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Friday, February 8, 2013

From Son in Afghanistan - from the inbox

  I received the email below from a friend whose son is in Afghanistan .  The son is a Marine Captain (O-3).  After reading his missive, I asked my friend if I could share it.  I have sanitized his email as he had also done to his son's below it so as to protect identities but thought the message would be of interest to most of you.  Provides a different perspective than is normally available………  The dad's analogy to Viet Nam coincides with my recollection of things as I was there in '69 and '70 along towards the end too……
  Food for thought and consideration.

Received the below from our son -----, currently deployed to Afghanistan .  He's the OinC of an ANGLICO unit and is working with/attached to British forces.  It's quite a "different" perspective of what's going on there than what you get from the evening news and the politicians.  It reminds me of when I was in Viet Nam toward the end of our involvement there  Similar views by the host military and locals.  I'm afraid that when it's all said and done, we'll have very little to show for our sacrifices in lives, money and commitment.
I've scrubbed some of the personal information.  It's an amazing piece of correspondence… especially coming from someone who I had the impression from his writings while in college that grammar and syntax were a thing of the past!
Hey guys.  Hope everything back in the States is going well and everyone enjoyed Christmas, New Years, etc.  I missed not being able to spend time with everyone and enjoy the usual shenanigans that goes along with big families during the holidays.  I got a chance to watch National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, so all wasn't lost this year. 
The weather here has finally started to take a turn for the better and hopefully its a sign of a short winter season this year.  The past few days its been in the upper 50's low 60's with zero humidity, typical spring day in the deserts of Afghanistan.  I've been staying busy, seeing quite a bit of the Afghanistan countryside, meeting the locals, and "interjecting" when needed.  I think for the most part people here are just ready for things to be the way they're going to be, whether that's the Taliban's way or ours/the "Afghan government", which is a contradiction in terms as it is.  We do a lot of work with the Afghan military and are supposed to be playing a purely advisory role, however I can tell you that if that's all we did was "advise", things would be unworkable.  The Aghan's are lazy, lack initiative, are indifferent, and don't seem to care what happens as long as they make it home at the end of the day and get paid.  I guess I just expected more of a sense of pride and desire to improve things in their everyday life, especially with literally the world's assets at their disposal.  We do everything from drop bombs off of aircraft, medivac their, as well as the local nationals, wounded, pay them quite well, provide everything from boots to guns, and yet there isn't a day that goes by that they don't let some obvious bad guy (probably the same one that was shooting at us not five minutes ago) go because he's "poor" or a "good guy".  Because we're the advisers, we can't really do anything unless it's in self defense of ourselves, i.e. if we want to burn opium, hash, or heroin we can't unless the Afghans say its ok.  This is frustrating when you find a pile of drugs that's in a compound that just so happens to be the same compound that the Taliban were using to shoot at us, and we can't destroy the drugs because the powers that be say it's not Taliban drugs, it belongs to the locals, and they're poor.  I'm all for winning hearts and minds but at some point someone has to be the "parent".
For the most part, people here are sheep.  They want and need someone to tell them what to grow, how to fight, who to fight, who to pray to, etc. etc. etc.  This goes for the Afghan military also.  They won't do a thing, whether it's search a compound or get on a roof to provide security unless they're told to do it by their direct supervisor.  They feel threatened and belittled if we the outsiders give them guidance despite the fact that we were the same ones that trained them how to fight with the weapons they're holding.  It's not winable the way things are being fought right now.  Most units are content to sit inside the FOB's and wait for the end of their deployments, and I can't blame them with the way things are being handled at the top.  Why go out and risk your life for little victories when it really won't make a damn bit of difference in the grand scheme of things?  The date has been set and one way or the other we're going to call it a draw and leave when the clock is up.  Now if I personally believed all of this I wouldn't be doing what I do.  I'd very easily find a job on Leatherneck and bide my time until it was time to leave.  Part of me thinks that I/we still make a difference, whether that's by killing some bad guys on a mission, destroying a bunch of drugs that the insurgents would use to buy weapons and IED parts, or giving some protein bars to little barefoot kids.  We're winning the battles, just not sure how much effect it's having on the war. 
Well I guess I digress.  Feels good to share it with someone who probably knows very well where I'm coming from; if not, take it for what it's worth, a little insight, and thanks for being a sounding board.  Don't misunderstand though, all in all things are going very well, living conditions are great, morale is high, I'm doing what I trained to do and giving the good fight to the bad guys.  The Brits are a great bunch of guys and I'm really enjoying my time.  Looking forward to getting home in a short five months, haha, and taking some nice down time though.  Thanks for all the packages, looking after the little man when he's around, and for keeping me in your prayers.  I think about all you guys daily.  Tell everyone I said hello and that I miss them all.    

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