Wednesday, September 19, 2007

PRT mission to improve Health Care in Khost, Afghanistan

Video clip
This was a good clip to watch, not the least because I know some of the people in it.

There was a New York Times article a couple days ago titled "Building a Dam in a Bid to End Afghan Stability." And the two say a lot about working in Afghanistan. As part of the new ways of doing things, American and ISAF forces in Afghanistan are focusing on building the country, as opposed to hunting down bad guys (not that anyone will walk away from a fight, just that for the most part, the troops are not looking for one.) Of course, as ISAF adds to the health care, builds infrastructure, educates children, builds local governance, it strengthens the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IRoA) as a country. It does this by building ties between the local population and the population as a whole, something that did not exist before. And as a generation of children are educated, given health care, and connected to the world beyond their own tribe, a country is created, where there has not been a real country forever. For all the civilizations that have gone into the Hindu Kush to conquer it (and left), none have ever tried to build up the human capital of the area, until now. And the local population is fully aware of what that means for the future.

And the Taliban is also aware of what this means for the future. And so they destroy roads, dams, kill doctors, destroy schools, and intimidate the population into not supporting the efforts and work that is needed to create all of these things. In the long run, this is destructive, and everyone knows it. But they can't get to the long run unless they survive the short term. And here lies the truth of insurgency/counterinsurgency (at least where the United States is involved). Even when everything is being done for the good of the population, in the end, the insurgents have one argument, "do not help the IRoA, or we will kill you." For all the good that our forces and resources could do, every individual Afghan has to ask the question "will I live to benefit?"

Has it always been this way? No, within the U.S. military there has been great debate on if this is part of war. The initial efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq were led by those who believed that this had no place in the work of the military. The current efforts are those who say if the U.S. does not succeed in this, they fail in the whole thing, and the "successes" that were achieved in combat amount to nothing (which is a story that the U.S. has seen before). There is a story of a retired U.S. Army officer, who when talking with one of the officers who has played a part in developing the counterinsurgency doctrine that many are now trying to implement said "it would be sad if twice in a lifetime we would fail to learn the same lessons."

I was asked by friends "what does it feel to be a part of history." Well, my work there ended up fitting squarely into this development of theory. And the realization that I was intimately involved in a new way of looking at war, had me in awe.
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