October 16, 2009

Choose your own headline

Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan have acquired a little monkey mascot named Lucy. Any tour vets reading, please choose your favourite zinger, or email me yours:

a) Now BruceR, that's no way to refer to the new J5 Plans;
b) I guess it was either that or offer the CFTPO slot to the air force again;
c) The lemurs no-filled, apparently;
d) I hear they've got her writing the TFK Banana Eradication Strategy;
e) I'm told they lured her to KAF with a shiny object. Kinda like with me and the GCS.

Posted by BruceR at 05:00 PM

Today's essential Afghan reading

I worry sometimes about Globe reporter Gloria Galloway. Sometimes there seems to be insufficient skepticism present. A case in point being the piece she wrote interviewing a senior Afghan general in Kabul, who said that Afghans could be responsible for their own security in 2013, "maybe... one year forward or one year backward."

(Look, Galloway is an attractive woman. I never met an Afghan senior officer who would not descend into false bravado when being interviewed by an attractive Western woman. He likely would have told her they'd have a space program by 2013 if he thought it would keep her in his office a few more minutes.)

That's why I was very impressed with her fine story today on Deh-e Bagh, the Canadian model village in Dand District of Kandahar, on the outskirts of the city. Everyone should read it (this is the essential Afghan reading column, after all) but a couple takeaways:

**One thing one shouldn't be too upset to read is the perennial Afghan pessimism about the Taliban coming back when the Canadians leave. Afghans have a lot to be pessimistic about. "It's nice now, but it's all going to hell tomorrow" isn't pessimistic for an Afghan under the age of 30, just rational.

**What one should note instead is who is being seen, at least in this telling, as the responsible agency here. The benefits to the town are seen as Canadian largesse, not anything the Afghan government brought.

**That said, it should be clear once again that, at least to rural Pashtun males, any Muslim, even the worst police officer, is still preferable as a security presence to even the best soldier the West has to offer.

**The ongoing and substantive Western presence in Deh-e Bagh may actually be inhibiting daily life, by forcing women to stay inside compounds. Doesn't sound like a lot of girls are going to school, either.

**Solar power for ALL the houses? Wow. Can they do my street next?

Also, today, AfghanQuest on an Afghan hero he knows. Hey, look, there are still a lot of brave, smart fighters on the government's side, both police and army, no question. If you didn't get the opportunity to meet a couple and be able to personally attest to their courage while you were in Afghanistan, you weren't getting out much. For every one of those there's another one who makes you want to tear your hair out, and another two complete mediocrities whose name you can no longer remember, true: but the Afghan military and paramilitary system will likely never be said to wholly lacking in warrior ethos. The question has always been how do we help them create a system for themselves where the warriors rise to the top, over the survivors, the sycophants, and the politicians in their ranks.

And the hash addicts, for that matter.

Posted by BruceR at 09:09 AM