The Afghan people will decide who wins
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Monday, 08 February 2010 20:40

Camp Julien | Day 1 - Camp Julien is no more than a bunch of little buildings set row upon row. There are no stores, and the dining facility is only open when there are students here, and even when that’s the case, the hot food is delivered from a nearby camp.

This little camp’s sole purpose in life is to train select new arrivals on counter insurgency concepts.  Ken and I thought it would be a great place to start our journey because what we learn here will be our foundation for the next 30 Days, and it’s important to understand the mission, before you talk with those embroiled within it.

People from all over the world, from all walks of life, all ranks, ages and a multitude

of organizations are picked to be students because the course teaches them the skills required to conduct this counter insurgency.

I was lucky enough to attend this course when I first arrived in October. I usually dread being sent to a military school because many times they are death by PowerPoint. Although most are constructive, I always gain a few inches around the midline due to the sheer amount of coffee required to keep my eyes open.

One of the resources I’ll be using during this journey is a student handbook I received while taking this course, and there’s a sentence in an article titled "ISAF Commander's Counterinsurgency Guidance", which I would like to share.

“ISAF’s mission is to help the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) defeat the insurgency threatening their country. Protecting the Afghan people is the mission. The Afghan people will decide who wins this fight, and we (GIRoA and the International Security Assistance Force) are in a struggle for their support. The effort to gain and maintain that support must inform every action we take. Essentially, we and the insurgents are presenting an argument for the future to the people of Afghanistan: they will decide which argument is the most attractive, most convincing, and has the greatest chance for success.”

One part really intrigues me, “the Afghan people will decide who wins this fight …” I’ve heard this a lot while on missions in Eastern and Western Afghanistan, and there are a lot of Afghans “on the fence.”

I remember one story of an Afghan family, where one son worked with the government, and another son was an insurgent. The family was “hedging” their bets. I’ve always thought of this scenario when I’m out and abo ut in this country. This is more than “winning hearts and minds” of Afghans, but also about understanding them, while respecting their culture and religion.

The foundation of this respect has to be in education. How can we respect something if we don’t know anything about it? This is why we came to Camp Julien.

We had a chance to talk with Australian Major Roz Rice, the chief instructor here. She’s the mother of two and has been here for about five months. We talked with her about a range of topics, which can be seen in Ken’s vlog.

One of the key topics we discussed was how do we define “winning” a counter insurgency? She quickly mentioned there wouldn’t be a clear and defined point where we would “win”. But it’s about capacity building and enabling the Afghan’s government to stand on its own and provide for the people.

She mentioned how there are a lot of people out there asking questions like, how many Taliban have been killed? How much ammunition has been spent? How much land is under government control? All of those are questions for conventional wars. They aren’t applicable in counter insurgency, because winning isn’t dependent on them.

One aspect success is dependent on here is how many insurgents are fighting against the government. While attending this course, one of the speakers mentioned if one child, civilian, or even an insurgent is killed, it’s possible to “create” 10 more insurgents. Everyone has family and friends. Everyone has people who care about them and obviously, those people would be extremely mad if their friend or brother was killed. This is why our actions, as ISAF, and the actions of the Afghan government are critical to success.

To help explain this better, we’re getting the chance to talk with the commander of this school tomorrow. We’ve been promised he’s a great interview and we’ll get “enough information from him to last you throughout your 30 Days.”

We’ll see what happens. I’ve been working on my list of questions to hit him with in the morning, including his thoughts on how this “war” has been fought for the past eight years and what he sees happening in the future. He’s been here for two straight years already, so I’m really looking forward to talking with him. We hope what we learn here, will help us once we get farther out in the field.

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Melanie said:

Refreshing!
It is so refreshing to read an article that tells the truth about what is happening in Afghanistan. We hear all the special interest groups telling us that what we are doing is a bad thing. If we are the ones who can teach them how to combat the insurgents then that is the way it has to be. To whom much is given, much is expected. I am so happy that I can follow along with your journey there poker sites
 
January 05, 2011
Votes: +0

Ema Arsan ( Wendolene) said:

...
Dear Sirs,
I was really glad to discover your blog, which gives us some perspective about the events in Afganistan. I live in the USA and I shout my support to all the Americans out there and thanks to you, a lot of us can know a bit more about this.Let me ask you something though... I am of Czech origin ( there are Czech soldiers fighting in Afganistan) and I recently discovered that this article and the contents of your blog in a Czech internet newspaper blog by an author Sona Diartova. She claims to have YOUR permission to publish some of the contents of your blog. She literally said that Nathan gave her a permission to publish. Here is a link to the Czech text http://diartova.blog.idnes.cz/...hraje.html It is a cumbersome translation, the article was shortened and changed. The author Sona Diartova did not publish the source under the article, later admited the source of her article. The way it is published in the Czech press, it looks as her own work, it is simply wrong. While you are out there, someone else reaps the fruit of your labor. I posted my distaste with such practice under the Czech article, under a nickname Wendolene. I understand, that when you click on the link, you may not know what the author said, however, you will be able to see your names clearly. It is against the rules of the press to make someone else's work yours and not to cite your sources. Did you give permission to this woman named Sona Diartova to publish the contents of your blog? And if so, why did she not cite until she was confronted with accosted by a reader of the originality of the work and even then did not post the source together with the article, only casually mentioned it in the comments under the article??? .Please, respond, is is a matter of right and wrong. To me, it is a great disrespect to you who are risking life and limb to bring us information that states the good work that is being done there.Please write to me and clarify. Was there a permission given?
 
February 16, 2010
Votes: +0

Ema Arsan ( Wendolene) said:

Great blog , my props to you!
work, it is simply wrong. While you are out there, someone else reaps the fruit of your labor. I posted my distaste with such practice under the Czech article, under a nickname Wendolene. I understand, that when you click on the link, you may not know what the author said, however, you will be able to see your names clearly. It is against the rules of the press to make someone else's work yours and not to cite your sources. Did you give permission to this woman named Sona Diartova to publish contents of your blog? Please, respond, is is a matter of right and wrong. To me, it is a great disrespect to all the American troops out there. My email is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
February 16, 2010
Votes: -2

Airman said:

are we over thinking it?
Why can't we simply invade and take over their land? Make it a US state-like entity and we won't have to let the people "choose" anything. It sounds so easy to me.
 
February 12, 2010
Votes: -5

MC1 Mark Schultz said:

Broadcaster, Station Chief, AFN Kabul
I went to the weekend COIN training. I learned so much, and got to see some pretty cool stuff out there. I think that was a perfect place for you guys to start!
 
February 09, 2010
Votes: +1

kevin said:

thanks guys
just wanted to say thank you guys for your courage n commintment in what ur doing,im a dad with a 19yr old u.s.marine thats over there..an ur insite helps stay safe n keep ur guard up....thanks again kevin in michigan
 
February 09, 2010
Votes: +1

Ken Raimondi said:

Cam and mic
Hey Chris,

I'm using a Sony HVR-V1U and a Sennheiser wireless and Sony shotgun mic. I'm shooting on HDV (1080i) and dropping it down for the web. I plan to do a long form project in HD and have it translated in Dari and Pashto for the Afghan audience. Oh yeah...and Nate has politely asked me to refer all video questions to the vlog comments. lol smilies/cheesy.gif

-Ken
 
February 09, 2010
Votes: +1

Chris Eder said:

Day 1
Great job. You know I'm a geek...but I have to ask. What camera and mic are you using?smilies/cheesy.gif
 
February 09, 2010
Votes: +0

Carmen Read said:

Out of Sight, Never Out of Mind
When you speak to the commander of the school tomorrow, I'd be interested to hear his thoughts on whether the Afghan people prefer the "team" they choose to make their presence known or if they would rather they stay behind the scenes. For example, is an Afghan family reassured by that aircraft flying overhead, or frightened? Or could they care less and just want everything to be as out of sight as possible? It may seem like an obvious question, but I think there may be a lot of misconceptions here. I will be following you daily, as I think you two will have a lot of potential to help guide our work in the AO.
 
February 09, 2010
Votes: +0

Linda Carter said:

Day 1 over 29 to Go!
Great place to start with COIN... short concise explanation to what COIN is. I have seen the term "COIN" used in many articles... but up unto this point had not read any real explanation as to what it meant. I loved the footage of the city and it's people. Great job on Day 1... 29 days more to learn and grow!
 
February 09, 2010
Votes: +0
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