Friday, November 11, 2011


Has it really been a week since I last posted?  It's been pretty hectic and the trip to Arghandab seems just like a couple of days ago.  I've been a travelin' man since then, having been out to the districts of Dand and Maiwand, as well as into Kandahar City twice.  We had another trip scheduled for today, but a bit of rain last night flooded out the roads.

These frequent trips are part of our effort to get everybody onboard with Transition.  That's transition with a big T, meaning it has all kinds of very loaded meanings.  Transition means the process of scaling back our efforts, shifting responsibility over to the Afghan government, and providing them with support and help while they get their own processes up and running.  It's a big, big task.  There's an overall plan that has been developed between the international community (mostly us, but with the participation of NATO, some neighboring nations, some not-quite-neighboring, the UN, and maybe a few others), all working with Afghanistan.  They've laid out the overall guidelines.  I'm part of the Regional Command South, which covers the provinces of Kandahar, Zabul, Uruzgan, and Daykundi, and we have developed our own plan for putting those guidelines to work in our area.  So I've been going out with a few others to work with the small District Support Teams that are out in the districts.  We go over the plan and how it can/should be implemented in their specific area.

Since every one is very different, it's a challenge.  Some areas are fairly quiet and secure.  Some areas are "kinetic", meaning there's a lot of fighting going on.  Some districts have good people in the government who are trying to do good things.  Other areas are stuck with guys who may be corrupt, or don't show up for work, or are lazy or incompetent.  More than a few government workers can't read or write.  Kandahar City is a major metropolis with somewhere around 800,000 people in a fairly small area.  Other districts are very rural, with only a few thousand people scattered over hundreds of square miles.  Mullah Omar came from just west of Kandahar and that area is still heavily influenced by the Taliban.  But most of the people in the region don't like the Taliban, viewing them (correctly) as brutal thugs.  So every area is very different and requires a very different approach.

On one of my trips, I went out to Maiwand District.  This was a good trip.  The team out there, to include the civilians and the military, has a good grasp of what they need to do and we just provided some specific help.  After the meetings, we went to an old British fort for a celebration with the local Afghans.

Now when I say "old British fort", I mean it was built sometime around the 1830's.  "Old" to you and me, yesterday to the Afghans.  It still has its original wooden doors, as you can see above.  This was apparently the last fort the British held before they withdrew from Afghanistan altogether.  The celebration was for Eid al-Adha, which is a major Muslim holiday.  It marks the end of the Hajj and commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael.  The American troops and civilians from the outpost hosted the celebration for local police and Army forces.  It was a lot of fun.  On the other hand, if I posted photos of the Afghans that attended, I could be putting their lives at risk, because this area has a lot of insurgents.  One step at a time ...

I've been able to do a little drawing on occasion.  This was made while waiting for our helo transportation back home.  Combat Outposts (COPs) are pretty basic places.  Tents, shipping containers, MRAPs, a generator or two, piles of water bottles, Hesco barriers (big cloth bags reinforced with galvanized steel mesh and filled with dirt, which makes pretty effective walls), gravel gravel gravel, and lots of razor wire.

There's lots more that I can write, probably because, when you're going so hard for so long, there's so much you want to share.  But not tonight.  Time to hit the rack.  Got an early morning tomorrow.  More soon.

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