2 years, 12 months ago
We recently discussed one officer lamenting the tactic of wearing body armor and carrying grenades on patrol. Presumably, he wants to jettison those tactical advantages when confronted by Taliban insurgents, though not even the mayor of Kandahar feels safe from insurgent violence. Now comes the latest in fine thinking concerning the campaign.
MARAWARA DISTRICT, Afghanistan – After nine years of reconstruction efforts that have cost billions of dollars, U.S. military and civilian experts are trying a different strategy in this remote corner of eastern Afghanistan: doing more by doing less.
“We’ve been like Santa Claus, going through money, whatever you need,” said Navy Cmdr. William B. Goss, who commands the 100-person reconstruction team at Forward Operating Base Wright, near the Kunar provincial capital of Asadabad.
The funding for U.S. projects wasn’t always steady, nor was the oversight, and the planning was often criticized. Now there’s a change of focus.
Goss and his contingent, who arrived here in late October, still oversee the construction of desperately needed infrastructure and promote the role of women in this deeply conservative region, but the focus is on tutoring local officials.
Development projects now are running on Afghan, rather than American, schedules, even if it takes longer to build a road or school. Fewer projects are started, and only those with the prospect of continuing after foreign troops leave.
This is a real makeover: U.S. troops here have even stopped handing out candy and pens to the young boys who gather whenever they leave the base.
Kunar is a test ground for Vice President Joe Biden’s declaration last month that it’s time for the United States “to start to take the training wheels off” in Afghanistan.
Whether the strategy succeeds in Kunar and elsewhere in Afghanistan will determine – along with combat operations – whether the United States leaves behind even a minimally stable country.
Biden’s philosophy was on display in November when Goss and his team visited the U.S.-funded Lahore Dag Middle School to inspect the moss green and white structure, which opened in late October to 206 students.
Headmaster Faiz Mohammed was happy with his clean, new 14-room school. The electricity and plumbing worked as promised. His students no longer would have to study in tents or outdoors under trees. But Mohammed was hoping for a little more American largesse.
“If it’s possible … to receive any stationery?” he asked. The answer was a polite “no.”
Whether jettisoning our body armor or withholding pens and stationary, there you have it. The Captain’s Journal. Keeping you apprised of the best that American strategic minds has to offer. We’re in the very best of hands.