Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Pushtunistan

Christmas is just about through. The party went off without a hitch. All of our Afghan counterparts came over our compound for some carols, Santa hats, a present lottery, and big plates of Christmas food. I also shared the baklava [thanks]; it was a big hit. The TOC (main office) is now just a big room with people exchanging little secrets and stories of what they did the last time they were deployed. Everyone seems to have the same remembrance of the rocket attack or the PSYOP truck with loud speakers blasting Jingle Bell Rock all around the base. I've the few Sinatra Christmas tunes I remembered to load onto the iPOD on repeat through some headphones.

Turkey and fix-uns were delivered to all of the outer-FOBs that are beyond the reach of roads, and we all received some special Christmas wishes from 2ND graders from all over the United States. My previous favorite was received a few years ago in Iraq: "Thank you for dying for your country." After reading these though, I may crown a new king. I'll try and include the pictures of these cards in the next few days when I get back to better computers. Nothing makes me more sympathetic for teachers than reading these cards as they give me the clearest idea of what they are working with. Or after a few months of working with the ANA, maybe its empathy I feel.

To all my family and friends, I miss you all greatly and look forward to a real Christmas, New Years, Flag Day, Talk like a Pirate Day, and every other Holiday we'll miss this year. I love you all. Thanks for the packages, the food, the lights, and the Hannah Montana poster. I miss you baby, talk to you soon.

Letters from 2ND graders:

Dear Soldiers,
Keep your blood while you still have it. Fight with all your might. Kill people, steal weapons. You know, I used to be a soldier myself. I have mechanical hands now though. I was also a prisoner for 5 years.
Sergeant Matt

Dear Soldiers,
I am very happy of your hard work. You serve our country so good. You are so brave to go out and fight, I can tell that you are doing your best because our country is running pretty smoothly on war. You are making a great country if you try your best, even if you get sick. I will pray for you to succeed.

Supported by,

Hello! Merry Christmas! I hope you have a happy holiday! May your days be filled with peace-i-fullness and happy happy-wappy happiness! I pray that your days be filled with light and joy. We all will be praying for your safety too! Hmm…keep a smile on your face! Here's a happy smiling bunny! {picture of bunny} and a smiling lion {picture of a lion}. America missed you and surely there is someone here missing you a lot. We are all thankful for your job and your faithfulness and duty to your job. God Bless you!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Afghan fever dream

It's the middle of the afternoon and the streets are a few degrees under bustling. You know you're supposed to be looking for a red sedan, but can't remember why. The MRAP is cavernous like the inside of a submarine, and there is a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. Somehow, the gunner managed to hook up his iPOD to the intercom system. Now, as you scour the streets looking for a red VBIED, all you hear is Lesley Gore singing "Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows."


Without warning, you smoothly transitioned back in the FT Riley area outside a piece of shit bar known as "The Rockhouse" in Ogden. The other vehicles in your element are gone and it's just your MRAP and your soundtrack. Like any good dream, nothing needs to make sense, so it seems to make perfectly reasonable that you're driving around Afghanistan in Ogden, KS.


You spot the red car, its right next to you. 3 girls wearing go-go outfits materialize out of the air with short black hair start dancing your way. Now you're back in Afghanistan with a peppering of Pashtun men staring at you in a very uncommitted way. The type of look that reminds you how little you have in common. One of the crew members invites the go-go dancers into the submarine/MRAP. Everyone is dancing and giggling inside while the red car is parked close enough off the driver's side that you can read the VIN.


Then you wake up to a snowy morning. You pet the FOB dog and go about your business, all the while wondering if you should warn the rest of your team about a red car. I thought it was Christmas, not Halloween.


Oh by the way, I saw a fully loaded passenger bus with a pickup truck and a station wagon strapped to the roof. The bus was on a jack while the driver changed a tire. That was no dream.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

From the jaws of victory

Afghanistan is not going well. Despite the conventional wisdom that is mouthed by all, it is not an unwinnable theater. The Soviets did not fail because this country is a meat grinder that is so inhospitable to foreigners that none could be successful. They failed because they prosecuted it poorly. We are on the same path, and can either choose victory, or the slow humiliating defeat that will come with declaring the nation a losing proposition for modernity. What follows are a few enumerated frustrations that my comrades and I voice daily over coffee, cigars, and cup after cup of steaming chai tea.

The Taliban are not terrorists or bandits. They are a movement that is rooted deep in the consciousness and reality of the Afghan people. They are a part of the country whose raison de etre extends further back than the birth certificates (if they had them) of most of the Afghan soldiers. To defeat a movement, you must create a counter-movement. To create a counter-movement, you must change the reality of the Afghan people. This requires nation building. Nothing short. Nation building requires organization. If we don’t have the stomach for that, then we should resign ourselves to abandon these people to their fate and bomb this country every 10 years to keep Al Qaeda at bay. But that didn’t work well in the past.

The NATO command in Afghanistan is known as the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF). ISAF has been written about ad nauseum for its inability to create a unified, executable campaign plan for the theater due to its lack of command and control of its subordinate units as a result of “national caveats” that prevent contributing nations from executing the tasks that are necessary. Many of the ISAF contributors are restricted by their home governments from conducting the riskier missions for fear of casualties. This is understandable. The contributing nations are not committed to the fight enough to accept casualties that would be politically untenable for their civilian leadership. No people should be asked to suffer casualties that they do not believe are worthwhile and do not serve their interest. Since this is the case, these nations should not be given command of entire regions of the country that require serious action and dedication. As it stands, contributors that do not wish to do all that is necessary should not be entrusted with responsibility to do so.

It is my opinion that ISAF and NATO should be allowed to retreat with honor from Afghanistan. This is not the war they signed up to fight. When many of these nations sent their sons and daughters to this country they did so under the banner of reconstruction and humanitarian aid. The rub comes when reconstruction must be accompanied by military offenses, defenses, and great risk. This coalition of the unwilling should be replaced with a slimmer, better organized coalition of the willing in a style similar to that in Iraq. Multi-National Forces- Iraq was not NATO and consisted only of forces that reported directly to the theater commander (a US four star general). The chain of command was single and unified and allowed the commander to plan and execute a long term vision that included political, military, economic, and social goals.
A Multi National Forces- Afghanistan organization would also command the effort to develop the Afghan Army and Police forces. Currently, this effort is US led, and exists outside the ISAF chain of command. It is built on a vestigial organization known as TF Phoenix, and its higher command Combined Security Transition Command- Afghanistan (CSTCA) that was designed to build an army before there was a war on. CSTCA reports to central command and ISAF reports to NATO headquarters in Brussels. As the situation in Afghanistan worsened, the organization was not redesigned to face the threats inherent of building security forces under fire.

These two separate chains of command, the Advisor mission and the Security mission, do not meet until they get to the Washington DC. This is unacceptable. Counterinsurgency, like politics, is a wholly local affair. We can not pursue goals and endstates that are not organized and unified. Each province in Afghanistan has its ISAF task force that has no direct or indirect relationship with the advisors that operate in the same battlespace. No one is required to talk to each other.

The separate organizations that do reconstruction, security, and security force development have only informal relationships based on mutual need and friendship rather than clearly and universally defined systems.

We need many more Advisors for the Afghan Army and Police. The Advisor mission has been filled to 50% of its personnel requirement for the past 2 years. We are preparing to send additional fighting units to Afghanistan, but to what end? If their focus is on hunting the Taliban and searching the villages for fighters they will meet locals with the same sentiment that I heard on a recent search of a village from a local Mullah, “I would rather shoot myself than have an American enter my house.” These units must have, as their primary mission, the focused development and reinforcement of the local security forces.

The Afghan people continue to pay the price for our misappropriation of effort. All goals are tunnel visioned; all efforts are too broad to be effective in individual districts or provinces; and all parties report to different masters. There is still only one real road in this country, Highway 1. The populace are sprinkled thin like pepper on rice across the countryside living much the way they did 500 years ago. The water resources drain from the mountains into a myriad of pre-historic canals known as karezes that water individual fields and crops. This allows people to continue to exist in isolation from each other and the government. They need roads and reservoirs. These two things can change the Afghan’s reality and will drain the Taliban’s pool of uneducated, angst ridden teens, and idealogues they recruit from to prey on the isolated and unprotected. Roads can bring commerce, connection, and modernity. Reservoirs and aqueducts can encourage a more organized life style that creates cities rather than villages. First we must have roads, roads, roads. And roads.

Unify the chain of command now. Create provincial security czars that have command over all international security forces, local security force developers (advisors), reconstruction task forces, and special operation forces in every province. Allow these commanders to develop reasoned long term plans for the province in accordance with the Afghan government’s vision. Allow these czars to pursue development and combat the isolationism that cripples this nation.
This country may be resource poor, but the few resources it has are squandered on either building fortresses around provincial capitals and district centers rather than on the isolated and disconnected villages that may not know that the Russians have left- or were even here. As it stands, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and our allies continue to fumble along as we hunt the Taliban rather than draining the pool from which the Taliban drink. We are constantly reminded that we must kill more Taliban to demonstrate that theirs is a losing proposition. There is a limitless supply of fighters for the Taliban as long as the people’s reality does not change. Should we fail to change their reality we are sprinting toward failure. We will continue to mount large scale operations into “enemy safe havens” only to find that the enemy has fled and all that is left are impoverished locals that don’t reap any benefit from our presence. A cursory read of Soviet operations in Afghanistan bare a striking similarity to our plans. Compare our current operational focus in this counterinsurgency to the characteristics of successful and unsuccessful counterinsurgencies that Dr. Kalev Sepp, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Special Operations, wrote of and determine for yourself whether we are on the right path. We wish to hunt the bear in his cave, destroy his weapons caches, and capture their leadership. We must instead focus on the people, build them roads and demonstrate the benefits of modernity. Or we snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wheels up

Pack your bags. Decide they are good enough. Stare at them for five minutes. Dump them all over the floor and start over. Make a mental checklist. When this fails you, make a written one.Keys, wallet (don’t need the Sam’s Club or Blockbuster cards anymore), stabil in the fuel tank (like your car is going to start right up in 12 months anyway), check your watch, check it again. Go drop off your car. You’re officially locked down.

Get accountability. The army loves accountability. You will continue getting accountability every three seconds for the rest of the year. This is the civilian equivalent for keeping an adventurous child within eye sight at WalMart.

Once you have your accountability, you need to get ready for the movement. Better check your carry on to make sure it will fit. The army was kind enough to build a bread box that is supposed to approximate the size of the carry on compartment. If your bag fits in the bread box, you can go to Afghanistan. If it doesn’t, you need to rip your carefully packed crap apart and start over. Unfortunately, this carry on gauge doesn’t appear to be life size so you feel like an ass when you’re easily sliding your bag into the planes carry on compartment. Guess you had plenty of room for those Danielle Steel novels after all.

Before you get on the plane, you have to MANIFEST. Manifesting is a process of getting accountability. The two go hand in hand. Manifesting is the Superbowl of accountability. We had some saints from what I believe was the VFW’s lady trooper society with us. The baked a couple of pecan pies, enough cookies for a small army (which is what they had), and gallons and gallons of coffee. As we were munching down on these goodies waiting for our transportation, we were called to order. Apparently, there was one last inspiring speech we were to hear before leaving.This final inspiring speech was actually to be the first inspiring speech, but this was no time to be technical. I knew it was going to be good. You see, we (The Combat Advisors) are the military’s main effort. We are simultaneously the exit strategy and the victory strategy. How could this speech miss? Just when our anticipation was piqued, a junior major came to the microphone to address the 200 some TTs on their way. Really? A major? Imagine a trombone squeezing out a WAA-WAAAA. Not that we needed the pep talk, but he was outranked by 1/3 or the audience. Oh that’s right, it was a 4-day weekend. Veterans day.

20 hour plane rides are a good time. You get to find ouy who has overactive sweat glands and who hates other people, and who thinks What Happens in Vegas starring Ashton Kutcher is a really really funny movie. Shocking. Other than the deep lingering disappointment that was everyone’s when a 30 something steward with a lisp took the place of the imagined comforting wife/mother figure stewardess we were hoping for, the flight was wonderful. They tell me that the seven movies that were played were all dubbed and lame. Apparently the lines aren’t as effective when the hero is called a “Son of a biscuit” by the villain. Of course, I slept the whole way, so I can’t really comment.

Next stop: somewhere...


When you graduate the Fort Riley Training Mission and are granted the non-existent but still impressive title of “Combat Advisor,” you are rewarded with a final bit of leave home prior to heading out. For us, this was short, too short, but this is always the case.

The pre-deployment leave is a desperate, uncomfortable type of leave. With the impending separation looming large the entire period is spent in a hushed anxiety with stifled emotion. The elephant in the room puts everyone on edge. You try and assuage the fears, and this is most easily accomplished by trying to change the subject. Confrontation is avoided as much as possible with all those around you. In this setting, one assumes that no frustration is worth a fight so more often than not, everyone agrees with everyone. Using that as a template, perhaps we should deploy both houses of Congress to Afghanistan in the hopes that they all shake hands smile, hug, kiss, and agree on everything before departing.

Such a conciliatory attitude makes the pre-deployment conversations difficult at times. When people tell me what we should be doing, my instinct is to politely ask them to “shut the f*#! up, and sit there for two hours while I explain what I know of Afghanistan.” What an obscure country with an even more obscure mission. This is why veterans don’t discuss their experiences with their families. It’s not that he will have a Born on the Fourth of July style meltdown, pee his pants, and start screaming at the heavens. Instead, the problem is just that no one knows enough to even buy-in to your conversation. The ante is too great. No one knows what FOB, ETT, PMT, PRT, DoS, M1151, RG33, DFAC, MWR, HMFIC or any of the three million acronyms and jargon we use mean. Beyond the language, the reference just isn’t there. To have a topical free and easy conversation about this, I need to have someone who actually KNOWS Afghanistan. It’s a world away, and maybe I’m not the best at communicating it. If you’re reading this blog though, keep heart, and as the tour rolls on, I hope to at least partially educate (used loosely).

There are too many responsibilities on your final leave. Too many people to see, too many hands to shake, and too memories to create. You want to spend quality time with every individual that you care about, but the calendar simply won’t cooperate. The time is spread a little to thinly. Really, you miss out on the depth with that one individual of whom you’re thinking about the most. You realize though that even if you had more time, the looming deployment would keep the conversations much the same. More difficult than the amount of people, is the tone of each encounter. The urgency of each meeting is palpable and you try to turn each moment into a golden one. More often than not, they turn out to be very bronze and sometimes aluminum.

Eventually, the visit comes to a head right around the last day, and nearly all the pretense of normalcy is dropped. Very few people I know or have ever met have a screenwriter who lives in their head that relays to their mouth killer lines to deliver at the perfect moment. Instead, people say exactly what is necessary with as little window dressing as possible. Here’s an example of a final goodbye:

“I love you so much.”

“I love you too. Don’t worry, I’ll email or call as soon as I can.”

“Be safe.”

“Don’t forget to take care of yourself.”

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Every family's got one

International drug smuggler that is- every family has one of those. The New York Times is reporting on the long rumored connection between Karzai's baby brother and heroin.The least we could do is make a go at the silver lining and back the good guy international drug smugglers, Wali Karzai, against the bad guys.

This is neither the first, nor the last, of the comically tragic tales of Afghan corruption. TT's personal favorite involves former Farah province governor, Ezatullah Wasefi, who has spent time in a Nevada state penitentiary for, what else: drugs.

Kimbo gets his Slice

Full disclosure: This post has nothing to do with Afghanistan, advising, the long war, or any of the other heady topics that the site header promises.

As a proud member of America's dwindling non-metrosexual male community, TT Carnahan has a healthy interest in mixed martial arts (MMA) and was looking forward to last night's fight between Kimbo Slice and Ken Shamrock. I'll provide a touch of background here so that even the most disinterested Coldplay fan will be able to follow along.

MMA is dominated by one league, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC. There several other leagues, but none has been as successful as UFC and its president Dana White at recruiting/retaining top talent, building a loyal following, and delivering consistently high quality products. Think American football when the NFL was competing with the AFL. Many point to Dana White's controlling and no-holes barred managerial and business style for this success. One of UFC rival leagues is Elite XC which produced a fight last night that was aired on CBS. The fighters included a washed-up retired UFC champion, Ken Shamrock, and cromagnon beast known as Kimbo Slice whose bloodline can be traced to Grendel that built empire on YouTubed junkyard emergency room festivals.

Here's a compilation of Kimbo putting food on his table. (Fun fact: Kimbo's diet consists of human flesh, salmon, berries, wildebeasts, and the occasional baby stolen from dingoes.)

For the record TT Carnahan is terrified of both Shamrock and Kimbo.

After weigh-in the day before the fight, Ken Shamrock pulls out dramatically, and in John "I won't debate because the country needs me" McCain fashion, pulls out of the fight. Shamrock cites a cut he received in warm-ups. Now, to paraphrase Forrest, Forrest Gump, I'm not a smart man, but I know what bullshit is. Who goes at it so hard during warm-ups that he would be incapacitiated the day before a fight? People that have been paid off by Dana White that's who.

The plot thickens on fight night when a replacement is found for Shamrock in the form of Seth Petruzelli. This stugats shows up with bright pink patches in his hair resembling a Dr. Seuss fruit more than a karate master. This guy knocks out Kimbo so fast, TT didn't have time to figure out how to operate the recliner he was sitting in.

Remember, you heard it here first: Dana White and the UFC were not about to allow Elite XC to challenge their MMA hegemony with a successful fight. Dana pays off both fighters, Shamrock to disgracefully pull out, and Kimbo to take a dive. How can I prove it? Give it a couple of months and see if Kimbo either shows up in the UFC, or starts buying more Bentley's than usual? (How many Bentley's is usual?)

TT Carnahan's good friend, known here as the Hayastani Hercules, is well positioned to comment on the matter as he knows a guy who knows a guy who trained Kimbo. He is not nearly as certain as TT Carnahan as to the sub rosa deal that I've described. His skepticism is partially drawn from his generally optimistic and pleasant outlook on life, but mostly because he simply isn't that bright. Fortunately, the Hayastani Hercules doesn't know that that is his name and may not be able to identify himself. On the other hand, he is one of the six people that reads this blog, so TT Carnahan may have his foot torn off in some impossible pretzel lock by morning.

Either way, dirty fighting is more entertaining then clean fighting (just ask the Taliban), and The Long Warrior now officially subscribes to and propagates conspiracy theories. Stay tuned for coverage of how the US Army is covertly altering the milk of Afghan goat populations with heavy sedatives so that would be mujahideen would rather watch a movie then blow up a girls' elementary school.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hamid "Robert Frost" Karzai

Its been a full week out here so TT Carnahan apologizes for the extended dead air session since his last post. It seems inadvisable to post too often this early in the game, seeing as how a full training week can knock TT on his ass. Perhaps once a week is just right, neither too hot, nor too cold.

So who else caught Afghanistan's president quoting Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening? In an interview by the Washington Post's Lally Weymouth at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Mr. Karzai secured the vote of 10th grade literature teachers across the United States. While I'm pretty sure the poem is about a man delaying the sweet embrace of the grave, I still appreciate the shout out. Karzai has always been a man adept at reading his audience and tailoring the message, so we shouldn't be surprised at his ability to evoke images of horse drawn, Christmas sleighs when discussing the steaming mess that is Afghan politics. The bulk of the interview bore witness to Mr. Karzai's trademark wordsmithing and wishy-washy ultimatums. The ol' 'go after the terrorists in their sanctuaries, not the villages! (Unless of course those villages happen to be sanctuaries' argument had to split air time with my personal favorite 'I'm sure the Pakistanis are giving it the ol' college try. (but you and I both know how those Pakistanis can be.' Not going to comment on it tonight, but while we're on the topic of the Pakistanis, take a look at Afghanistan's Defense Minister's proposal for border security. It briefs well...

Karzai quoted Frost when asked about his the potential for a second 5 year term as pres. Well, is Karzai the man for the job? I'll happily let history decided that one, but I'm personally not ready for a "maverick" in that office and the devil(s) we don't know could make Karzai, warts and all, look the 4-way lovechild of Thomas Jefferson, FDR, JFK, and Reagan. Assuming the elections occur (which we'll save for forthcoming posts) at a time TBD in 2009, and Karzai wins a second term, what will characterize that term? What should? Most observing Afghanistan's factitious politics in even the most cursory glance will acknowledge that "The State" is a rumor and myth for most Afghans. One of Karzai's main second term challenges will be the establishment district and sub-district governance that displays the Afghan government's competence and potency. Much of that will have to do with his ability to delegate authority and move away from the Kabul-centric power structure. Easier said than done. Much more will have to do with the ironic necessity of having more foreign forces on Afghan soil to solidify their sovereignty. More below.

If the government is effectively sent forth into the boonies, what will it be? TT believes that the Army, the Police, Teachers, and Doctors, will continue to be the vanguard of governance, and in that order. To extend their writ, however, more security and something in the ballpark of a monopoly of the use of force is required. Which brings me to the surge.

There's been a flurry of thinking and writing of THE SURGE: PART DEUX in recent weeks (here, here, and most interestingly here). Candidly I support a doubling (at a minimum) of the US presence in Afghanistan. This is vital in TT's opinion if for nor other reason than to provide our currently too-shallow footprint of over-stretched troops the breathing room to actually do their jobs. Whatever breakdown the eventual force increase consists of though, the Advisor effort must be increased by at least 100%. This is increasingly self evident as the Afghan Army's target end state size is increased from ~70,000 to ~140,000.

Note for the taxpayers: For those of you that expect similar Iraq-like short term results from the Afghan surge (whatever it looks like), please take an appetite suppressant. The struggle there is complex beyond an Anderson Cooper 360 special and meaningful progress must be measured in generations, not months.

Additional forces would, for the first time, allow for the Clear, Hold, Build approach to counterinsurgency. The methods, and circumstances, that led to the success of Iraq's surge, are in many cases not present or possible in Afghanistan as a simple result of Her terrain and its ability to swallow up and separate everyone and everything. To do to Afghanistan what has been and is being done to Mesopotamia, we'd need more troops than could possibly be mustered. To conceptualize and enact a viable, long term Afghan policy, our next president will have some incredibly difficult decisions and he will need the very sharpest of military professionals and diplomats to advise him.

Before more troops are even added, some pressing command structure questions should be addressed. This post is growing a bit long and feels like its becoming a bore so I'll save most of this for the later date. Suffice to say, our new CENTCOM CDR, GEN David Petraeus, may want to look at allowing NATO to save face and retire from Afghanistan as we trade in our current Coalition of the Unwilling for one of active participants more akin to the Multi National Force- Iraq model which he last commanded. More on that next time.

On a final note, TT Carnahan had the honor of picking up a leg- casted crutch walker on post this evening who was trying to make his way to a rendezvous point where he would meet his wife after redeploying from a year on an Embedded Training Team in Southern Afghanistan. The reunion was what you'd expect and makes 90% of this worth while. (All the high-speed gear we're issued makes up for the other 10%- read: Gerber tools for everyday of the week!)

Happy Eid!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

On team building and ass sniffing

Fort Riley’s floodplains have been an historic gathering point for two things: tornadoes and hastily assembled American soldiers. These days, FT Riley acts as gathering point for the Army, Navy, and Air Force Advisors (euphemistically known as Transition Teams) that will embed with and "coach, teach, and mentor" the Afghan and Iraqi Security Forces- police, army, and border police. TT Carnahan is one of these Advisors. You can read more about the Fort Riley Training Mission here, here, and here.

The Transition Team training is conducted on a FT Riley cantonment known as Camp Funston. The camp's namesake, Major General "Fightin" Fred Funston, was an early American counterinsurgency hero in the Philippines who captured the Filipino equivalent of Mullah Mohammed Omar. Your favorite satirist, Samuel Clemens, wrote about ol' Fightin' Fred in this essay.

The Camp's infamous history includes its distinction as the incubation site of the Spanish Flu which our doughboys took with them to Europe in WWI thereby bringing the Old World to its knees with our New World diseases. The next chapter in Funston's history included its service as a transition point for the US Army's Correctional Brigade which prepared convicts for the shock of civilian life. That sense of purpose seems to drive many of today’s training policies (read: parking) as it more closely resembles a minimum security prison than anything else. If you find yourself wandering too far from the days training area, be prepared to tie a section of twine to a bush and call out, "still shakin' it boss [sarn't], still shakin it!"

Rather than rehashing what has already been stated about the Advisor mission and its import, I’ll instead refer you to an important speech by Big Bobby Gates and an important proposal by LTC (ret) John Nagl, the godfather of that solidarity symbol you see at the bottom of this blog.

I'll write plenty on the art, intricacy, frustrations, and proud crucible of Advisors but today I'd like to muse on the craft of team building. You meet your team on the very military "DAY ZERO." It’s remarkably similar to sizing up your 3rd grade red rover team that was just randomly assembled by a few impressive looking 4th grade team captains. So, as a team minion you're faced with an important question as you survey the men that you will spend the next year depending on for life, limb, and eyesight: who the f**k are these guys? You start sniffing around your new best friends, hoping that you’ll like the aroma. It starts out innocent enough; you toss out the peacetime version of CHALLENGE/PASSWORD with movie quotes. It could be line from Hot Fuzz, or the always popular Family Guy reference. You sing a bar from Kim Jong Il's, "I'm so ronrey." You wait a few breathless moments for someone to take the bait and from the gaggle you hear a "Goddamn you Arec Bardwin!" Ahhh, this tour might not be so bad after all. 30 seconds later you're in Aggieville trying your hardest to pretend you’re seven years younger as you wear the college scene camouflage of hair gel and sideburns. College girls love high and tights! A couple of pitchers later, you know who's divorced, who's deep, who's loud, who's funny, and who's gotta chip on their shoulder. You're all best friends. Team building complete.

Of course, you’ll quickly realize that while common entertainment tastes are important and team dynamics a possible deal breaker, you can't spend all your time at those sticky-floored saloons. Soon you've migrated back to the real world of training and sober preparation. TT Carnahan, and anyone else who can form a complete sentence, knows that the US endeavor in Afghanistan hangs on a razor's edge. We've lost the war a little more every day since Tora Bora. Now 7 years on, it appears to be spiraling out of control. I'd say, flushed down the toilet, but there is no such thing as a flush loo for the vast majority of Pashtunistan's residents. This handy fact of life preserves the opportunity for us to fish a viable Afghan state out of the slit trench of Talibanization.

Our current sharpening focus may not be too little- too late, but it is certainly a dramatic 4th quarter drive. The precariousness of the situation has not translated to despair. Through his long and very personal familiarity with the Afghan Advisor Mission, TT Carnahan has noted an affinity and muted optimism for our Afghan counterparts and their promise through nearly every former Advisor. Surely the crippling corruption and deficit of nationalism, in all its forms, provides "challenges," but as Fletch and many others have reminded me, "this was the best job I've ever, or will ever have."

Ta-daa! Kip, here it is, off and running.

Crossing [blog] LD, time now

Many months have passed since activating this blog, and they have passed silently. Like many American soldiers in the intervening time between deployments, I simply had better things to do. The Long War is a constant, looming presence over our military and serves as a constant reminder that a man's time is short. If you've ever wanted to see someone attempt to live a lifetime in a minute, take note of the way a service member passes their time at home. Your world become micro and time spent with loved ones is sacred. As such using your "dwell time" for anything other than building, repairing, and constantly strengthening the bonds of family is sacrilege.

I am now entering the final stages of deployment preparation as a geo bachelor and am able to focus on the tour rather than the blissful comforts of family.

I'll make no promises to readers other than my commitment to OPSEC (operational security, i.e. non-specificity). This forum is not a sounding board for some ill conceived and premature memoir, nor is it a mound from which I would beat my chest and advertise inflated accomplishments. Instead this is a place where family, friends, and the casual internet surfer can check in on life as an Advisor of Afghans.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Training Wheels

While the first, this is by no means THE LONG WARRIOR's inaugural posting. As a blogger, T.T. Carnahan lacks comfort in and concept of his new medium and feels much like a dog trying to stand up in the back of moving station wagon.

We'll keep this first entry short by applying the tried and true maxim: "I'm up. He sees me. I'm down." Think Kilroy. Let's fool around with the background, monkey with the font, and maybe add a picture or two before we begin the long rich conversation that will be THE LONG WARRIOR.