Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Getting Short

Yes, I'm starting to get short.  In two weeks, I'll begin to work my way back from the Wild West of Kandahar, through KAF and Kabul, to home.  My year here is going to come to a close before long.

In the meantime, there's still plenty to do.  One of the things that has kept me busy lately is our move.  Somebody On High decided that the location of our CHUs on this little base was too dangerous and we had to move.  Never mind that there has never been any kind of a threat to them, and they are well out of the way, and the only "threat" would come if the base was attacked with heavy artillery or mortars and they scored a very lucky hit.  And none of the insurgents in this area have mortars.  Didn't matter: the order came down, so we had to move.  Immediately.  So we worked with the military unit that controls this base and drew up a plan.  This plan lasted about 24 hours before something was discovered that made it impossible.  Plan B lasted a full week, until the day before we were scheduled to move.  So we went with Plan C, which we made up as we went along, and we are now in our new home.  Lugging our junk from old to new homes was the easy part.  The hard part was moving our communications equipment and computers.  Dismantling the old network took two hours; building a new network (running cables, aligning the satellite dish, hooking everything up, and testing) took another seven.  But it worked and we were up and running again about nine hours after starting.  Our IT guys are fabulous.

I've seen some changes in Maiwand since arriving in April.  A few of the strategically-located villages have come into the Afghan government sphere of influence.  We've done some things that I think could have an impact over the longer term.  Unfortunately, in the past few months there has been a big increase in "green on blue" incidents across Afghanistan and particularly in the south.  "Green on blue" refers to attacks by Afghan security forces on US forces.  The Taliban is always quick to claim credit for them, but that's not really true.  A minority of these incidents are done by Taliban infiltrators, or by security forces who later align themselves with the Taliban.  More are done by Afghans who have a personal issue at stake: a perceived insult or whatever.  Some are copycat incidents, like we often see in the US.

Whatever the case, we are taking these green-on-blue incidents very seriously.  Our security awareness is way up over where it was when I arrived at this little base.  The good thing is that our Afghan partners are also very aware, and very concerned, over it as well.  They should be: in reality, the senior Afghan leaders here are more at risk than Americans are.  So, without giving away any details, I'll just say that I feel much better about our security posture now than I did even two months ago.

Meanwhile, business in the Afghan world is just now getting back to normal following Ramadan and the Eid celebration immediately after.  Yes, it ended over a week ago, but just like the post-Christmas period in the US, it takes a while to get going.  Everybody is slowly getting back up to speed again, starting to address issues that have been in limbo for a few weeks, but not really anxious to do much.

One of our female officers is the leader of a Female Engagement Team, or FET.  Recently, they were with a patrol in a village, when a happy bearded elder stopped them.  He told them that his son, standing next to him, had just gotten married, and they should go see the women inside.  The patrol quickly established a security perimeter and the FET went into the home.  Inside, they found about 50 women dressed to the nines, all made up, and loaded with jewelry.  They were surprised to see our female soldiers but made them welcome.  Our FET team talked with a few of them, including the mother of the bride, said their congratulations, and left them to their party.  The bride, who remained covered, huddled in a fetal position in the corner, never moved and never spoke.  She and her new husband would go to his family's house in a day or two, where she would become, essentially, his property.  The groom, by the way, was 15 years old.  The bride?  Ten.

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