Weight on their shoulders
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Monday, 01 March 2010 20:08

KABUL | Day 22 – We’re still in Kabul, fighting to escape, calling all sources and pulling all strings to try and get out to the next regional command.

Today we watched a bunch of helicopters come and go and we waved bye-bye as they left. The mission continues though! We’ll be out there again! We never give up.

If you missed yesterday’s blog, we talked with the black hat man in the air terminal in northern Afghanistan. He is a U.S. State Department employee who couldn’t talk with us because it takes forever to gain the approvals to do so. So there Ken and I was, chatting it up with a man who has been in this country and doing all the things Ken and I dream about

every night.

We asked him how he travels around and I jokingly asked if he moved within massive convoys armed to the teeth with enough fire power to flatten large cities. He looked at me as if I was crazy and told me he just jumps in his car with one of his coworkers and drives. He works in the middle of a city talking with and mentoring various Afghan government offices, including the Afghan National Police. He makes his morning commute at least five days a week, the other two days he’s stuck checking e-mail.

He wears local cloths and he has a big beard so he fits in. His been in country so long, he considers a lot of the Afghans friends, and you could tell he really enjoys what he does for a living.

We told him about our project and told him about how frustrated we were that we never had enough time to sit and talk with the Afghan people to really get to know them. We told him how jealous we were that he has such an incredible opportunity to learn their culture and learn who they are and what they believe in and how frustrated we were to pass by all of these incredibly interesting stories while trapped behind inches of plated armor and reinforced glass.

He understood and explained that we may never get a chance to truly know the Afghan people, because the relationships take forever to build upon. The best part about the conversation is when he shed some light on what some of the local elders said of coalition forces. He said the elders believe ISAF isn’t committed to them. They told him they believe ISAF would abandon them because the countries weren’t patient enough. The worst part was they told him since they knew this was going to happen, it was their responsibility as elders to try and get as much out of the Afghan government and international forces as they could, before th ey all left.

How horrible is that? I felt really bad, because it’s believable. Who knows how long this counter insurgency is going to take. You hear so much about the world’s frustrations with Afghanistan taking so long and everyone screaming for a troop withdrawal date how can you blame the village elders for thinking that? I tie this into the school “corruption” example and the examples I wrote about in the “Securing Governance” blog and unfortunately, I can understand why the elders are taking bits off of the top or using school projects to resolve tribal disputes. It’s not a good thing and it needs to be fixed, but I don’t fault them morally or ethically for making the tough decisions.

The black hat man really opened my eyes during the course of our conversation. I can only hope to run into more like him because of his unique and interesting perspective. I'll just have to keep my eyes peeled as we travel through random air terminals.

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Comments (5)add comment

Diana said:

civilian
As I sat in my safe house, on my comfy couch, I read the blog by these 2 men and felt the weight of the world on their shoulders. You can literally feel their frustration about not being able to really get up close and personal with the Afghan people. My heart goes out to our men and women of the armed forces and I pray they know we are behind them.
 
March 02, 2010
Votes: +0

dennis said:

Sad but true.
Guys thanks for your thoughts.Happy that you had a chance to speak to the black hat.I have two friends over there working.And they have said much the same thing. We have lost a lot of credibility with the afghans. Starting when someone pulled us out to go too Iraq.I believe General McChrystal recognized this,and fully adopted COIN. Keep up the good work.
 
March 02, 2010
Votes: +0

Nathan Gallahan said:

Michelle,
Thanks! I'm glad you like them smilies/cheesy.gif If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
 
March 02, 2010
Votes: +0

Michelle said:

...
Hey, just found this blog. Very good! Posts are well-written and informative. Thanks for writing!
 
March 02, 2010
Votes: +0

tilly said:

...
As I was busy looking for the special gift, I saw a woman enter into the store with a big bag, she was wearing an abercrombie ,abercrombie and fitch , Abercrombie & fitchcoat and she looked nice.
 
March 02, 2010
Votes: -1

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