We all crowded into our new office and held our first meeting this morning. The plan was to meet our ANA counterparts and tour their facilities. Previously the advanced team was given a quick tour and was introduced to the Kandak leadership. Today the ANA commander along with his SGM was touring another FOB. The religious officer was next in command and gave us a walking tour of the facilities.
In one of the training rooms, I noticed a sign advertising the literacy program for ANA soldiers. Only 1 in 4 soldiers here are literate. Because of this situation, it makes mentoring even more challenging. Take a close look at the literacy sign and the misspelled words (wrightand and benfit).
My team was also given a tour of the vehicle maintenance facilities. They do not have any hydraulic lifts nor do they have a tire changing machine. Instead they rely on steel pry bars and use the manual method. They claim the tire changing machine is on order with the Ministry of Defense (MOD) supply channels, but I heard this same claim at my
previous camp. For some reason, the paperwork disappears between here and the MOD. We give millions if not billions of dollars to the MOD to support their military, but getting supplies is like pulling teeth. A good example is the boots they provide to their soldiers. My understanding is the MOD is given approximately $80 to purchase a quality pair of boots for the ANA soldier. However, they seem to be enterprising and budget conscientious and have learned to subcontract them for about $10 through an Afghan manufacture or distributor. I’m uncertain if the combat boots are manufactured in Afghanistan, Pakistan or China. But take a look at the boots the ANA soldiers wear. Now the million dollar question is, where or who does the remaining money go to. I could list a half dozen other examples too. Is it a coincidence these officials are able to afford $30,000 Sport Utility Vehicles on their meager salaries. The top ANA General only makes $1000 a month. The average family income in Afghanistan is $150 a month. Yet the roads seem to be populated with expensive SUVs and luxury cars. Hmmm….perhaps they are better investors than me and able to stretch their money to afford these luxury items on a pittance of a government salary. I will let my readers draw their own conclusions.
My room: My trusty tape measure indicates my plywood cubicle is approximately 8’ X 10 ½’. At least now I am living better than a US inmate in his 8’ X 10’ cell. I managed to scrounge some plywood shelves to adorn my wooden container room. My desk is rather original using a desktop from a broken desk, a cardboard box and a plastic storage container. The handmade rug composed of 25% silk on the floor was a gift. I did some research on the manufacturer and it’s made by Afghan Women under the AfghanMark trademark.
Before moving into this wooden boxcar, I scouted other vacant B-huts and found a mattress of the right firmness and durability. So now I am able to
enjoy a more peaceful sleep provided my new roommate doesn’t snore and rattle the single-ply piece of plywood between us. It’s my temporary home for another 6 months so it will do. Yes, I still fold my t-shirts and socks the same way I learned in Air Force Basic Training. I even taught Liisa how to do it…lol.
Election runoff update: According to today’s local paper, the number of votes cast for President Karzai has slipped to 47%. Because the presidential share of vote has come under the constitutionally mandated 50%, a runoff election will occur. Note: This outcome was based on analyzing about 10 percent of the cast ballots. I’ve read about unofficial reports alleging 30 percent of the votes cast for Karzai were fraudulent. In fact, I recently learned about a tactic employed by Karzai supporters that was not mentioned by the media. Karzai supporters took advantage of illiterate people. These voters intended to cast a vote for rival challenger Abdullah Abdullah. However, they were informed they would have to travel to the city of Kabul to fill out other paperwork. Furthermore, that this voting station was only for Karzai voters. Since Afghans really value the right to vote, citizens voted for Karzai because they didn’t have the money to visit the city. But the truth is all of the candidates and pictures of them are on the presidential ballot. In addition, the soldiers who were guarding the ballot box alleged very few voters cast their ballots. But by the end of the day, the ballot box was stuffed with votes. Is this what they mean by ballot box stuffing?
Why would Karzai supporters and henchmen go to such extremes to gain support for their candidate? Perhaps they enjoy their new quality of life, driving SUVs, wearing expensive suits, and have grown accustomed to electricity and running water for their homes. Would this all disappear if their candidate wasn’t reelected? But the bigger question is how can they afford this new lifestyle? Could it be this is part of the rampant corruption that is mentioned daily by the media but no real specifics are ever given. Is it mere coincidence that billions of dollars of foreign aid is poured into this country, but very little reaches the outlying villages?
Filed under: Food and living conditions, Mentoring ANA | Tagged: Abdullah Abdullah, Afghan elections, Afghan National Army, Afghanistan, ANA, B-hut, corruption, Deployment, ETT, Hamid Karzai, photography, U.S. Air Force, war |