April 15, 2012

Tim Lynch: He's baaack... and, Afghan band camp

So Tim Lynch is blogging from Afghanistan again, and has some comments on this weekend's attacks and the announced ISAF "offensive" they were designed to pre-empt. Nice to read some clear-eyed assessment.

Meanwhile in Kandahar, old mentor hands will be no doubt pleased to know at least the war is going well for the 205th Corps band, which was in 2008-09 the most dangerous and disturbing thing about Corps headquarters... my god they were awful. The story, with the Afghan army sergeant who hides his profession and sneaks onto base to work, and bandsmen who are only there so they can stay off the firing line, regardless of any musical ability, warmed my heart. Finally an Afghan army unit in the news I could recognize (I remember the Camp Hero masjid tower behind them in the picture fondly, too). The below may just be the best military mentor quote ever:

And with money from a special U.S. fund for outfitting Afghan security forces, [CWO Tim] Wallace bought the band new instruments. He skipped woodwinds, American favorites that would likely be ruined by Kandahar’s dry, searing heat, and instead added a French horn and a tuba, though no one knows how to play them.

And yet Wallace, like other military mentors across Afghanistan, is learning that many of the stubbornest deficiencies here are not material, but institutional. A vivid illustration of the problem comes midway through practice, when [band leader Maj.] Nejrabi tells me he doesn’t hold high aspirations for his band.

"They don’t really like to be musicians," he says, nodding toward his men, who sit a few feet away, listening. "It’s an easy job, and they’re not going out on missions. They come out here to pass the time, make some money, and be safe."

As Nejrabi speaks, Wallace stares at him in disbelief. "He doesn’t know the first thing about leadership," Wallace tells me later. "Why is he saying that in front of them?" He shakes his head. “I have my work cut out for me."

All kinds of awesome there. The taxpayer money for instruments for the Afghan army that no one can play, the laconic assessment of the Afghan major, and the mid-tour Western mentor's insistence in marketing our way to victory, all tied up together... just beautiful.

Posted by BruceR at 10:07 PM