you have hurt him badly. Why did he specify districts? We really need to take a look at that. What can we determine about him from his message?

    When we listen to the enemy, he tells us how he plans to beat us. He tells us what is wrong with the government that, if we fix that problem, will alleviate some conditions that cause people to support him… like the courts in Wardak and Khost. In this case, if we listen to his message and watch the popular response, we can see that killing civilians hurts us and helps him. If we become very careful about civilian lives, even at a bit greater risk to ourselves, we take this away from him. He will always attempt to use it if we make an error, but we can take that high ground from him. That doesn’t mean that we can never use air power, but it does mean that we must be exceedingly careful so as not to feed the fish. Then we can put a few things in the water that the fish will find irritating; such as the Coalition and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) being the ones who are concerned about Afghan lives while the Taliban kills innocent civilians in their terror operations or in offensive operations against the Coalition and ANSF. We can coopt his message.

    We can salt the water of our fresh water fish. Go pour some salt in your goldfish bowl and see what happens.

    Overall, any anti-Coalition message or attack is to hasten the departure of the Coalition members and leave the Afghan Government naked like Janet Leigh in the shower. Any attack on the ANSF is to discredit or weaken the Afghan Government and lessen its legitimacy in the eyes of the people. Any attack on the people is meant to show them that the government and Coalition cannot protect those who side with them. Any economic action is meant to make the people more dependent on the Taliban for support (poppy is a good example) or more willing to believe that the government will not or can not help improve their lot in life.

    There are lots of ways that the enemy tells us how to beat him. He pretty much tells us exactly how to beat him. All we have to do is listen.

    First, we have to stop feeding the fish.

    Tags Tags: , , , ,
    Categories: Afghanistan, analysis, COIN, doctrine, General Military, metrics
    Posted By: Old Blue
    Last Edit: 23 Jul 2009 @ 11 46 AM

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     21 Jul 2009 @ 1:59 PM 

    I’ve slapped Michael Cohen around a bit before for his cowardly and intellectually dishonest “analysis” of the counterinsurgency fight in Afghanistan. I’ve pointed out before that he is driven by the fear that if we are successful counterinsurgents here, that COIN will become a cornerstone of American foreign policy. I’ve also pointed out that this is self-defeating, given Mr. Cohen’s advocacy of civil capacity-building development within our foreign policy organs. I’ve pointed out his ridiculousness, to be sure. He’s outdone himself today, and he’s drawn my fire.

    Cohen writes today in rebuttal of an Op-Ed by Thomas Friedman, taking “offense” and taking Mr. Friedman to task for this snippet:

    In grand strategic terms, I still don’t know if this Afghan war makes sense anymore. I was dubious before I arrived, and I still am. But when you see two little Afghan girls crouched on the front steps of their new school, clutching tightly with both arms the notebooks handed to them by a U.S. admiral — as if they were their first dolls — it’s hard to say: “Let’s just walk away.” Not yet.

    While I disagree with Mr. Friedman’s analysis of the “grand strategic” reasons for our involvement in Afghanistan, let’s get to Cohen’s bit:

    It’s hard for me to put into words the anger that wells up inside of me when I read such an odious and manipulative op-ed like this one. This is the equivalent of liberal humanitarian porn. Perhaps Tom Friedman should attend a military funeral and write an op-ed about the looks on the faces of two little girls in America whose daddy is killed in Afghanistan pursuing this mission.

    Odious and manipulative. Methinks Cohen’s rage is concocted, and here’s why; he doesn’t have the right to tell someone to attend a military funeral to gain awareness. Cohen himself is engaging in sanctimonious emotional blithering that he is not entitled to engage in. He also doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    You see, I didn’t read Mr. Friedman’s remarks as being a definitive reason to stay in Afghanistan. In my book, Mr. Friedman has a lot to learn about national security and about the causes and conditions of insurgency, particularly this one. What I read was an emotional response, which I am entirely in tune with, which Cohen has labelled “humanitarian porn.” You see, I have seen with my own eyes what Mr. Friedman describes and I have felt the pangs in my own soul for not being able to fix this country for those children. It is real. It is unbelievably real. It is gut-wrenching and much deeper than Mr. Friedman even attempted to convey. Cohen would not know that. He has never seen it.

    I’m not here for the Afghan children. I’m here for my children. The paradox is that in order to help my children, the Afghan children must benefit. Cohen could never comprehend this fact. He is too afraid that someone would read Friedman’s piece and somehow be titillated by it. He responds with an accusation of an emotional appeal and then makes an emotional appeal of his own, invoking flag-draped coffins.

    My flag-draped coffin, perhaps?

    NO. I categorically deny Cohen the right to invoke the image of my coffin. I categorically deny the cowardly, dishonest Michael Cohen permission to victimize me in order to fight back against his childish nightmares. I categorically deny Cohen permission to abuse my two little girls to make his sad political point. You see, Cohen has no meat in this game. I do. I am here willingly. Cohen does not have to look at my two little girls, nor, in the case of my death, would he. He does not have to right to use my family or the family of any Soldier in this country right now at this moment to make his mock indignant point. That is offensive beyond belief.

    I am an American Soldier. I am, not him. His maudlin emotional blackmail offends me. I risk myself, and the sorrow of my children, of my own volition and due to an oath that I took that he cannot comprehend. He accuses Friedman of “humanitarian porn.” No. His was a fair observation that did not reach a conclusion but was a real observation of an emotion that I can tell you is real. I can also tell you that the high-minded Cohen does not give a crap about me or my two little girls. Not one crap.

    Cohen is the pornographer here, wrapped in a faux flag and bleeding concern that he does not hold in his heart. Today his performance is on par with the best of the Taliban IO meisters, but I am not applauding. I am condemning. Cohen can go #^< ! himself. He does not, nor does anyone, have the right to portray the image of my grieving daughters in some self-serving argument. No one does.

    Get a load of this:

    I’m more than happy to argue with anyone about why I think the current mission in Afghanistan is the wrong one, but I’m not going to argue with someone who throws cheap, manipulative and emotional arguments in my face about two little girls in Afghanistan.

    Oh yeah? Well I will argue with any son of a bitch who throws cheap, manipulative and emotional arguments in everyone’s face about two little girls in Ohio. Cohen argued with me via emails for a bit a few months ago, but he couldn’t take the criticisms of his simplistic and knee-jerk response of attempting to discredit the doctrine, which I will help show can be successful in preventing the descent, once more, of Afghanistan in to dark chaos, out of political fear. His opposition to the doctrine is based on childish fear, and due to this intellectual dishonesty, he would further endanger my country. I am willing to put my ass on the line to prove him wrong. It’s on the line, while he sleeps on a freaking Serta tonight and thinks about what flavor of chai latte to sip at Starbucks tomorrow morning. It’s bad enough that he is practically in bed with the Taliban on this issue; I can deal with that stupidity. But to drag my kids (yes, my kids, just as much as anyone who’s over here right now,) into it in his desperation to deny the effect of seeing poverty-stricken children getting a few sheets of paper and a pen, possibly for the first time in their lives, is crap. I’ve had just about enough of his chickenshit whining.

    Cohen paints himself as some kind of intellectual. There are actual intellectuals over here in a program to study various aspects of insurgency and how to work through it. They are studying the types of things that Cohen likes to advocate from his psuedo-intellectual “speechboy” (a name he comments under at Abu Muqawama) persona, like how various aspects of civil development and rule of law affects violence. They are from the best schools; Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and others; professors, PhD candidates, and students. None of them have ever heard of Cohen. Ha. Now that’s funny. To them, his foolishness is completely irrelevant.

    I just have a problem with suffering jackassery in silence. And leave my kids out of this!

    Tags Categories: Uncategorized Posted By: Old Blue
    Last Edit: 22 Jul 2009 @ 09 05 AM

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     21 Jul 2009 @ 12:33 PM 

    Today, I got a chance to have my “in-brief” with the my new boss, a Colonel who is the Director of the CTC-A, or Counterinsurgency Training Center – Afghanistan. It took a week to catch fifteen minutes or so of his free time. He has none, and so what I got was stolen. The conversation went well. Among other things, I am clear to blog.

    One thing: Don’t ever think that I speak for the CTC-A. I don’t. I speak for myself and myself alone. See the disclaimer for details. CTC-A would fall under at least one of the covered entities that I do not speak for.

    That being said, I’ve got to say that I’m mui impressed with the curriculum here. I am surrounded by people who get it. Many are former advisors. Evangelists all, our job is to help my Army, and and armies of our allies and the Afghans, and governmental organizations of all of the above… and a few others… to “get” COIN. That in many cases refers to how to operationalize it, not just talk about it. Good stuff. It’s what I volunteered to come back to The Suck for.

    It’s a great mission. I have been writing and evangelizing COIN for months and months… but I believe that when you believe in something, and you believe it’s the right thing to do, you do it instead of just endlessly talking and criticizing. *POOF* I’m in Afghanistan.

    It actually took months and months to get here. It’s a story of a comedy of errors. You’d think I’d hate my Army, the National Guard, and all involved after the murderous process to get here, but I don’t. I’m just grateful to be in a position to contribute. Perhaps one day I’ll tell the story of the arduous struggle uphill to be once again permitted the honor of serving my country in Afghanistan. It will fill you with a bored anger akin to Eeyore’s slowly burning inner rage; an oft-overlooked and entirely under-discussed aspect of A.A. Milne’s masterworks of the 20th Century.

    So, now free to discuss COIN in many, if not all, of its permutations, I begin with this:

    At least they’re struggling to find some sort of relevance in the discussion, now that they figure that they have some sort of stake in it. I’m referring to the “progressive” left attempting to get a grip on the issue of Afghanistan. It appears that they may be asking some relevant questions, but the hope of coming to any conclusions that bear more than a vague resemblance to reality is slight indeed. This inability is exacerbated by the inclusion of Richard “I’m an expert because I showed up” Smith and Robert “I’m agin’ it!” Greenwald.

    Both of those schmendricks are reality-resistant examples that mental/emotional GoreTex brain linings are available in stunning colors.

    Spencer Ackerman will likely be the best informed of the lot, as he gathers information about the region fairly regularly.

    So I’d like to offer my wishes for good luck with that to the enterprising organizers of this esoteric romp through theoretical Afghanistan. When “Netroots” decides to include some actual Subject Matter Experts in their discussions, there will be hope. I would like to remind them that hollering into a trashcan and listening to yourself is an ineffective strategy for relevant foreign policy determinations.

    But it’s nice that they’re trying. It’s a little like watching kindergartners organize a prom.

    This is what they were wearing at the same conference three years ago. No kidding; this is an actual picture.

    Yes, those are tin foil hats, and yes, this is an actual Netroots photo.

    These folks have a way to go before they have anything really relevant to say about foreign policy, and I don’t believe that they will ever have anything coherent to say on COIN or why we should do it in Afghanistan.

    Tags Categories: Uncategorized Posted By: Old Blue
    Last Edit: 21 Jul 2009 @ 12 33 PM

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     18 Jul 2009 @ 11:41 AM 

    This is what happens when you go downrange as an individual; you are forced to meet new people. You can’t predict what these brand spanking new relationships will look like a year from now. It forces one to live in the moment and to really try to do your best.

    And hope that it’s good enough.

    It’s a new test, a new challenge. It’s also a bit unnerving. It’s strange how you can spend years and years proving over and over that you can meet new people, be put into a team with them, and thrive. There are those, like SFC (soon to be 1SG) O, Jacques Pulvier, LTC Stone Cold and some others from my last tour that I will keep up with for the rest of my natural life. There are others that I don’t care if I ever see again. That’s the way of it. It’s not the ones that I don’t care to see again that matter. It’s the ones that I have bonded with so strongly that we will keep in touch over the course of years. Some with regularity, some with irregularity… that doesn’t matter, either. It matters that you do reconnect.

    The chances are good that I will have some of that here, too. It doesn’t always happen. Usually that is a bonding that is driven by stress and shared danger. There is no telling if there will be that level of bonding gel applied to these newly developing relationships. Who knows?

    That’s the point; nobody does. It is just time to let go, live in the present, and let these things go which way they may. Arriving alone on a new team has a familiar feel to it. One difference is that the team existed before I got here. I am the FNG. They are a good bunch, though, and I feel absolutely welcome.

    Many things here are familiar, if a little more worn. The ghosts of the last deployment hover over old landmarks and haunt new developments. There are changes in Kabul, and in the camps my friends and I knew then. The new mosque that was under construction is finished and beautiful. The lot in front of the building with the big body builder sign on it is empty of the trash pile that choked it. Phoenix is a crowded ghetto. There is new construction here and there in the city. A gleaming new office building is nearly complete. It would fit right into any city in America… at least by looks if not by amenities. There has been some visible progress here.

    Out in the provinces may be a completely different story. Kabul is to Afghanistan as New York City is to America; a whole different reality, detached and different and self-absorbed. Unrepresentative of the reality of the rest of the country, like New York it is convinced that it somehow represents the country symbolically. Kabul does not reflect the reality of Khost or Helmand any more than New York City reflects the reality of Cincinnati or Iowa. It’s good to see some progress in this age-old city, but it does not reflect the state of the nation. Some of the news from the provinces is deeply disconcerting. The increase in manning levels and the mandated change in behaviors will take time to manifest themselves.

    Tactical patience is required.

    There is one thing that I may share with rest of the world. For those of you who know him, Rambo is still at the front gate of Phoenix. To him, I am just another American Soldier passing through that portal; but to me, he is an icon and a symbol of how dedicated an Afghan can be. Seeing him there forced a smile from me. So, if any of you wondered, Rambo is present and accounted for.

    The average American doesn’t know about Rambo. If anyone has a Rambo story or two, please share it either in comments or email it to me. The guy is truly incredible.

    Tags Tags: ,
    Categories: Afghanistan, development
    Posted By: Old Blue
    Last Edit: 18 Jul 2009 @ 11 41 AM

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     16 Jul 2009 @ 1:24 PM 

    First note:

    I’m wondering how the world could bleed for Michael Jackson for days on end and miss the passing of Shifty Powers, who was introduced to the world as one of the Band of Brothers. One of these two men demonstrated incredible courage and laid his life on the line for his friends and his country. The other was a rich entertainer with a penchant for plastic surgery. Guess which one passed with almost no fanfare?

    If you Twitter, please participate in #shiftypowers on Monday. All you have to do is tweet “#shiftypowers” and we will recognize the passing of this American hero. He truly had some incredible experiences and demonstrated, with his brothers, incredible courage. I stand in awe of what those men did.

    Second note:

    Afghanistan’s Joint Forces Headquarters is holding a video contest on why Afghanistan matters. If you’ve been to Afghanistan and think it matters, put a vid together and participate. The four best videos will win camcorders and the first twenty qualifying entries will get a free 1GB thumb drive. Your video doesn’t have to consist of video, it can be made from stills, but needs to be in a video format. Go check it out, and if you know an Afghan vet, encourage him or her to submit a video.

    Afghanistan matters, so support AfghanistanMatters.com and maybe you’ll wind up with a video camera to boot!

    I suddenly feel an overwhelming urge to do an imitation of the late, great Billy Mays.

    Tags Categories: Afghanistan, General Military Posted By: Old Blue
    Last Edit: 16 Jul 2009 @ 01 24 PM

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     15 Jul 2009 @ 1:07 PM 

    I noticed tonight that Kabul twinkles at night. I don’t know what it is, but the lights of Kabul twinkle much like stars embedded in a fabric that climbs up the mountains like a Christmas tree blanket over a tree stand. They are not all the same dull yellowish color or blue-tinted white of American city lights. There seem to be many colors, from bright white to bright red, muted greens and yellowish glares. It almost seems festive, and I ponder the many lives being lived next to the twinkling points; the children growing up in this dusty city heaving itself slowly out of the quagmire of war’s rubble, barely daring to hope for a future with a bit of liberty.

    It’s too much to consider.

    I notice an almost ominous glow behind one of the mountains. Back home such a glow would signal some sort of large event. Here, as I forgot, it heralds the coming of the moon. What I see is the bright light of earth’s largest satellite glowing like an approaching car’s headlights. The far side of the mountain is already bathed in its light, but here on the other side, I stand in shadow, slowly realizing that it is the moon and not some great social event or impending disaster.

    A bright, unblinking light appears atop the mountain. It is the tip of the crescent which momentarily becomes apparent; a triangle, its sharpened tip growing taller at a surprising rate. Within seconds, it begins to resemble a shark’s tooth breaking free of the mountainous jaw, jutting skyward. This effect grows and is not lost until the moon is nearly free of the grasp of the mountain. Finally, the nearly half-moon rests for a few seconds atop the mountain, seemingly paused there as if resting from the effort.

    The illusion is broken; the moon separates itself from the mountain and resumes its climb. The moonshadow begins to retreat towards the moon, slowly racing across the valley towards the base of the opposing mountain as the moon literally shines like a muted sun on the glittering city of Kabul. The moon is risen.

    I think it took less than two minutes. Some things just leave me shaking my head slowly and muttering about beauty to myself, alone in the dark.

    Tags Tags: ,
    Categories: Afghanistan
    Posted By: Old Blue
    Last Edit: 15 Jul 2009 @ 01 12 PM

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     14 Jul 2009 @ 3:41 PM 

    After I finally got to sleep last night I slept for a good ten hours in a temporary room. Whew.

    The temporary room was comfortable, and it had furniture. No chair, but it had a desk, a bed, a very nice wall locker of local manufacture and another piece of furniture of plywood construction which is more of a standard b-hut furnishing. Today I moved into another temporary room in another building which is more like a barracks with a hallway and private rooms off of it. It is linked to another similar building by the shower and latrine facility, which is very impressive for Afghanistan. Nicely tiled, clean and roomy.

    The room I moved into is very clean. It is also nearly clean of furniture, the only furnishing being a bunk bed. My duffel bags and ruck sack are my furniture. That and a purloined body armor stand which now proudly holds my armor and helmet in the corner near the door. The whole room is about the size of a commercial broom closet. Again; it is clean, lockable and mine. For now. They tell me I will get a larger room soon when some people move out. I will look forward to that, but this is fine in the meantime. I’m grateful, in fact.

    The camp here is extremely nice. Small, but very nice. It is calm and sensible, too. None of the usual “too close to the flagpole” shenanigans. Whew. More on that another time.

    I got to meet many of the other people on the team today, and they all seemed happy that I am here (finally.) This process has literally taken months and months. I haven’t written about it because it could have come apart at the seams at any point along the way, and that would have been difficult to explain at best or could have appeared to be BS at worst. Not wanting that complication, I thought it best to keep it to myself. In any case, they have been expecting me here for a long time, and now I’m finally here.

    It’s a great mission. Hopefully we can make a difference and hopefully I can be helpful with that. I can tell you that I am doing something that I deeply believe in. Again, more on that later. I promise this all makes sense.

    I got to see my first camel spider of the second tour tonight. One of the young’uns down the hall started yelling, “Hey, come look at this! What is that thing? It’s huge!” I walked down the hall and there it sat, looking at me as if to say, “Where have you been? We’ve been waiting for you!”

    The young’un shoo’d it out the door without harming it.

    Yep, I’m in Afghanistan again. It feels oddly normal. One difference that I’ve noticed is that there are more lights at night in Kabul. That’s a small sign, but the electricity that we Americans take for granted has been hit or miss here, even in the capitol. To see lights on such a broad area of Kabul at night means something’s being done. There is obviously a lot that needs to be done, but it’s a good sign on the infrastructure side.

    On a separate note, Vampire 6 left the country last night. We missed each other. He was probably at Bagram while I was waiting for my flight to Kabul. Godspeed for a safe trip home, Vampires. Job well done. Don’t ever think for a minute that it doesn’t matter. It does. Baton passed. I got it.

    Tags Tags: ,
    Categories: Afghanistan
    Posted By: Old Blue
    Last Edit: 14 Jul 2009 @ 03 46 PM

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     13 Jul 2009 @ 2:06 PM 

    I arrived back in Afghanistan today after the most grueling trip I’ve ever had to get halfway around the world. Kuwait was hairdryer-hot, moving as an individual is murderous, and there are many moving parts. But after sitting in Kuwait for only about a day suddenly everything took off at a rapid pace. Kudos to CSTC-A for having a liaison at Bagram who received us and pushed us on to Kabul in just about twelve hours. Nice.

    I tried to publish from Kuwait, but couldn’t get it done. The internet there just absolutely blows.

    Bagram has changed a fair amount. One DFAC torn down to make room for tents, the dining facility moved across Disney. The stop signs at Four Corners are gone. Nice for traffic on Disney, not so nice for those on the cross street or pedestrians. It is still a world unto itself. Still a sniper check salute zone.

    There will be more information on what I’m actually doing here and why in the near future. I am very very tired and just need to get some rest. It was a marathon getting here, and I’ve been fighting off a respiratory infection the whole way. Nothing like being in heat so hot that you feel like you need to move to get away from the heating element, but it’s all around you… and being sick at the same time.

    For now, let’s just say that I am trying to do what I can to make a difference in Afghanistan this year. It’s all that I can do to influence something that I believe in. It’s not enough to sit by and talk about it. I had to do something. Some things are worth fighting for; and when they are, it’s time to fight. If not me, who? If not now, when?

    So I said, “Here I am, send me.”

    And they did. So here I am.

    Tags Categories: Afghanistan, COIN Posted By: Old Blue
    Last Edit: 13 Jul 2009 @ 02 06 PM

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     12 Jul 2009 @ 8:56 AM 

    I’ve decided to go with a dot-com for a number of reasons. I hope that you like the change. Please let me know what you think of it. I hope to add functionality and features as I go. My timing was a little off, but that’s life.

    The next chapter; going back to Afghanistan. More on the whats and hows of that later. Suffice to say for now that I am going back for a year to do something that I’m very committed to. I think that when you’re committed to something, you do what you can. I have to live that, not just say it. I’m doing what I can to “walk the walk,” not just “talk the talk.”

    I’m in Kuwait. It’s hairdryer-hot, and I have no real idea when I will continue my journey to the next step; Bagram. I am an individual, traveling as an individual among a stream of other warsalmon, all of us swimming upstream. Someone waits for me on the other side of this human pipeline. I hope to make them glad that they chose me for this mission. The performance anxiety of a Soldier never goes away. There is always the next time. The satisfaction of a job well done is ephemeral. The job always changes, the challenges increase.

    There will be more. Much more, I’m sure.

    It will be interesting to contrast the Afghanistan of my still fairly recent memory with what I find very soon. I will try to continue to share both personal experiences and my perceptions of what I find to be happening on the ground there. I hope that anyone who reads this will find it worthwhile.

    ~Blue

    Tags Categories: Uncategorized Posted By: Old Blue
    Last Edit: 12 Jul 2009 @ 08 56 AM

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