Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rewards In A Rural Society

Let's say you're at the post office, or grocery store, or wherever and you happen to notice a wanted poster offering a reward for an individual. You happen to recognize the individual as one of your neighbors, fellow Crossfit gym cultist, or just someone you see walking their dog every day. Being the good citizen that you are you inform the police and they arrest the wanted individual. What would you expect the reward to be?

Most people in Western society would probably say money, a new car, or season tickets to your favorite sports team. A few of you may want a life time supply of Twinkies but if you're turning people in for Twinkies you've got other issues.

But what about people in Afghanistan? What sort of reward should be offered to those people willing to turn in their neighbor/villager/own tribal member?

After 12 or so years of this war apparently we up here at IJC believe it's money.

We up here at IJC are a bunch of idiots.

That rural villager living in some valley doesn't want money. Give him $10,000 for pointing out the location of a wanted individual and you just painted a giant bulls-eye on the guy. What is he going to do with $10,000 (or the Afghan equivalent) anyway? A better reward would be livestock. Give an informer 20 sheep, goats, or whatever the hell he wants and he's a lot better off. The sudden appearance of a bunch of goats is also easier to explain than 10 grand.

"Hey Abdul, where'd you get all that American money from?"

"Uh...my cousin sent it to me?"

"Yeah right." *shoots Abdul*

Better situation...

"Hey Abdul, where'd you get all those goats?"

"Uh...my cousin got them for me as dowry/loan payment/opium harvest."

"That makes complete sense and I totally believe you." *does not shoot Abdul*

The problem is that being a giant bureaucracy, IJC can't handle anything like switching around reward systems. If we're offering $10,000 then by golly we're going to give $10,000. Nevermind the fact that giving away large amounts of cash like that doesn't usually make sense.

I hope the lower echelons have more common sense than we do up here above reality.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Next Time Please Wait Until I'm Already At Work

Well I had a hell of a morning. In case you haven't been keeping up on Afghan current events, there was a wee bit of violence against my base. You can read about it here and here. Long story short, a bunch of insurgents...sorry, Enemies of Afghanistan...occupied a building next to the Kabul Airport/the-base-I-live-and-work-at and proceeded to attack.

At 4:30 in the damn morning.

It was rather irritating and I was rather annoyed.

I woke up to the sound of RPGs and machine gun fire. It sounded close but what was I going to do? I rolled over and tried to sleep through it. The fighting got louder and more intense. My tentmates began to wake up and ask eachother what was going on. Then the "Big Voice" went off warning of a ground attack. I figured there was no chance of me sleeping through this.

I got up and wandered over to the entrance of the tent. There were others milling around outside and the sound of RPG fire and machine guns was quite clear. I made the decision to get dressed, no way am I going through an attack on my base in my pajamas. That's just unprofessional.

I also decided to put on clean underwear. If I'm going to die, it's going to be with clean underwear on. Pretty sure I was taught that lesson by Calvin and Hobbes.

A group of us were hanging around outside the tent when we encountered the surreal moment of seeing a woman in her late 60s wearing a bathrobe and body armor; got to love contractors, we come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Eventually, the soldier in charge of our living area shoo'ed us to the bunkers. I haven't cowered in a bunker since '04, I'm not about to cower in one now. I stood defiantely outside the concrete protection. Shit continued to explode in the distance. A woman clung tightly to her M4 rifle.

Old Russian helicopters that the Afghan Air Force uses showed up about an hour after the attack began and circled over where the fighting was occuring. Some Blackhawks arrived a bit after that. The "Big Voice" continued its announcement that the base was on lockdown and everyone should stay where we were. People stood around checking the internet on their smartphones for any news they could find.

The noise eventually began to die down. However, every time I thought it was over an RPG would go off and the fighting would start all over again. In my head I knew that every random RPG launch would mean another hour or two of me sitting by the damn bunker.

I retrieved a book from my tent. If I'm going to be stuck sitting around while an attack is occuring I could at least do something productive.

By 7:30 I decided I'd had enough and went back into my tent and fell asleep. "Big Voice" announced around an hour later "All Clear".

Damnit, can't even miss work now. Inconsiderate bastards.

Final report: 7 dead insurgents, 0 Afghan Security Force casualties, 0 ISAF casualties. Worst insurgents ever.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Changing the Name Does Nothing!

Time to pack the bags and get the vehicle convoys ready to go, there are no more insurgents in Afghanistan.

You read that right. There are no insurgents in Afghanistan. At least according to ISAF.

We are now fighting "enemies of Afghanistan" or EoA's for short. Yep, another damn acronym.

Somebody had the bright idea that we should change our terminology to be more in line with what the Afghans use, or something like that. Having faced many name changes in Iraq I should have seen this coming. I guess I was just hoping that after over a decade of being in the country we'd have our terms sorted out by now.

People just need more bullets for their evaluations though. Working at an echelon above reality continues to amuse me daily.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

This Is Either Legit Or I Really Am An Asshole

The more I deploy, and the longer I stay in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the more I find myself increasingly distant in understanding my friends. This is a bit challenging to convey without coming off like a complete asshole but essentially whenever I read on Facebook about some tiny gripe one of my friends has I just want to scream, "THAT IS SO DAMN PETTY!"

Example: the other week I got a message from one of my friends stating she felt really bad because she was missing another mutual friend's birthday party. She was missing this party because she was obligated to go to another party. There I sat wondering if she had any clue that I work 12+ hour days, every day, and have absolutely no social life. Invited to 2 parties on the same day but can't make both? Great, I'm in the middle of trying to get somebody killed with a hellfire missile, but I suppose your social life is worth complaining to me about.

Here's another one that irked me: an acquaintance of mine had a status update stating she had jury duty and was looking for a way of getting out of it. I nearly commented but felt anything I would have said would have come off as bitter and made me out to be a jerk, so I refrained. The US asks very little of its citizens. Pay your taxes, follow the laws, and if you register to vote you may just end up selected for jury duty. I get it, jury duty interferes with work and your life but from the perspective of someone who has gone to war zones 4 times in support of his country it comes off as pathetic to try to avoid jury duty.

Teachers. Yes you are underpaid, the job is difficult, and there doesn't ever seem to be enough time to get everything done. Guess what, you don't have a monopoly on lack of time. Many people need more time professionally and many jobs are difficult. We all chose our career paths and you knew what you were getting into.

It's this lack of understanding of people that is leading me to consider extending my time here. Not like I really have anything back in the States to go home to anyway.

Rant over. I'm going to go back to watching one of my targets stand in an open field and wonder why he isn't dead yet.