Monday, November 21, 2011

In the Spin Again

There's a bad case of the KAF Krud going around.  (KAF, of course, being the acronym for our own Kandahar Air Field).  I got the bug last week and have been calling its namesake all week ("kaf kaf kaf kaf").  Fortunately, though, my case was fairly short-lived, about seven days, but I'll have to live with the kaf'ing for several more, apparently.  Colds are no fun.

I just got back from an overnight trip to Spin Boldak.  We had a meeting between a headquarters team that I'm on and the military and civilian leaders in Spin.  The goal was to work through some of the planning and reporting requirements that will guide a lot of our efforts from here on.  As it turned out, we were in violent agreement with the Spin Boldak team on the general direction we should take; our differences were primarily in how some things had been worded, and the different interpretations that we'd put on them.  I think we're pretty much on the same page now.  A good feeling.

The rest of my team left after the meeting, but I stayed for the night in order to get a bit more familiar with Spin B and the players.  I got to see some of the Army unit's command and control, which was very enlightening.  I'll just say that they have a pretty good handle on the insurgent threat, where the insurgents operate, and how to respond to different kinds of activities.

This morning, I sat in on a shura with some village elders.  A "shura" is a meeting to discuss a particular problem.  Afghans are a very egalitarian society, meaning that they arrive at decisions by discussion and consensus.  This particular shura was called because kids in the village had been throwing big rocks at military vehicles when they passed through.  The rocks had caused some expensive damage, and the very act of getting close enough to throw these rocks meant the kids were putting themselves into danger.  So the Colonel called the village elders down to talk about the situation, get the kids in line, and to build some better bridges between the village and the military.  I think the meeting was successful.  The Colonel proved to be quite diplomatic, forceful, and effective.  The elders seemed to get the message and said all the right things.  The proof, of course, will come the next couple of times that military vehicles roll through.

I had no part in the proceedings, but was at the table anyway.  This time I brought my sketchpad.  I started doing a quick study of one of the elders.  He caught on to what I was doing right away and was very intrigued.  Then it turned out that he was one of the key village elders who set the tone for the rest.  I had to leave the shura early to catch the helicopter, but I pulled the drawing out of the pad and gave it to him across the table as I left.  He seemed to get a big kick out of it.  So that's my contribution to today's war effort: building bridges through art!

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