Sunday, January 27, 2013

Teenagers, Ugh

I have blogged fairly recently about what I think will happen to Afghanistan after 2014 when most, if not all, international forces leave the country. But what do ordinary Afghans think? It's easy to sit up here at ISAF Joint Command and make assessements, it's the Afghans who actually have to face the current and future situation.

Luckily, the LA Times has provided everyone with an article interviewing average Afghans and asked them their view of the future...and by average I mean teenagers and 20-somethings who live a sheltered life in a gated section of Kabul. I had no idea a neighborhood like that existed. It's good to get their perspective but I take most of what they have to say with a grain of salt, especially when they say things like:
Tooba doesn't worry about what her life might look like after the departure of most U.S. and allied foreign troops next year.
"It will be the same," she says, nibbling a date. "This is a dangerous place for Americans, but not for Afghans."
And I thought I was out of touch up here at the IJC. I highly doubt rural Afghans who have daily dealings with the Taliban and other insurgents would agree with 16-year-old Tooba. Here's another gem:
"There are many modern men here in Afghanistan," Hazhir says, "so I don't think the war will begin again."

His friend Abdullah Hakimi, also 17, nods. "The Taliban just come with big turbans and long beards," he says between bites. "I think they look funny.… They are not as strong as people think."
These two are so out of touch I kind of feel sorry for them. Although I'm pretty sure I was a similar know-it-all-asshole when I was 17. I'm glad teenagers in Afghanistan are just as teentarded as teenagers in the States are (teen-tarded? I wish I could take credit for coming up with that word).

I prefer the attitude of the individual in the third part of the article. A 23-year-old shop owner whose family never left Afghanistan during the civil war and Taliban rule of the 90's. His cynical humor makes me smile and he's not completely naive about the future.

The ambition and dreams of the youths who were interviewed is to be admired. I feel for them and truely hope they are the future of Afghanistan. However, I believe many of them are in for a rude awakening come 2014 and beyond.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

No Food = Revolution?

My Swedish Fish supplier emailed me this article by Matthew Lynn about how rising food prices may be a cause for revolutions in 2013. It's an interesting article that points out many regimes have fallen in the past due to food shortages and the rise of prices that accompany those shortages. Lynn points to Algeria, Greece, and possibly Russia and China as potential hotspots for revolutions this year.

While I agree with Mr. Lynn that food shortages/prices can certainly be one factor in a revolution (insurrections in Ethiopia during the 80s comes to mind), and I agree that it can be a spark leading to a revolution, but I do not believe high food prices or food scarcity is the primary cause of a revolution. In fact, I find one statement by the author as, well not wrong, but certainly not entirely factual as it ignores multiple other factors at play:
...a shortage of food and soaring prices led to strikes in Petrograd in 1917 — and sparked the Russian Revolution.  
I would argue the war with Germany, which was going poorly, and a strained economy were more of a factor in the Russian Revolution than food shortages in Petrograd...but I'm sure one could link everything together.

Revolutions in Russia and China this year seem highly unlikely since both those countries currently have regimes that are quick to subdue any potential revolts. Algeria is a possibility, but only because of Al Qaida In the Islamic Maghreb and Al Qaida linked elements currently operating in the region. I could see an argument that food shortages could cause an increasing amount of the population to side with AQIM and friends thus leading to a revolution but that's a stretch in my opinion.

Then there's Greece. I will admit I know little of the causes of the current problems facing Greece other than they are economic in nature but if revolution does occur, it will occur because of a tanked prices being only one part of that.

Mr. Lynn does have one statement in his article where he points out "there are other factors at play", but then wouldn't other factors be "at play" to prevent a revolt despite high food prices? If food prices really caused revolutions than why wasn't there any kind of violent revolution in Zimbabwe between 1999 and 2000, a time period of forced land redistribution and droughts caused food shortages and hyperinflation?

In any regard, it's an interesting article and a reminder that people don't just up and storm the streets over nothing.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mali and Sudan Update

Saddle up folks, it appears that the battle to re-take northern Mali from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, and Ansar Dine has begun.

A few days ago, soldiers from the above organizations moved south and captured the Malian town of Konna. This finally provoked a response from the West and French troops are now openly conducting attacks in support of Mali. French aircraft have apparently blocked the assault of the jihadist forces and could potentially enable a counterattack by Malian forces.

So far, the United States has only offered UAVs to support the operation against AQIM and friends but as this conflict drags on...and it likely will...I wouldn't be suprised to learn that the US sends more than just some drones.

In the meantime, Al Qaida appears to be expanding its influence in Sudan (Al Qaeda in the Land of the Two Niles? Are you kidding me?).

A global game of whack-a-mole? This should keep me employed for a few years.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

UPDATE: My Afghan Legacy?

I've been occassionally curious about military naming conventions when it comes to operational or objective names. For example, who came up with the name Operation Overlord (Allied invasion of Normandy)? Or Market Garden? Or Sea Lion (planned German invasion of England)? Was there a specific alphabetic naming convention or was it just some words someone came up with?

Stars and Stripes (actually shocked I found this article) had a brief article about coming up with operation names in 2007. The imbedded reporter did an interview with the two planners in one of the infantry battalions of 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. The battalion was the "Polar Bears" so their naming convention always had "Polar" at the beginning. Must have been a slow news day.

My brigade, 3-2 SBCT, had a similar way of naming operations in '06/07. Since we were the Arrowhead Brigade all operations started with "Arrowhead"; the second part of the name was an operational name from 2nd Infantry Divisions exploits in WW1 and WW2. They didn't always make sense like when Comedy Central's Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" mocked 3-2 SBCT's name for the operation in Baqubah...Operation Arrowhead Ripper (Arrowhead ripper? What does that even mean? Are we fighting the terrorists with nonsense words?).

When naming operations and objectives in '09/10 the planners were given limited guidance by the Squadron Commander...nothing offensive or animals that could be considered offensive. Not only did he not want us unintentionally offending our Iraqi security counterparts, but he didn't exactly want to write a letter to a mother stating that her son died on Objective Pukeface during Operation Dog Fart. The squadron planners would eventually adopt Washington state counties and towns for our naming convention or would just adopt what higher headquarters had named the larger overall operation/objective, i.e., Operation Arrowhead Pursuit would become Operation Warhorse Pursuit. Later on, our Squadron XO would tell us to channel our inner 5 year old and if an operation or objective name made us giggle...don't use it.

So what does this have to do with anything?

The fools here at ISAF Joint Command have allowed me to name certain objectives. Having seen some of the other objective names I have come to the conclusion that there is no standard to the naming convention and have taken the liberty of ignoring all previous advice from my former Squadron commander and XO. If it makes me giggle, it's an objective name. I have found a way to make my mark on this war.

Some time in the future, when someone is briefing a general about Objective Fuzzy Jackal, my inner 5 year old will be giggling madly. Professionalism? The hell is professionalism?

UPDATE: My inner 5 year old did indeed giggle madly while Fuzzy Jackal was briefed.