June 16, 2009

Salary increase for teachers coming

This is excellent news. From Quqnoos:

According to the Afghan Education Ministry, the monthly salaries of Afghan teachers in the state-run schools will jump up to 20,000 Afs ($400 US), four times higher than the current wages rate.

$100 a month when a barely passable interpreter for an NGO could make $600 minimum was proving simply unsustainable. As I've said before, the country has lots of empty schools, and no teachers to teach in them. This could help.

For reference, at 165K teachers nationwide, Afghanistan currently has 1 teacher for every 83 children under 14. Canada's ratio, by comparison, is 1 per 8. But a better demographic comparison might be India, which is currently dealing with an acknowledged huge teacher shortage itself, but still is hanging on to a ratio of at least 1 teacher to 40 young people.

(The question is going to be how long can this new teacher salaries budget of at least $780 million per annum be sustained in a country with a nominal 2008 GDP of only $12 billion. As with police, army and other civil servants' pay, clearly to be sustainable this entire program will have to remain foreign-aid dependent for the foreseeable future.)

Posted by BruceR at 11:00 AM

Mentoring in Mazar

Good piece on German army efforts in Der Spiegel:

Now it's Major Dietmar M.'s turn. He is a senior mentor, meaning he trains soldiers in the Afghan national army. At Camp Mike Spann, his charges show the visitors what they have learned, which includes repairing cars in accordance with German standards, maintaining weapons and caring for the wounded. The major talks about how difficult it is to build trust.

It is a good sign, he says, when one of his Afghan partners begins taking hold of both hands in greeting, instead of simply shaking hands. It is an even better sign when he rubs his cheek against Major M.'s cheek. And when an Afghan soldier feels truly at ease with Major M., he could very well take his hand and stroll through the camp with him, holding hands. This is the custom in Afghanistan...

True dat.

One of the smart things I think I did in my job was I aggressively sought out my British and American counterparts in other ANA brigades and corps and constantly compared notes with them. I found it gave me real advantages, perspective- and idea-sharing wise. We simply haven't yet got near enough best-practice info flowing within the mentoring "community."

Posted by BruceR at 10:53 AM

Flypaper update

You know, if I was an Villa fan I might be of a mind to... oh, never mind. We'll fight them there so we don't have to, etc. From the Tely:

The unnamed Muslim insurgent lost his life following clashes with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces.

Details of forensic investigations on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters are normally top secret.

But a British military source said that the terrorist had an Aston Villa tattoo showing he could be from the West Midlands...

Later in the article:

[Official]: "The details of Aston Villa fans in the Taliban does not shock or surprise me...

To complete the quote, you can pick from:

a) "They haven't had a good season in years..."
b) "Just be glad it wasn't Pompey, those buggers are insane..."
c) "We are concerned, however, about the reports of Cardiff scarves we've been finding on dead bodies in Ishqabad, which would of course indicate a whole new Taliban-Welsh hooligan nexus."

Posted by BruceR at 09:42 AM


I'm beginning to have doubts about Prez Obama's senior AfPak diplomat's ability to deal with the locals. WashPost:

U.S. envoy Richard C. Holbrooke, red-faced and sweaty, sat on the dirt floor of a stifling tent as Aslam Khan, a 38-year-old laborer, spoke haltingly of his family's panicked flight from a Pakistani army offensive against Taliban forces in their mountain village, three hours north of here.

Holbrooke asked some questions about the Taliban but got few answers. "Are these all your children?" he asked with a smile. Yes, Khan said, he had nine.

"Your daughter is beautiful," Holbrooke continued, nodding toward a young woman who sat quietly at the edge of the family. Her head was covered in a royal-blue scarf that revealed only her stunningly dark eyes.

"That's not my daughter," Khan said abruptly. After an awkward silence, the woman explained that she was a Pakistani police officer. It was unclear whether she was there to protect Holbrooke from the refugees, or to monitor what they told him.

You know, if there is somewhere a list of things you don't use as conversational openers with Pashtun and other conservative Muslim males, I'm pretty sure "how fetching their daughter is" would be pretty high up there.

Posted by BruceR at 09:29 AM

Strangest. Caveat. Ever.

From the AFP:

The leaders will also discuss the possibility of sending Italian soldiers into action immediately at the request of those leading operations.

Currently, Italian troops require six hours notice and America has repeatedly asked for this to be changed...

Hey, man, you try and get through the mandatory Verdi opera before every operation in less than six hours and see how you make out. Just getting the costumes on takes forever, then there's the lighting, the props... could put the British successes in North Africa in a new light, though.

Posted by BruceR at 09:11 AM