Round Table Discussion

Afghan kids playing near C-Wire.

It didn’t take long for Mother Nature to correct her mistake of yesterday’s warm weather and return us back to colder temperatures.  In fact in the afternoon, we were treated to some small snowflakes that subsequently melted and turned to ice as the mercury continued to plummet.  I’m sure the much higher elevations are experiencing even more frigid temperatures than we are exposed to, so I’m not complaining as long as our heater does not freeze up over night.

ANA PBO officer.

My mentoring session this morning turned into quite a surprise and disappointment.  I discovered my ANA PBO had accidentally deleted one of the spreadsheets we have been actively working on this past week.  He wasn’t going to freely admit his mistake except he was frantically populating data in a new spreadsheet.  Had this been a child, perhaps a good scolding was in order, but there wasn’t much I could say or do. Fortunately and unbeknown to me, I have been working on 2 different spreadsheets with the same data and he was cutting and pasting information.  So at least most of the English translation part was saved on the surviving spreadsheet, but the algebraic formulas I input have

Bilingual Dari keyboard.

disappeared into cyber space.  The PBO was planning to work late today in a valiant attempt to restore the lost data.

I purposely cut this mentoring session short so he could work on restoring the spreadsheet.  My interpreter and I hiked up over the hill to visit the ANA Sergeant Major.  He was already boiling hot water for chai in anticipation of our arrival.  I really enjoy talking with the SGM, because he is informative and brutally honest with me.  While the tea was brewing we talked about the Salang Pass and tunnel rescue operations.  His Kandak sent 17 soldiers to help with the rescue efforts to help pull out vehicles that were swept up in the powerful avalanches.  He said one car they helped to retrieve had 6 occupants.  Five of them were dead, but a 6-year old girl managed to survive the encounter.  If anything positive came out of this, was a sense of national pride as ANA, ANP, and government and private organizations aided in the rescue of over 2,500 people.

ANA soldiers training.

Tomorrow is Liberation Day celebrating the last Soviet soldier departure, 15 Feb 1989.  This led to the SGM giving me a little bit more insight what it was like when the Soviets finally left Afghanistan after 10 years of brutal occupation.  He contradicted a book I was reading about how Mujahedeen treated the Afghan soldiers during the Soviet era and the years that followed.  According to my book, The Other Side Of The Mountain:  Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War, the Mujahedeen would try not to purposely kill the Afghan soldiers.  Often many of the Soviet-Afghans would run away from their posts or easily surrender to the Mujahedeen warriors.  But according to the SGM, this wasn’t accurate and the Mujahedeen would kill their own countrymen because they felt betrayal since these men joined the Soviet forces that were responsible for annihilating entire villages and over a million people.

We also briefly discussed the period following the Soviet departure.  This is was a dark time in their history and dominated by civil war between the competing warlords for power.  It’s also what led to the destruction of the city of Kabul and thousands of deaths along with indiscriminate destruction.  Some of these same warlords are the influential people who helped to keep President Karzai in power or currently hold high government or military positions under his administration.

In my attempt to understand the current state of affairs, I am trying to analyze the events of the past leading up to the present environment.  But it’s difficult to find historical testimony of what really transpired after the Soviets left and the vacuum of power that was eventually filled by the Taliban.  Most people are reluctant to discuss the civil war that took place between the factions.  Even in Khaled Hosseini’s, The Kite Runner, he subtly refers to blood money without explanation.  When I try to discuss this period with my ANA counterparts, they generally change the topic or offer little of value.  It’s almost like this is an issue of shame and perhaps only to be discussed and debated among their own people.   Their nonverbal gestures speak volumes too.  It’s quite common when this topic is brought up, their eyes drift to the ground or they nervously clasp their hands together.  My ANA SGM typically strokes his bushy moustache and purposely breaks eye contact with me.  Perhaps this is one area of questioning that should be left alone…to be Cont’d..


One Response

  1. Rex.just a heads up to YOU,and all here, Rex may know about this site. “30 days through Afghanistan” by.
    Tech.Sgt Ken Raimondi and Tech.Sgt.Nathan Gallahan i myself like the videos. they have a big job. awesome work. they wear close by you.

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