A Lively ANA Discussion Part One

New ANA recruits practicing their marching.

Last night I couldn’t sleep well and stayed up late preparing for my discussion with the ANA soldiers.  I was invited to speak with a group of ANA soldiers attending literacy training.  Part of their curriculum is religious studies and one segment of the class covers infidel misperceptions.  Although I am not an infidel, but considered by some Muslim extremists as one, I agreed to open myself up for questioning.  I was hoping not to get into a theological debate, but just in case, I spent several hours researching the Internet and even read the English translation of the first 2 chapters of the Quran (Koran).  To say the least, it was very interesting reading.

Omid, when you come to the US, we will have to discuss fashion statements. Just kidding, lol.

My interpreter Omid and I visited the ANA Sgt Major and over a cup of chai, we discussed the morning agenda.  The Sgt Major would introduce me to the class and then I would take over.  We all walked into the classroom and it was completely full of 50-60 ANA soldiers.  The Mullah had just finished with the religious studies portion.  The Sgt Major gave me a brief introduction and then the floor was given to me.  I started off by using non-threatening and informative questions.  I learned one soldier was a student and another was a farmer before joining the ANA.  Randomly I would select soldiers and ask them neutral questions.  One soldier stood and patriotically declared he joined the ANA to help protect his country, while others said they did it for the money.  The former farmer soldier confirmed the ANA is paying much better than they did in the past.  In a recent initiative, the ANA and ANP were given pay raises to compete with the Taliban payouts and the strategy seems to be working.

Feeling more comfortable with my audience, I started asking opinionated questions.  My first question was their opinion about American forces.  Initially, I got anticipated responses that we were there to help them with their country.  But one soldier said, “Some of us like Americans while others don’t.”  My next line of questioning dealt with the events of 9/11.  The first soldier I asked was not aware of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  I was rather shocked, but considering the background of these men before joining the ANA was understandable.  So to resolve my curiosity, I asked the question to the entire class.  Only 3-4 hands went up out of a class of over 50 people! But the one soldier, who watches the news, briefed the class of the events that transpired.  As the conversation continued, one soldier felt strongly that the coalition forces have defeated Al Qaeda and they are no longer in power and not able to attack the United States again.

My next step was to open up the floor for questions addressed to me.  I was feeling pretty confident and didn’t think I was opening up Pandora’s Box.  It didn’t take long before hands were flying up and I was being peppered with questions.  The first questioned asked concerned civilian casualties in the war.  The soldier wanted to know with all of our technology and information systems, why were innocent civilians being killed in this war.  I anticipated this question would come up due to the recent casualties in Operation Mushtarak in Helmand Province.  I explained that the Taliban would hide in a house and use civilians as human shields.  So when we drop a bomb, then it kills everyone inside the house.  This is when a Pashtun soldier chimed in to defend the innocent civilians.  He explained how the Taliban force their way into a house and the occupants are helpless against the armed intruders.  I followed up again by detailing how the Taliban use our rules of engagement against us and hide behind the women and children and continue to shoot at the coalition forces.  Thanks to the media publicly detailing and explaining our rules of engagement,  the insurgents now are using our rules to their advantage.

The next line of questioning was really more of soldiers making a statement and expressing their opinions.  One man stated “Afghanistan has a lot of fighting for 30 years, Muslims killing Muslims.”  Another chimed in how “Pakistan and Iran are interfering in their country and not allowing them to have a good or peaceful life.”  He continued on how these countries are providing money, weapons and insurgents to the war.  To be cont’d ….

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7 Responses

  1. Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your blogs. I am especially interested in learning about the thoughts of your ANA counterparts. The information that you have provided today really gives an insight to their way of thinking. Thank you for opening up this dialog! I feel it is very important for both side get an understanding each other. Please let them know that those of us that are here in America appreciate what they are doing to help give their own countrymen the freedom that we are able to enjoy. May peace come to their country ASAP.

    Also thank you for all you are doing and to all our troop that are sacrificing to get this job done.

    Pam Hillman, Connecticut

  2. […] question would come up due to the recent casualties in Operation Mushtarak in … View post: A Lively ANA Discussion Part One « Afghanistan My Last Tour Share and […]

  3. Give insight to their way of thinking?—What?are they some kind of alien species?—All human beings want a better future for their children, prosperity and peace for themselves and their nation—they are no different than any other human being—they have the same aspirations and desires.

    And a bunch of sodliers practicing their marching isnt going to get them anywhere—what they need is infrastructure, social services, rule of law and bussiness opportunities. Training police would do Afghanistan more good than training soldiers. Teaching them the principles of freedom and democracy and the responsibilities that go with it would be more helpful than having them marching around. The future is built on ideas not guns.

  4. rules of engagement—-I suppose they go somewhat like this—as long as American civilians are not involved—bomb them!—-If taliban were hiding behind American civilians—“rules of engagement” would be vastly different?—like maybe sending in a stealth force that would RESCUE the civilians?—-But from an American perspective—I suppose it would be a waste of precious manpower to send anyone to rescue afghan civilians—after all nobody cares about them!

  5. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Afghanistanlast: Amazing conversation with abt 50 Afghan soldiers at literacy training; only couple knew 9-11 happened http://wp.me/prCP7-1mQ #Afghanistan…

  6. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 02/18/2010 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  7. Thank you very much Mr. Temple for taking the time every day out your busy scheduled to describe everyday life in Afghanistan. It is amazing how little they we do not know about other cultures and civilization.
    I look forward everyday to read your blog.
    Thank you very much for your service and stay safe.
    Keep posting your wonderful blog because it helps people like me to appreciate of what the troops and the Afghan are going through.
    Best Regards
    Hope

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