This morning after the daily briefing I went outside to watch some of the new ANA recruits. Not too long ago, these were farmers and unskilled labors wearing the traditional garb or what we nickname “man jams” or man pajamas. But now they are going through military boot camp and have been issued combat uniforms, boots, and some gear.
Notice they haven’t given them any rifles yet. Instead they practice their formations and maneuvers with “air rifles”.
We have been seeing a large influx of new recruits since they increased the pay for the ANA soldiers. This increase of forces also coincides with Gen McChrystal’s vision of expanding the size of the ANA. Currently their forces are spread too thin or they are not trained sufficiently to take on the Taliban and the insurgents by themselves. To hone their skills, they rely on the coalition forces to provide mentoring and support.
I also had a unique opportunity to meet with some female ANA officers. They were in charge of
managing the family support center. These ladies provide support to wounded soldiers, their families and to widows. Previously they had American mentors and were given some humanitarian assistance to provide to the family members. But now the Turkish forces have assumed the role of mentoring the garrison personnel and they do not have any resources to give them. Occasionally they get some private donations or some support from the garrison.
I saw this as an opportunity to enhance our relationship and provide some of the humanitarian assistance that is stockpiling in our metal conex. An interpreter help me load 2 dozen boxes of toiletry items, stuffed animals, Beanie Babies, and several boxes of school supplies. The ANA ladies were very surprised and well pleased with this gesture of kindness. Now they plan to distribute these items to the children and family members. They were really excited about the notebooks and pens. They explained that most of the soldiers were too poor to give these types of items to their children. In addition, we discussed about doing a joint venture and visiting a local orphanage in the future.
Meanwhile, my wife Liisa also had a unique opportunity last night. She met with Gen. Raymond E. Johns Jr., the new commander of the Air Mobility Command. General Johns was visiting MacDill Air Force base and at a private reception met with my wife to discuss my blog and the Afghan school supplies project. I never thought a 4-star general would be reading my blog, but he seems to be quite cognizant of the content, especially the school supplies efforts. But in reality, if it wasn’t for the kindness and generosity demonstrated by our donors, this project probably wouldn’t exist, except for the occasional care packages my wife sends me.
In local news, the Taliban media is spewing their nonsense again and the local newspapers regrettably print it. I have reprinted it here:
JALALABAD – Angry residents took to the streets to denounce the killing of children in what they called a hand-grenade attack by US forces in Rodat district in the eastern province of Nangarhar Wednesday morning. Four children and a policeman were killed and eighty-two others, mostly students, sustained wounds in the incident that local officials characterized as a roadside bomb assault on a joint Afghan-NATO convoy in the Mazina village. Rejecting the official version as false, village dwellers accused US soldiers of hurling hand grenades at school-going children. Irked by the casualties inflicted on children, they closed the busy Torkham-Jalalabad Highway as a token of protest. One resident named Moeen Shah, who took part in the protest, told Pajhwok Afghan News the soldiers threw cookies and chocolates while passing through the village. When the students assembled to pick the eatables, he claimed, the NATO-led troops tossed hand grenades into the crowd. As a result, four children were killed and scores injured, he added. Another resident, Qari Nangyalay, said there were no signs of any roadside bombing in the village. He denounced the local authorities of trying to conceal the crime of American soldiers by portraying the incident as a bomb blast.
Can you believe this horse crap? To allege US soldiers baited the children with cookies and candy and then toss hand grenades at them is just preposterous! Here is another version of the incident:
Forty-two others, mostly school-going children, were wounded in the blast, the Interior Ministry said in a brief statement. The NATO press office in the eastern zone acknowledged three International Security Assistance Force soldiers were among the injured. One ISAF vehicle was also damaged by the blast. The explosion happened in the Mazina village of the district at about 10am, Abdulzai said, adding Afghan and NATO security personnel were on their way to the site of a reconstruction project in the area. He said the improvised explosive device (IED) strike wounded 13 people including five minors. But Public Health Director Dr. Ajmal Pardes put the number of those injured at 42, mostly children, who were shifted to the Jalalabad Civil Hospital and a clinic in Rodat.
Sadly, 2009 was the deadliest year for Afghan children. More than 1,050 children under 18 years of age were killed in suicide attacks, air strikes, improvised explosive device blasts and crossfire between warring parties in 2009, according to Afghans Rights Monitor (ARM). This equates to about 3 children per day and many others were wounded or unreported. In addition, I also read a report that most of the suicide bombers are aged 12-18. Today I read about the methods used in Pakistan (Waziristan) to brainwash these children with promises of virgins and rivers flowing with milk and honey. Because these children are uneducated, they only believe what they are taught and giving their life is an expedient way out of poverty and a road to heaven.