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Archive for December, 2009

Jezail

The jezail, made with a captured flintlock, a comfortable stock ...

Barrel

... and a rifled barrel, laid waste to many a British soldier.

Rudyard Kipling is most famous of course for all his stories and poetry about India.  But he also wrote about Afghanistan.  His Arithmetic of the Frontier is about the second Anglo-Afghan War (which was going on when he was 14, growing up in India).   Here’s an excerpt…

A scrimmage in a Border Station,
A canter down some dark defile.
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.

In 1879, it was well-educated British soldiers vs. Afghan insurgents with deadly-accurate rifles.   130 years later, it’s Afghan National Army and Police forces, plus a huge Coalition vs. Afghan insurgents with Improvised Explosive Devices.

Bottom line: Afghanistan = timeless.  But not necessarily in a good way…

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Sunset at Okuma Beach, Okinawa

Sunrise at Camp Eggers, Kabul

My last duty station was at Kadena Air Base, in Okinawa, Japan; my family’s still there.  Just for fun, our Christmas letter this year included a bunch of haiku.  Like this one:

A land of hope or
the graveyard of Empires?
Afghanistan’s both


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My Christmas tree, with origami ornaments

Charlie Company's Ops Center, during an exercise

The Communications Support Unit is a bunch of Afghan soldiers who provide deployable comm support to the Afghan National Army (ANA).   They’re organized, trained, and equipped to deploy up to three separate locations and quickly set up a fully functional command center.  Anytime, anywhere.

It’s a large unit (400+ people), and we support them with a small team of advisers (8 people, plus a few contractors and interpreters).  The other day, I was able to sit down with the Comm Support Unit Commanding General, some Coalition special operators, and part of my team, to sort through comm support to an upcoming operation.  Very cool.

Bottom line:  I got exactly what I wanted for Christmas…a great team of communicators (Coalition and Afghans), working together to crush the Taliban.  Ho ho ho!

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The formation swaps their national caps and berets for...

...the dark blue berets of the European Gendarmerie Force.

The big deal today was a ceremony to stand up the European Gendarmerie Force as an operational mission under NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan.  This is SERIOUSLY good stuff.  The bulk of our Police training and equipping work has been on building your basic anti-criminal type cops.  Which made great sense a few years ago, when the insurgency had no teeth.  And it’ll be great in a few years.  But it’s almost exactly the wrong kind of force for the fight we’re in now (NightWatch has a good, though absolutely scathing, article on this issue here).  

For the fight Afghanistan’s in now, it needs a larger para-military capability.  The idea is a military force comes in and clears an area, then a para-military force comes in to hold the line and establish order, then a police force comes in to maintain order.  The Afghan National Army plus Coalition forces do a great job on the ‘clear’ part.  And the Afghan National Police (once they’ve been reformed) do a good job on the ‘maintain order’ part.  Problem is we just don’t have the ‘hold the line and establish order’ piece.  And the US doesn’t really have anything like that, so we’re probably not the best trainers for that kind of thing (we have SWAT units of course, but that’s small-scale stuff…’para-military force’ is BIG…the kind of capability and support structure you need to establish order in places like Bosnia…or Afghanistan).

So anyways, about a year ago, the Coalition and the Afghans started working this hard.  And today *part* of the solution came to fruition, with Gendarmerie from a number of European nations who are REALLY good at this sort of thing joining the team here in direct contribution to the development of the Afghan National Police.

Bottom line:  The European Gendarmerie Force is going to bring a TON of capability to the fight.

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