Night Letters

Khost, Afghanistan

Like shadows in the night, they deliver warnings to villagers, side with the foreign forces and we will kill you and or your family. Whilst US Forces in Khost Province in South East Afghanistan, may claim they have superior technology and thermal cameras to protect themselves and their bases. Out in the villages the Taliban deliver their messages with no one capable of preventing them.

Talk with any Afghani and without hesitation they tell you things are getting worse from security to corruption. The optimism of 2002 – 2003 has long gone, from translators to waiters we hear nothing but negativity in regard to the future of Afghanistan.

Transpose this with what the US Military continue to tell you in countless briefing after briefing and honestly you start to think they are talking about a different country to the one they are in. Reality is an inconvenient truth that every officer seems to ignore.

Things are getting better, we are working with the Afghan Army and Police to develop an effective and stable nation, is a mantra that is well past its use by date. Eight years on in this war, and yet the Afghan Army is in any way capable of enforcing security.

The Police are despised and loathed by every local, and petty issues are more important than major events. The other day we went out on a patrol and the Police did not come along, not due to staffing or morale issues but because they could not be bothered. The Afghan Army set up a roadblock outside of a small village and started checking cars. Sure enough fifteen minutes later two men are caught with an AK 47, four magazines, two pistols, a knife and two hand grenades.

The question then arose did the army have the authority to seize he weapons, what would happen to the two guys. It short it was a balls up, in the end the Army flexi cuffed the two guys and took then back to their base and not the Police Station.

Once the Police heard about this they were pissed to say the least, the main reason they were annoyed was that the Army kept the weapons and would not hand them over to them. The two guys well they were friends of someone in some high position and within half an hour of getting to the Army base they were drinking tea and having a good old laugh by all accounts.

Whilst this incident is one small event in the grand scheme it also highlights the simple fact that on the ground these are the issues that the Afghans deal with because it is something they control and each and everyone has there turf. The locals here do not care what is happening in the next province because it has never affected their life.

Everyone knows that each US Unit is only there for around a year and that after they leave another Unit will replace them and try to reinvent the wheel. With new ideas and new plans, again a simple case of taking four steps backwards follows the progress of the current unit.

The incident that best captured the lack of respect the Afghan’s have for the US Forces was etched on hundreds of faces the other morning. The celebration of Eid-ul-Ahza is on the Muslim calendar a major holiday and everyone goes to the Mosque to give thanks and enjoy friends and family, as they were leaving their Mosque to go home for lunch. The US troops decided that they had to go back to the main camp, so loaded up in four MRAP’s they drove through the people tooting horns and waving guns to get out of the way, cursing them for walking on the road and getting in their way.

The look of disgust for these foreign invaders was all to clear to see, but the soldiers in the vehicle I was in were blind to the obvious, a mission had to take place. For all the goodwill they believe that they have created they have once again set themselves back another year in this valley.

People will not forget the disregard for their religious holiday soon and those letters in the night will not seem as threatening.