Worrying over Afghanistan’s Pot-head Soldiers

22.12.09

Categorie: Afghanistan, David Axe, Reality Check |

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/DWWWotuUwd0" width="490" height="400" wmode="transparent" /]

by DAVID AXE

Russia Today emailed me again to request an interview. The subject this time: drug use in the Afghan army. This Guardian video report on U.S. advisers to the Afghan National Army has revived interest in the subject. The video has cropped up on Danger Room and The Huffington Post. I’ll be on RT tomorrow.

I’m a little disappointed that so many reporters have latched onto the drug issue, as though that were one of the major impediments to building a U.S.-style Afghan military. All Afghans smoke pot — especially in winter, when roads are snowed in and nobody’s working. In Baraki Barak, marijuana grows ten feet tall in culverts and in the shade of downtown buildings. (Pictured below.) Nobody in Baraki Barak — not the local cops or government or the resident U.S. Army force — seems all that troubled by it.

It’s easy to call Afghan soldiers lazy or incompetent, especially when you’re basing your judgment on selective quotations from a pissed-off Marine Corps instructor. But that’s not really fair. The Afghan army is poorly led by officers appointed for their political connections. Many Afghan soldiers are illiterate owing to the nation’s poor education system. There’s never enough equipment because corruption at the highest levels of Afghan government siphons off the security forces’ funds. The lack of resources, plus the fundamentally local and seasonal nature of Afghan warfare, means Afghan soldiers have a deeply ingrained garrison mindset. They occupy a place, rather than maneuvering to gain advantage.

But I challenge you to find a more tough-minded soldier than an Afghan, or one more hardened to cold, hunger and pain. In Baraki Barak I spoke with one member of the Afghan security forces who has been walking around for months with several bullets lodged in his back. His army had not provided for his ongoing medical care, so he just lived with the pain.

And when members of the U.S. 71st Cavalry got ambushed in Baraki Barak in October, the Americans sat tight as Taliban rounds bounced off their million-dollar armored vehicles. But the Afghan soldiers accompanying the Americans rode in unarmored pickup trucks. Despite their extreme vulnerability, the Afghans opened fire, and fought hard until the Taliban were dead or retreated.

afghan-soldier-and-weed-in-baraki-barak-oct-18-2009.JPG

(Photo: David Axe)

Related:
Marco Kroon: Knighted Commando, Part Two
Marco Kroon: Knighted Commando, Part One
Axe-SPAN: U.S. Training of Afghan Air Force
World Politics Review: Dutch Government Mulls Departure from Afghan War
Columbia City Paper: The Impossible War — Obama Commits More Troops to Afghanistan, with the Wrong Strategy
VoA News: Training Afghan Forces Poses Challenge for U.S. Military
Axe-SPAN: On U.S. Training of Afghan Army and Police
VoA News: Logistics Play Key Role in U.S. War Effort in Afghanistan
Offiziere.ch: In Afghanistan, Helicopters Represent NATO’s Greatest Strength, Biggest Weakness
Wired.co.uk: A Man and His Drones — on the Front Line of Robotic Warfare
VoA News: U.S. Troops Experiment with New Strategy for Afghanistan
World Politics Review: After Setbacks, Human Terrain System Rebuilds
Taliban Propaganda Drools over Killed Vehicles
World Politics Review: U.S. Air Force Advisers Struggle with Afghan Cultural Gap
French Origins of the “Ink Spot”

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11 Responses to “Worrying over Afghanistan’s Pot-head Soldiers”

  1. Trev says:

    Those plants look like a good smoke

  2. JC says:

    I get what you’re saying, but how does it contradict the monumental futility of this endeavor to train tens of thousands of Afghans to become a “US-style military”?

  3. David Axe says:

    JC,

    It doesn’t.

  4. [...] Related: Worrying over Afghanistan’s Pot-head Soldiers Marco Kroon: Knighted Commando, Part Two Marco Kroon: Knighted Commando, Part One Axe-SPAN: U.S. Training of Afghan Air Force World Politics Review: Dutch Government Mulls Departure from Afghan War Columbia City Paper: The Impossible War — Obama Commits More Troops to Afghanistan, with the Wrong Strategy VoA News: Training Afghan Forces Poses Challenge for U.S. Military Axe-SPAN: On U.S. Training of Afghan Army and Police VoA News: Logistics Play Key Role in U.S. War Effort in Afghanistan Offiziere.ch: In Afghanistan, Helicopters Represent NATO’s Greatest Strength, Biggest Weakness Wired.co.uk: A Man and His Drones — on the Front Line of Robotic Warfare VoA News: U.S. Troops Experiment with New Strategy for Afghanistan World Politics Review: After Setbacks, Human Terrain System Rebuilds Taliban Propaganda Drools over Killed Vehicles World Politics Review: U.S. Air Force Advisers Struggle with Afghan Cultural Gap French Origins of the “Ink Spot” No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  5. David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 12/23/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  6. [...] …… and it does make a mockery of all the guff spouted by Governments about Afghanistan ….. http://warisboring.com/?p=2937 …… and is bound to have the boys at the front wondering what they are really doing there, apart from creating enemies, that is, and constantly waiting for the next crazed junkie to get wasted and lay waste to all around them. [...]

  7. anan says:

    Is Baraki Barak, Logar, 2nd Brigade, 201st ANA?

    David, could you describe the variance in ANA quality you observed between different ANSF units?

  8. Afghanistan had an army for literally hundreds of years until it got fucked up during the 1980s and finally fell apart during the 1990s.

    So yes, a national army is not only possible in Afghanistan, it has existed before.

    Afghanistan is not an unchanging, ahistorical island.

  9. Ooops, I meant to post the comment above under the Alyona post, not this one.

  10. Andre from Sacto says:

    I also wonder if we are comparing Afghan “goods” to American “goods”. The stuff being consumed by your average Afghan regular may be completely different than that consumed by your average Humboldt State university student.

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