Finding the silver(ish) lining in Afghanistan's Emerald City

5 Things I Learned This Week in Afghanistan: 04 May 2012 Edition

1.  If you build it, they will try to blow it up.

Afghans pushing away the wreckage of one of the VBIEDs from this week’s attack.

In an attack timed to coincide with a) Obama’s visit to Afghanistan, b) the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden, c) the start to the Taliban’s new spring campaign, “Al Farooq”, or d) a day that ends in “y,” the Taliban struck Green Village, a heavily fortified compound here in Kabul that houses foreigners supporting NATO efforts here.

Local analysts in the wake of the most recent attack in Kabul stated that this was a likely occurrence, and that the tried-and-true approach of holing up in a building that’s under construction and launching RPGs probably wouldn’t be repeated.

Yay.

They were right.

It’s one of the great ironies of the security industry that if the people in this compound had been dispersed on the local economy, living in houses and behaving like residents of their city vs. in a centralized target, they’d probably be safer.

Which, flies in the face of conventional security wisdom, i.e. the wisdom of those who make money off of places just like this.

2.  Obama’s team is completely tone-deaf.

Obama greets troops during “surprise” Afghanistan visit.

The C-in-C addressed the troops this week during a “surprise” Afghanistan visit.

“I know it’s still tough. I know the battle’s not yet over. Some of your buddies are going to get injured and some of your buddies may get killed and there’s going to be heartbreak and pain and difficulty ahead,” he said. “But there’s a light on the horizon because of the sacrifices you’ve made.”

I’m not sure who was really surprised by it…the Taliban claimed their attack on Green Village was in direct response to his being here.

Of course, he’d left hours before, but let’s not get too picky, yes?

From my spot in the cheap seats here in town, this line summed it up more than anything:

…we ran to the plane to make it out of there before sunrise.

Whether his trip was short due to a) security concerns, b) tight scheduling in meeting with other world leaders, or c) because the Secret Service won’t stay long in any place that doesn’t have strip clubs or many hookers, arriving and leaving under cover of darkness and making a speech at 4 am local time is a sad statement on where Afghanistan falls in the President’s priorities.

Afghans I spoke to (yes, the ones that use the Facebook, mostly) weren’t terribly impressed with his visit, and sure, it probably wasn’t directed that them: ostensibly we’re here to help the nation of Afghanistan, and when the leader of the United States only spares the place a few hours of his time, it makes it pretty clear to Afghans (and us) how important it really is.

Glad he made his plane, though.

3.  ISAF isn’t being terribly informative with its “green-on-blue” info.

Afghan commandos…most of the time they don’t shoot ISAF folks.

This week the Associate Press learned this about ISAF’s reporting of so-called “green-on-blue” attacks, which refers to an event where Afghan troops (allies = green) shoots ISAF troops (us = blue):

The military is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.

The U.S.-led coalition routinely reports each time an American or foreign soldier is killed by an Afghan in uniform.

But The Associated Press has learned it does not report insider attacks in which the Afghan wounds — or misses — his U.S. or allied target. It also doesn’t report the wounding of troops who were attacked alongside those who were killed.

I’m no fan of ISAF reporting, and reading through the latest 1230 report isn’t making me happy, but ISAF never reports wounded, only fatalities.

So while this story is interesting in that it speaks to a lack of transparency on a key transition issue (i.e., are the guys we’re trying to help shooting at us more than we realize?), it is in line with usual ISAF numbers reporting.

4.  ISAF advisors ready to deal with possible ANSF violence. 

Fortunately, the room stayed intact.

I’m just going to open with a quote from the DVIDS story:

As Task Force Cujo’s armored tactical vehicles rolled up to the secure gates of the Afghan National Police’s District 11 headquarters, the mood grew ominous – a sense that indicated the 11-person coalition ANP advising unit was there to help but on a higher state of alert.

“If something pops off sergeant, just hit the ground – I’ll saw the room in half,” said Cujo 3 Gunner Spc. Eric Saunders.

“Relax, Saunders,” replied Cujo Team Leader Sgt. Scott Shively. “Just stay alert and ready.”

Keep in mind that District 11 is in Kabul. These guys aren’t rolling up on some ANP checkpoint in the middle of bad-guy country. This is in the capital city. Where there’s bowling. In contrast, this is the ANP Colonel’s take on the relationship:

“We have a good, close relationship with our coalition partners,” said Arif. “It’s unfortunate when you hear about violent events happening between our two organizations, but these actions, are the actions of individuals – not our police force. Without a good relationship between the ANP and the coalition, good security cannot be provided.”

So in 2012, when ISAF is trumpeting stories hashtagged with #ANSFCanDo, Americans tasked with transition activities are going into meetings with their ANP counterparts ready to “get some.”

In Kabul.

I can’t see anything that could possibly go wrong with that.

5.  Sahar Gul is doing as well as can be expected.

Remember this guy? (via grahambowley.com)

OK, I admit it, I’m going to beat a dead horse a little bit.

You may recall that Graham Bowley did a story on Sahar Gul. Which may have upset some people. I happened to be one of those people.

So the New York Times asked me to send them a link to the story. On their website.

And then there was a follow-up.

Finally, a response from the public editor, and I grudgingly admitted he may not be an irritable primate.

Well the Times did a follow up.

I mentioned this in a mature, professional manner.

This was Bowley’s answer.

Pretty sure he’s not a reader of the blog.

From the most recent update (which, all snark aside, is really well done, and I’m glad to see they published this):

After being treated in the hospital in Kabul, she is now in a shelter in the capital run by Women for Afghan Women (@WAWHumanRights), a nongovernmental organization that supports and provides shelters for abused women in Afghanistan, and she is under the observation of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

By all accounts, her condition is improving, though months into her recovery she still faces daunting challenges, and is only slowly becoming able to socialize.

“Sahar Gul has recovered from her wounds, and she is mentally better,” said Nazia Faizi, head of Monitoring and Assessment in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. “We brought Sahar Gul from the hospital on March 18, 2012, to Women for Afghan Women, which is a women’s shelter in Darulaman, a district in the west of Kabul, where she has a shared room with a single bed.” Her roommate is named Mumtaz, a young girl from Kunduz who was attacked by acid and her face was disfigured by unknown men a few months ago.

Lest we think that this means it’s all sunshine and roses:

But there will still be much for her to decide, including whether or how to seek a divorce. And there are many potential risks for her. Her mother-in-law and father-in-law were arrested by the police for their role in her mistreatment and imprisonment. But her husband, who was a soldier serving in the Afghan Army, is still free, and his whereabouts are not known.

I close with this one because I want you as the bloggee to understand something: the plight of women in the country of Afghanistan is still very much in doubt. Along with a lot of other things here.

No matter what the Strategic Partnership Agreement says, what will be decided at the NATO summit in Chicago (which according to the video linked, is the capital of Illinois), or how much pablum the ISAF PAO machine pumps out, there are still a lot of unanswered (and maybe unanswerable) questions about the fate of Afghanistan post-transition.

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Categorised in: 5 Things I Learned This Week in the 'Stan, Featured

10 Responses »

  1. I thought your section on the tone-deafness of the Obama administration was good insight and a succinct summation for many aspects of the war. I hope you don’t mind, but I quoted you in the title of our blog post (it’s not stealing….) – but gave credit in the post itself.

    http://wp.me/p2owGd-1S

    • Don’t mind at all.

      The “tone deaf” issue is something I harp on periodically. The majority of individuals working here (military, civilian) are people with no discernible people skills. It’s a function of the work: those that are competent and good at this sort of thing avoid places like Afghanistan (on the whole), so often what you’re left with is a collection of individuals who probably shouldn’t be deciding the Slurpee Flavor of the Month at the 7-11 making decisions that affect peoples’ lives.

  2. Here’s the link for Ben Anderson’s article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-anderson/transition-to-what-our-ro_b_1471269.html
    I would have loved to see it published somwhere less…crappy, but still, it’s a piece that needs to be widely read (but it probably won’t).

  3. Excellent! (LOL at Graham Bowley comment.) Do read Ben Anderson’s piece in the Huffington Post. Very grim, but important. I’d be interested to hear your take on what he is saying.

    • Yeah at some point I need to meet Mr. Bowley. Should make for a great party.

      Re: Ben Anderson piece. Do you mean this?

      If not, feel free to send the link. Putting together a longer piece on the latest and greatest from the 1230s. May be buying a whole lot of tinfoil and making hats after that.

  4. I love your blog. It’s the only good thing to come out of the war.

Trackbacks

  1. Tone Deaf in Afghanistan | Attempting Denouement
  2. 5 Things I Learned This Week in Afghanistan: 14 May 2012 Edition | It's Always Sunny in Kabul

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