It was a war we thought we’d won. But after eight years of escalating violence, the Afghanistan conflict has morphed into something perhaps unwinnable. U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to deny sanctuary to Al Qaeda, a goal we’ve largely achieved. But in years of occupation, Washington has apparently conflated counter-terrorism with nation-building. Now the U.S., NATO and their allies are struggling to destroy a deeply-rooted insurgency in country with a corrupt, ineffective government, poor infrastructure and few prospects for everyday people, but to fight. David Axe visits U.S. forces to see for himself.
by DAVID AXE
3rd Squadron’s got a PR problem. In Baraki Barak district, the locals are cooperating with U.S. forces and the district government. Reconstruction money is flowing in. State Department and U.S. AID reps are arriving to boost agriculture and governance. People who had fled the district during the bad years are coming back by the thousands. How does the Army know this? It’s been monitoring traffic at the public toilets.
Point is, Baraki Barak is benefiting from its cooperation with coalition forces. So how do you spread that news to the districts that, so far, aren’t cooperating? How do you create what squadron commander Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gukeisen calls “dislocated envy”?
Parachute day-laborers, is one way. Able Troop, in Baraki Barak, invites locals to apply for jobs working on U.S. outposts in (uncooperative) neighboring districts. They’re flown by helicopter to the outlying bases for brief stints doing menial tasks.
The workers, who usually show up for their job interviews in business suits, not only perform necessary functions on the U.S. outposts — taking out the garbage, cleaning the bathrooms, building new huts — they also, unwittingly, advance the American information strategy.
For when the workers are done for the day, the Americans release them into the surrounding towns, so they can buy their dinner, shop and relax with a cup of chai. “They talk to the locals [saying,] ‘Why don’t you guys want to work?” explains Able Troop commander Captain Paul Shepard, pictured.
The idea is that Afghans are more convincing evangelists than Americans, when it comes to spreading the gospel of coalition-led reconstruction.
(Photo: David Axe)
How to Bomb Nice
Afghan Pirate Radio Defies Morale Crackdown
Rescuers Re-Rescue the Rescued
Tale of Three Districts
Chicken & Egg
With Friends Like These
Op Donkey Haul