03 August 2012

Some People Are Going To Have To Face Reality

and accept that their lives are not going to be spent sitting at the grown-up table.

It's not a heart-warming story of successful counterinsurgency, it's the cold, hard reality that no matter how much hand-holding we do, the the Afghan army, government, and people are not ready for the responsibility of behaving with a level of competence that the US would accept as barely adequate.

As the Taliban ramped up its attacks in eastern Afghanistan’s Wardak province this spring, the Afghan soldiers here came to a painful conclusion: They were not ready to take on the fight alone. But it was too late — the Americans were not coming back.

The transition of Combat Outpost Conlon to Afghan control — marked by a flag-raising ceremony and a visit from top U.S. military brass — was an early milestone in the NATO drawdown that will continue through 2014.

But Afghan officials worry that the problems plaguing Conlon could be replicated across the country as the U.S. military hands over authority, leaving 200,000 Afghan soldiers without the equipment or wherewithal to defeat a resilient enemy.

“The Americans left too early, and they left without giving us what we need,” said Lt. Col. Hamidullah Kohdamany, the battalion commander.

U.S. officials say that after years of depending on Americans for tactical and logistical support, Afghan soldiers often struggle to adapt to a sudden surge in responsibility.

“They’ve just never had to rely on their own leaders. They’ve always had the Americans for a backstop,” said Lt. Col. Clint Cox, the head of the U.S. military advisory team that oversees Afghan units in Wardak province. “It’s going to take some time. It’s just like with children — sometimes it takes a hard lesson for them to learn.”

It's not that it's a hard lesson to learn. It seems to be a lesson they are incapable of learning. Their initial allegiances are not to the nation, or even their fellow soldiers. Their logistical tail breaks down because the convoy guys make a delivery to the tribal elders before they ever get to the combat outpost. They've got no electricity because the funds for providing them keep lining the pockets of kleptocrats in Kabul. The vehicles don't work because the spare parts are for sale in bazaars in Kandahar.

We have to quit applying US standards of competence to a nation that seems willfully proud of their inability to even attempt to learn them.

By: Brant

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