Today I was reminded of a famed quote about perceptions or misperceptions by Greek Philosopher Epictetus who said: “We are disturbed not by the events, but by the views which we take of them.” This quote was stuck in the back of my mind as I continued on with my discussion with the ANA soldiers. My ANA Sgt Major in his booming and commanding voice was trying to keep order as many of the soldiers were trying to interject or voicing their opinion among themselves.
One soldier stood up and was initially chastising all of the countries trying to help out his country. “We know which countries are really trying to help us,” he claimed. He also kept repeating “We are not donkeys,” referring to the Afghan people as not being dumb. Then he provided a solution by suggesting that each country participating should take one of the 32 provinces. In defense of foreign countries providing aid, personnel, or money, I said, “Every country that is helping is providing something of value.” Also, [thinking to myself] assigning a province to each country wouldn’t work either, because some countries only provide a handful of soldiers and equipment. But I appreciated his response and suggestion.
I continued the conversation by inquiring about the poppy situation here, since Afghanistan is responsible for producing 90% of the world’s opium. Three provinces previously declared poppy-free have returned to growing the lucrative cash crop and had their status removed. Apparently, as more provinces resort to growing alternate crops, this unintended action has driven up the price of opium. The fundamental economic laws of supply and demand are applicable here. But I was surprised when one soldier responded to my inference that the Taliban also funds their insurgency from the poppy profits. “They really don’t make much profit from the sale of poppy,” he said and blamed neighboring countries for supplying money to fuel the insurgency. This is only a partially true statement because according to information I have received the Taliban has benefited and received hundreds of millions of dollars from the poppy/opium trade. They are also levying a 10% tax on the farmer’s poppy crop before it’s even sold.
The most surprising statement came from a very boisterous soldier, who alleged “Your country is not here to help Afghanistan! First, you took control of Iraq and now you want to take control of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Asia!” Before I could respond to this allegation, my ANA Sgt Major said we were out of time. So I used this final minute to thank the class and assured them that “we are here to help your country and want you to take control of your national security so that we can all leave. I have been here for almost an entire year helping your country and want to return home to my wife.” I thought our discussion was over, but a patient soldier asked the ANA Sgt Major if he could ask one more question. “With all of our technology why can’t we locate Osama bin Laden,” he inquired. “Despite our superior technology we still can’t find him. This is why we have to depend on the people to tell us where he is and then we will take him out,” I explained. I thanked the class for their time and they abruptly got up and departed for their next appointment. Next week, I am tentatively scheduled to see them again. This was an enlightening experience and I look forward to having more dialogue with them in the future.
To listen to a part of our conversation, click on this audio link Visit with ANA – 56kbps-1
Later in the morning, we had a visit from Brigadier General Clarence KK. Chinn serving as deputy commanding general for support of Combined Joint Task Force 82 and Regional Command East in Bagram. The former West Point graduate was given a tour of our facilities and met with our ANA general. Then our Brigade XO and others provided him an informative PowerPoint
briefing on the “way ahead” for future operations. General Chinn made a good observation and gave us a point of contact to order microphones and headsets so we don’t have to delay waiting for the translation. This is a great idea, because our briefings are so long and drawn out waiting for our ANA counterparts to speak and then have their words translated by the interpreter.
During lunch, we received a short notice mission. In two hours our combat mounted patrol would be on the road in support of an urgent situation that arose last night. While preparing the vehicles and within one hour of
departing, we were given the order to “stand down.” Our mission was canceled. This has been happening quite frequently lately, but we remain flexible and ready to support any mission given to our team.
In local news as reported by the New York Times about an incident that happened in our Area of Operations last night: A group of about two dozen Afghan national police officers may have defected to the Taliban, according to American and Afghan officers here in Wardak Province. The police officers left their posts in Chak, a remote district of Wardak, just before midnight Wednesday, and on Thursday morning a spokesman for the Taliban claimed that the officers had surrendered to them. “They left with all their weapons, two trucks and machine guns and heavy weapons,” said Maj. Abdul Khalil, the police chief in the Jalrez district, just north of Chak. Major Khalil said there had been a dispute about pay. “We don’t know if they have gone over to the Taliban, or they just ran away, or what has happened,” he said. “We’re concerned, though, because they took heavy weapons.”
For the complete story read this link: New York Times: 25 Afghan Police May Have Joined Taliban
Filed under: Mentoring ANA | Tagged: Afghan National Army, Afghanistan, ANA, Brigadier General Clarence KK. Chinn, Deployment, ETT, news, opium, Osama bin Laden, poppy, U.S. Air Force, war | 4 Comments »