6 years, 11 months ago
We have watched the ANA engage in drug abuse, smoke hashish before patrols, collude with Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops, themselves claim that they cannot hold Helmand without Marines and fear being killed if they even go out into the streets, be relatively ineffective against Taliban fighters, sleep on their watch, and claim to be on vacation in the Helmand Province.
This video is of immeasurable value.
C. J. Chivers updates us with a view to the ANA’s tactical capabilities (or even basic soldiering abilities). They don’t aim their weapons. They point them. The ANA is not even capable enough to be considered the first line of defense against the insurgency. Across Afghanistan, being in the Afghan National Police is considered to be more dangerous than being in the ANA.
Now to water polo.
Afghanistan may be landlocked, and pools may be scarce, but soldiers with the Afghan National Army aren’t letting these minor obstacles put a damper on their Olympic water polo dreams.
Under the Marine Corps’ tutelage, these soldiers are training at the ANA’s Camp Shorabak in Helmand province. The ultimate goal is to secure an Afghan team for the 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro. For most, if not all, the training has been their first experience in a pool.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremy Piasecki, a reservist with Marine Corps Forces Command, says leading Afghanistan’s water polo program is a unique way to further the counterinsurgency mission.
“The great things that the athletes will learn out of this program are hard work, dedication, leadership, camaraderie … ” Piasecki said. “In addition … it further builds bridges and trust between coalition forces and the Afghan people.”
Piasecki, a youth water polo coach in the U.S. since 2004, was tapped by the Afghanistan Olympic committee in 2008 around the time Afghanistan secured its first Olympic champion, Rohullah Nikpai, who won bronze in a taekwondo event in Beijing. With Afghanistan wanting more medal opportunities, water polo was named a national sport, Piasecki said, and he formed the country’s national water polo team in August 2008.
The Shorabak team, Helmand province’s first, only recently formed. The base, located minutes from the Corps’ Camp Leatherneck, was ideal because it actually had a pool.
Unfortunately, the water is untreated and nonpotable — one reason you may not see Marines in the pool.
Though his tour downrange is now done, Piasecki plans to continue coaching. He already operates a California-based nonprofit called “Afghanistan Water Polo” and has a website. He hopes to fund a trip for the Afghan athletes to train in the U.S.
Now to be sure, I am on one side of the counterinsurgency equation with Colonel Gian Gentile (holding that the population isn’t necessarily the center of gravity of a counterinsurgency campaign), and folks like Andrew Exum are on the other. But this is a different order of magnitude entirely.
Has our cheese slid off of our cracker? We now have U.S. Marine Corps NCOs extolling the virtues of water polo to the practice of counterinsurgency. Do you think that maybe we have overdone it just a little? Perhaps learning to fire a weapon and standing duty would be a better use of their time.
Or perhaps not, depending upon what these soldiers are like. But why do we have U.S. Marine Corps NCOs busying themselves with this? Where is the State Department or some other part of the U.S. government that can apply the soft side of COIN? Or perhaps the State Department doesn’t believe in the mission.