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Archive for the ‘Slightly jaded’ Category

Father and son

An Afghan soldier in Kabul, with his son and AK-47*

M-16 training

SSG Sokolowski trains Afghan soldiers to fire the M-16**

Afghan phrase of the day: “762 retirement.”

There’s no real retirement plan for members of the ANA or ANP.  We’ve done a bunch of work to put together an affordable yet decent retirement plan, but (as in any other country in the world) something like this is a HUGE political deal, so it’s seriously wrapped up in Parliament.  Not having a decent retirement plan is–for obvious reasons–a big contributing factor to corruption.  In a very real sense, skimming *is* the retirement plan.  Or at least the preferred one!  The other is the “762 retirement” plan.  See, the insurgents use AK-47s, which take 7.62mm (in the US: 30 caliber) ammunition…

Which reminds me, there’s an ongoing issue on whether to issue M-16s or AK-47s to the Afghans.  M-16s are the classic U.S. automatic rifle, and AK-47s are the classic Soviet (now Russian) one.  In sterotypical Cold War fashion, the U.S. weapon is much more accurate, but also much more expensive and complex.  So even though there’s a lot to be said for supporting U.S. weapon makers, there’s also a lot to be said for making the AK-47 the standard weapon here.  One of the biggest selling points for the AK-47, especially as we try to accelerate the growth of the Afghan National Security Forces, is that the training program for AK-47 qualification is much faster than the corresponding program for M-16s.  Everyone thought it was just familiarization, but there’s another issue that’s just recently surfaced:

Like I said, the M-16 is far more accurate.  If you hold an M-16 correctly, and aim correctly, and breathe correctly, and squeeze the trigger correctly, you WILL hit your target.  100% guaranteed.  But that isn’t necessarily a good thing in a culture where death should be Allah’s call, not yours.  You do all that with an AK-47 and there’s still a fairly good chance you’ll miss.  Allah’s call.  And if you hold it at your waist, aim basically downrange, and breathe and squeeze however you want, I can pretty much guarantee that the only person who’s gonna get hit is someone Allah WANTS to be hit.

Bottom line: Every day here brings new and REALLY interesting cultural insights…

* Photo by Michael Kaiser, from deviantART

** Photo by SSgt Larry E. Reid, Jr., USAF, from Defense Imagery

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Selling Kleenex

Selling Kleenex in the street is a tough way to make a living ...

...but not as tough as begging from a pothole with your kids

The picture captions say almost everything that needs to be said.

For stories of other women in Kabul, I recommend this Washington Post Special Report by Paula Lerner.  To help, I recommend Women of Hope Project.

Bottom line:  Whenever I think my job’s tough, I just remember the women in these photos…and suddenly, it seems REALLY easy.

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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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