Lesson for Afghans; life is tough

| August 3, 2012

I guess that the Afghans are learning that a professional fighting force takes hard work that the professional American troops made look easy, according to the Washington Post;

After U.S. soldiers left Combat Outpost Conlon in February — packing up weapons, generators and portable toilets — their Afghan successors rushed to the American barracks and command center, eager to inspect their inheritance.

The Afghans renamed Conlon in Dari and scrawled Koran verses on the walls. The base was now theirs, and they were proud.

Months later, it’s a dismal scene. The 240 Afghan soldiers are down to three hours of electricity a day. Almost all of their vehicles have broken down. They don’t have the night-vision goggles needed to guard their base after sunset.

As the Taliban ramped up its attacks in eastern Afghanistan’s Wardak province this spring, the Afghan soldiers here came to a painful conclusion: They were not ready to take on the fight alone. But it was too late — the Americans were not coming back.

Imagine that; Americans were always pulling maintenance on their vehicles and equipment, picking up after themselves, not spending their time writing inane crap on the walls of their shitters, and somehow not doing all that turns out to be good. I wonder why that is. I mean all it takes to win a war is to put on a uniform and carry a loaded weapon around, right? The enemy will surrender in no time once they see Mahmoud the goatherder rockin’ his new M4.

“The Americans left too early, and they left without giving us what we need,” said Lt. Col. Hamidullah Kohdamany, the battalion commander.

What? Common sense to maintain your equipment? The article goes on to complain that there’s no one to hand carry the Afghans over this trench they’ve dug for themselves. They have one working truck among the heaps of other wrecks. Their radios don’t work so they use their cell phones to broadcast their war planning to the Taliban.

“The enemy has gotten stronger since the Americans left, and their morale is up,” Kohdamany said.

“We talk to the local people a lot. But it’s like talking to a donkey. No matter what we say, they support the Taliban,” said Capt. Azizullah, the top commander on the base, who like many Afghans uses only one name.

Well, your broke asses don’t exactly inspire confidence, bud. But then neither did our civilians leaders who were asking when we were going to leave Afghanistan before the first boot touched the ground.

Sorry, I’ve been reading Outlaw Platoon this week and I’m a little pissed at the Afghans.

Category: Terror War

Comments (31)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Lesson for Afghans; life is tough | September 26, 2012
  1. PintoNag says:

    So we gave a fish a bicycle, is that it?

  2. Just Plain Jason says:

    Now John we did write a lot of inane shit on the walls of the shitters. We didn’t write it everywhere.

    These idiots just don’t know the basics of being soldiers.

  3. Medic09 says:

    Great book, Outlaw Platoon. Every combat infantry soldier from any generation can relate. And those were some hard, admirable dudes.

    As for your post – Gee, your sounding sort of like Romney’s comments about ‘culture’ and how it shapes being productive, etc. Are you all just bigots; or are you on to something? (rolls eyes…)

  4. CI says:

    Simple answer to the problem….give MS PowerPoint to both the ANSF and Taliban…and watch them grind to a stalemate.

  5. Ex-PH2 says:

    So the Afghans thought war was just point-and-shoot?

  6. Flagwaver says:

    Maybe one in a hundred is a good soldier. Unfortunately, that one is quickly transferred out of the unit to someone’s command unit.

    They saw us and thought they could do what we did, but better because they had Allah on their side. They didn’t realize that the menial stuff we did, the stuff that was below them, ensured that we could shoot, move, and communicate with ease. They just know that we had stuff that worked and thought it was designed to (like their AK-47s–the only good thing to come out of Russia). Unfortunately, the truth hurt.

    Before, they couldn’t wait to get us out because we were disrupting their lifestyle with our godless ways. Now, they are blaming us the the shit sandwich they made themselves. What next, if we send contractors to fix everything for them, they’ll say we only did it because we broke them in the first place?

    I say we let them play with their toys until one side declares itself the winner, then send in a few dozen divisions of various troops to claim all the land, take what we want, and then sell it off to Russia at a profit.

  7. malclave says:


    I’m pretty sure that would be considered a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.

  8. Devtun says:

    U.S. is broke and exhausted. We can only lead them to water, but if they won’t drink, what are you gonna do? Just far too many Afghans are seriously illiterate, are sympathetic to Taliban, and like drugs – namely poppy plants. Study and practice soldiering skills to be self sufficient? Way way down the to do list.

  9. valerie says:

    The US isn’t going to stay broke and it isn’t close to being exhausted. We are going to have to change our policies to something that works. That goes for our economic, environmental, and foreign policies. John McCain had it right: this administration seems to have embraced an amazing number of old, bad idea from the dustbin of history. Our current President can’t even tell our friends from our enemies.

    From where I sat, the conversation between the US and Iraq for several years was mostly “You don’t have to live like this.” It took a while for that to set in. Afghanistan is worse, because it was a lawless region, not even really a country.

    Nation-building is a long-term project. I was in Germany in the 70s as a dependent, and I remember that one of my mother’s German girlfriends told her, “If you give them (German men) guns again, they’ll do it all over.” Our parents and grandparents were wise to leave troops stationed in both Japan and Germany for decades, so that both countries could stabilize and become really familiar with the concepts of good government, morality and freedom that we espouse.

    It was a mistake to leave Afghanistan before, and it is a mistake to leave now. If we leave, the government will collapse as it did before, and in another twenty years, we will be at war with the next infestation of evildoers that invades the place. That action seems stupid and wasteful of our blood and treasure, to me. I’d rather foster civilization, and one thing the American soldiers are, is civilized.

  10. Redacted1775 says:

    Afghans in the outlying provinces refer to Karzai as “the mayor of Kabul”. National identity is hard to come by here. It’s growing, but slowly.

  11. SFC Holland says:

    I read this in the Stars and Stripes today and it was perfectly timed. I just got back from a two week trip in Helmand, visiting the Afghan Uniformed Police, the Transition Support Unit, Provincial Mentoring Group, and walking patrols with the Afghans. I submitted an information paper on this yesterday and I have to say that this is a reoccurring theme. Literacy, logistics, and culture cannot be passed over with a hand receipt. Going from the stone age to the space age took the western cultures 500 years give or take. There is only one person in an entire battalion who could read a map, and the illiteracy rate is 80-85 percent conservatively. They teach via role playing or scenario based training because they can’t read. Without getting too much into details I think it is very telling that the commander in the article said “they didn’t give us” or “didn’t leave us”. Sounds similar to another group of individuals who want to be spoon fed entitlements, not a sovereign country who can pay for and support itself.

  12. Tman says:

    After all those American lives lost, blood shed, and years and billions spent in that country, many of these Afghans still don’t know a rifle from a hole in the ground?

  13. SFC Holland says:

    Oh no Mr. Tman, they know rifles. They just can’t spell them. Or order them. Or maintain them.

  14. CI says:

    @Valerie – “Our parents and grandparents were wise to leave troops stationed in both Japan and Germany for decades, so that both countries could stabilize and become really familiar with the concepts of good government, morality and freedom that we espouse.”

    I don’t see Germany and Japan as terribly instructive for analogy to Afghanistan. Both former nations were industrialized and had maintained a cogent system of governance and jurisprudence for far longer than we have.

  15. Nichevo says:

    I have mixed feelings on this. From what I have seen of the ANA it comes down to leadership. The Afghan culture is one that focuses on personality. A strong leader gets strong results, (i.e. Massoud which is why the Talibs and AQ had him whacked.) The major leadership issues begin at O4 and above. These positions are patronage positions and the person holding them is connected to the powers that be but, not necessarily competent. While doing a force protection site survey, I found myself explaining to an ANA MAJ who was the Kandak S-3, what interlocking fields of fire were. Meanwhile the company CDR (who because he had no political connections would never move past Captain despite his solid creds as a leader) just stared at him in disgust.

    The ANA company I was embedded with were solid soldiers and at the company level had good leaders. They were still working on developing their NCO corps. The SFC I had with me did a great job working with their 1SG. Their soldiers loved to train. They did do PMCS on vehicles but, when a vehicle did go down or was deadlined, there was very little they could do.

    As far as the equipment side of things goes, we (NATO/ISAF/USFOR-A) bear some responsibility for that. We gave them tons of vehicles and equipment. We then assumed responsibility through contractors for the repair, maintenance, and upkeep of the vehicles. Only in the past 18 months have steps been taken to actually train the ANA on depot level repair of vehicles and equipment. The Afghans were used to the Soviet system where if something broke, they were just given a new one. Corruption also plays a part. Try to find fuel for your vehicles after the fuel truck has passed through the Div, BDE, and BN, areas. By the time it gets to the company. What your receipt says you have versus what’s in the tank don’t match.

    We gave them vehicles that are not exactly indigenous to the area, (such as the Ford Ranger) so repair parts are hard to come by. Had we given them Toyota HiLuxes instead, repair parts would be easier to get.

    I know others have had different and more negative experiences with the ANA. This is just my perspective and maybe I was lucky. Bottom line is no, they aren’t ready. I don’t know that as an army or as a nation they ever will be.

  16. valerie says:

    14CI Says:

    Both countries had the same objective as the Islamists: to conquer the world.

  17. CI says:

    @14 – Actually no. The Taliban never had stated or implied goals of anything outside of an Islamic State of Afghanistan.

  18. Redacted1775 says:

    Eh, maybe during the Soviet era. Recently a commander of a Taliban branch in Pakistan has called for procurement of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and the establishment of a global caliphate. He even went so far as to say they will continue their fight even after taking over Pakistan and Afghanistan.

  19. CI says:

    @Redacted – True, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan have recently voiced larger aims of a Caliphate; but the Quetta Shura Taliban have always had the limited goal of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

  20. Redacted1775 says:

    Thats what it was from 1996-2001 if I remember correctly, even then they didn’t control the entire country. Massoud and the United Islamic Front kept about 10% of the Northeast region of the country. I’ve heard Panjshir is still the least violent province in the country. Haven’t seen it for myself though.

  21. CI says:

    “Thats what it was from 1996-2001 if I remember correctly, even then they didn’t control the entire country.”

    I haven’t seen a paradigm shift in regards to the aims of the QST.

  22. Redacted1775 says:

    Sorry, should have said it was known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from 1996-2001…

  23. CI says:

    No worries, understood.

  24. Nichevo says:

    @20, the least violent province in the country is Bamyan. Kind of interesting considering the Hazaras are the descendants of Genghis Khan.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Whaah! Gimme, gimme, gimme! The Americans need to keep doing everythign for us!

  26. Yat Yas 1833 says:

    @ 25 amen and amen. The ungrateful bastards kept complaining about us for being there, now they’re complaining about us now that we’re gone! Please forgive my vulgarities but f*ck them right in their goat f*king asses! During the entire campaign my position was and is, the whole 3rd world shit hole country wasn’t worth one American life.

  27. Ty Mayfield says:

    Saw the same thing in the Washington Post this week. You know it is intersting, they’ll go days without printing anything on Afghanistan and then surprise you with a front pager like that.

    This is a complicated issue for sure and to be fair I think we’ve failed miserably at accurately assessing the ANA. When you only evaluate those things that you’re going to be able to accomplish then the metrics are gonig to look pretty good.

    I’m much less interested in the ANA’s overall rifle qualification rates (which the Brookings Institute is reporting at over 95%) than I am with knowing whether or not any particular Afghan unit is going to stand and fight, or melt into the night. That’s what we ought to be evaluating.

    The Washington post article is an interesting insight into this problem. I rolled it up into a blog post at The Kabul Cable here http://www.thekabulcable.com/?p=1392


  28. Tman says:

    That is truly a shame SFC Holland.

    All the hard work our troops have put forth there, and just seems to be no sense of accountability or even grasping of even the most basics of common sense.

    This is not rocket science as they say. We were not trying to teach them organic chemistry or how to split an atom. Just the most basics of soldiering that a 17 year old American kid raised on junk food and Nintendo can pick up in a matter of weeks. I cannot fathom that the people over there lack such basics of comprehension or is it they just don’t care, content to thinking that the Americans will forever be there to cover for them while they half ass everything?

  29. Heltau says:

    It is the starting of the sound of a huge vacuume starting to generate in Afghanistan, soon to be filled by moderste islams that use IEDs to make their point.

  30. Eric says:

    @4 CI:
    “Simple answer to the problem….give MS PowerPoint to both the ANSF and Taliban…and watch them grind to a stalemate.”

    Now that’s just funny, I don’t care who you are. Mostly because that’s what happened to “US” Army in the 90s when powerpoint first came “into power” in the military. (No pun intended)

    The best compliment I got from my last deployment was a government official saying to others in a meeting, “He [Me] made us do our jobs, he didn’t just do everything for us.”

    The problem is that for far too long they’ve been learning that if you let the Americans do it for you, they will. And we did. They should’ve been getting pushed to do things for themselves a lot sooner. However, rebuilding a nation that’s been “destroyed” a couple times in recent generations, its not just a “term limits” timeline to get it to self-sustained capacity.

    I think in this case, they are making it a media issue because the ANSF wants Americans to come back to that FOB and help fix it all. But I could be wrong…