Tera Dahl has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan for the American Red Cross. She will soon be heading back to Afghanistan to report on military-civilian operations for BLACKFIVE. This piece is based on her experience with trying to improve the quality of life in both countries.
The current strategy of building a central government in Afghanistan is only part of the solution. The other half is building the rural areas of Afghanistan and investing in the local villagers. We need to shift our focus from the central government and start giving the people a better quality of life.
The technique of building the central government by giving money directly to Afghan leaders has allowed these officials to benefit mostly themselves. One could say the majority of Afghan officials have misused the funds that the U.S. has been directly giving to them. Instead of investing that money, they are taking that money and using it towards their own personal gain.
When the villages are asked about the projects and money that was intended for them, they have not seen any of the money or benefits of it. This is the wrong way to go about building the trust of the Afghan people. The Afghan people do not trust the central government, nor do they have a reason to. Because of this, we must change our tactics and start empowering the local villagers to defend and protect their own villages.
An example of this is being done by the Marines in Afghanistan. The Marines live with the villagers and work alongside them and this has proven to be successful. They share the sacrifice and danger with the villagers and thus gain their trust.
What we should be doing is giving the money directly to the villagers. By giving the money directly to the Afghan government officials, we are creating a welfare state mentality. This is contrary to our American core values. We are a capitalist country and our success has come because we were taught not to be dependent on the government but individual responsibility. This should also be our foreign policy. We do not want to create a society where the people think the government needs to take care of them. The Afghan people are not concerned about the central government, they care about if they have enough food to feed their family. Many Afghans do not know that there is a central government in Kabul; they do not know what happens outside of their village. They care about whether or not they can eat tomorrow.
That is why the Special Ops and the Marines do so well; they deal with the villagers directly and not the government. The Special Ops program creates a neighborhood watch system that empowers the villagers to protect and take care of their village. We need to start going directly to the elders of the villagers and not the government officials. The government officials are the middle man. Instead of using a top down strategy, we need to implement a bottom up strategy. It is the local villagers who we need to start building up and paying them to watch the area around their villages so they are the ones protecting their families and village. One story I heard from a soldier in Afghanistan was how their unit in Iraq would ask the villagers to each take a section of the road that went through their village and watch for any foreigner that would come in and plant an IED on the road. Americans would reward them for reporting it or would arm them to take care of the situation themselves. This tactic worked.
In 2001, in the initial invasion of Afghanistan and in less than three months, a team of 100 CIA, 350 Special Forces soldiers, and 15,000 Afghans were able to defeat 50,000-60,000 Taliban members. This is remarkable and shows the incredible abilities of our service members and also how the war can be won. Afghanistan is a little smaller than the size of Texas, although the saying goes “everything is bigger in Texas”, but when you think of all of NATO being in Texas, Texas is not that big. It's not the size of the footprint, it is where those feet are. They need to be out with the Afghan people.
Former Paratrooper and Army Officer, "Blackfive" started this blog upon learning of the valorous sacrifice of a friend that was not reported by the journalist whose life he saved. Email: blackfive AT gmail DOT com
Retired Special Operations Master Sergeant, Jim Hanson ("Uncle Jimbo") is now focused on writing about the military, politics, intelligence operations and foreign policy. Email: jimbo AT unclejimbo DOT com
Writer, photographer, and raconteur C. Blake Powers is the Laughing Wolf. He is independent in politics and covers topics including journalism, military, weapons, preparedness, space, science, cooking, food and wine, product and book reviews, and even spirituality. Email: wolf1 AT laughingwolf DOT net Laughing Wolf's Amazon Wish List
Bill Paisley, otherwise known as Pinch, is a 22 year (ongoing) active and
reserve naval aviator. He blogs over at www.instapinch.com on a veritable
cornucopia of various and sundry items and will bring a tactical naval
aviator's perspective to Blackfive. Readers be warned: any comments of or
about the F-14 Tomcat will be reverential and spoken in low, hushed tones.
Email: wpaisley AT comcast DOT net
Mr. Wolf has over 26 years in the Army, Army NG, and USAR. He’s Airborne with 5 years as an NCO, before becoming an officer. Mr. Wolf has had 4 company commands. Signal Corp is his basic branch, and Public Affairs is his functional area. He recently served 22 straight months in Kuwait and Iraq, in Intel, PA, and senior staff of MNF-I. Mr. Wolf is now an IT executive. He is currently working on a book on media and the Iraq war. Functional gearhead.
In Iraq, he received the moniker of Mr. Wolf after the Harvey Kietel character in Pulp Fiction, when "challenges" arose, they called on Mr. Wolf...
Email: TheDOTMrDOTWolfAT gmail DOT com
Deebow is a Staff Sergeant and a Military Police Squad Leader in the Army National Guard. In a previous life, he served in the US Navy. He has over 19 years of experience in both the Maritime and Land Warfare; including deployments to Southwest Asia, Thailand, the South Pacific, South America and Egypt. He has served as a Military Police Team Leader and Protective Services Team Leader and he has served on assignments with the US State Department, US Air Force Security Police, US Army Criminal Investigation Division, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. He recently spent time in Afghanistan working with, training and fighting alongside Afghan Soldiers and is now focused on putting his 4 year Political Science degree to work by writing about foreign policy, military security policy and politics.
McQ has 28 years active and reserve service. Retired. Infantry officer. Airborne and Ranger. Consider my 3 years with the 82nd as the most fun I ever had with my clothes on. Interests include military issues and policy and veteran's affairs.
Email: mcq51 -at - bellsouth -dot- net
Tantor is a former USAF navigator/weapon system officer (WSO) in F-4E Phantoms who served in the US, Asia, and Europe. He is now a curmudgeonly computer geek in Washington, DC, picking the taxpayers pocket. His avocations are current events, aviation, history, and conservative politics.
Twenty-three years of Active and Reserve service in the US Army in SF (18B), Infantry and SOF Signal jobs with operational deployments to Bosnia and Africa. Since retiring he's worked as Senior Defense Analyst on SOF and Irregular Warfare projects and currently ensconced in the emerging world of Cyberspace.
Major Pain --
A Marine who began his blog in Iraq and reflects back on what he learned there and in Afghanistan. To the point opinions, ideas and thoughts on military, political and the media from One Marine’s View. Email: onemarinesview AT yahoo DOT com
Uber Pig was an Infantryman from late 1991 until early 1996, serving with Second Ranger Battalion, I Corps, and then 25th Infantry Division. At the time, the Army discriminated against enlisted soldiers who wanted use the "Green to Gold" program to become officers, so he left to attend Stanford University. There, he became expert in detecting, avoiding, and surviving L-shaped ambushes, before dropping out to be as entrepreneurial as he could be. He is now the founder of a software startup serving the insurance and construction industries, and splits time between Lake Tahoe, Boonville, and San Francisco, CA.
Uber Pig writes for Blackfive a) because he's the proud brother of an enlisted Civil Affairs Reservist who currently serves in Iraq, b) because he looks unkindly on people who make it harder for the military in general, and for his brother in particular, to succeed at their missions and come home in victory, and c) because the Blackfive readers and commenters help keep him sane.
COB6 spent 24 years in the active duty Army that included 5 combat tours with service in the 1st Ranger Battalion and 1st Special Forces Group . COB6 was enlisted (E-7) and took the OCS route to a commission. COB6 retired a few years back as a field grade Infantry officer.
Currently COB6 has a son in the 82nd Airborne that just returned from his third tour and has a newly commissioned daughter in the 4th Infantry Division.