• How to Be an Afghanistan Expert

    May 6, 2013 // 6 Comments »

    My mom always forwards me the worst email crap, multi-megabyte Powerpoints of cats, or babies doing something odd, or homilies to life last century and the like. I usually thus delete most FWD’ed messages, but this one caught my eye. It’s making its way around the world so you might have already deleted it. If not, enjoy a cheap laugh. And be nice to your mother this Sunday, Mothers Day.



    How to Be an Afghanistan Expert

    1. Cite your most recent trip to the region where you saw – with your own eyes, absent the media’s blinders – irrefutable progress. Add points if you spoke with some cigar store Afghan who confirmed this for you. Add double points if you attended an actual jirga. (Subtract points if you were actually at a shura and mistook it for a jirga).

    2. Imply that if only the clearance-less masses were privileged enough to see the same “high side” intelligence that you do, they would know the truth. Add points if you have an actual clearance and didn’t just look it up on Wikileaks.

    3. Visit a bazaar. Chat with friendly merchants. Lots of salaams, lots of right-hand-over-your-heart greetings. Buy a (warm) orange Fanta. Note – often and loudly – that this bazaar was closed until ISAF forces arrived. Add points if you can drive to this bazaar, versus flying. Add double points if you can wear armor and helmet without looking like some parody of an obese war tourist.

    4. Play down the fact that you are paid roughly $1,000 a day to “advise” the military and deny that there is any subsequent conflict-of-interest when you come home and write flattering things about progress in Afghanistan.

    5. Whatever you do, avoid spending too much time in Afghanistan. In addition to acquiring language skills and some measure of cultural understanding, you risk becoming cynical and perhaps even despairing of our odds of success.

    6. Adopt a “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” approach to the region. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary and amid the protests of others who have spent years on the ground, imply that through sheer force of will and maybe a Jedi mind trick or two, we shall overcome. Add points if you can beat the other experts in latching onto some insignificant scrap of “evidence” supporting “progress.” Add double points if you are the first to tweet about it.

    7. If pressed on the deteriorating security situation, offer some babble about “the night being darkest before the dawn” and tie it into a tortured thesis about how escalating violence is actually a sign of counterinsurgency success. Add points of you can maintain a straight face making this point while citing vastly improved “kill ratios.” Subtract points if your “analysis” is eventually compared to an ISAF version of the 5 O’Clock Follies.

    8. Write numerous “analytical reports” with phrases such as “The Way Forward” or “How to Win” in the title. No one, not even your colleagues in the think tank world, will actually read these, but they will be cited widely as a substitute for reading something substantive, that might offer actual insight into Afghanistan. Add points if you can deride previous scholarship on Afghanistan as “Orientalist.”

    9. ‘The Grand Slam’ – authorship of a COIN pamphlet that gainsays the holy trinity: Petraeus, Nagl and Kilcullen. If pressed on the apparent failure of COIN in Afghanistan, cite some obscure insurgency – The Malayan Emergency is a good choice – and note how long success took to occur.

    10. In case you ever write a book and need a jacket photo, make sure to get a photo of yourself rocking a full beard, a pakool, and a dastmaal. Subtract points if you insist on maintaining this appearance once you return to DC.




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    Posted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Military, Other Ideas

    Am I Missing Something?

    January 21, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    We all know that social media is the key to victory in Afghanistan as it was in Iraq, at least according to the State Department, but a recent Tweet from the US Embassy in Kabul (slogan: “One day We’ll Be as Big as Baghdad”) has left me in a gobsmacked state:



    What?

    Correct me if I am wrong, but does it not seem that Embassy Kabul is gloating over the deaths of some of the “bad guys”? The US side repeated/reTweeted a message from the ISAF US-funded propaganda team to two pro-Taliban Tweeters appearing to gloat over the deaths of some Taliban.

    Bad enough as it is, gloating over death (though SecState Clinton also did so with Qaddafi’s death) but doing it a day after at least ten NATO soldiers were killed in two separate incidents in Afghanistan, when a transport helicopter carrying six US Marines crashed in Helmand province, and an Afghan army soldier killed four French soldiers at the Gwam training base in Kapisa province. Fifteen French soldiers were wounded in the attack, eight seriously? The French are considering withdrawal from the Afghan playground due to their deaths.

    C’mon US Embassy Kabul, this is just sad.



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    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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    Posted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Military, Other Ideas