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Common Scenes & Common Thoughts

A helicopter roars into FOB Jackson in Sangin, Afghanistan. Medical tents are just next to the Helicopter Landing Site (HLS) so casualties can be quickly loaded.

Typical market and motorcycles.

The scandal!  Music and videos hint that Mullah Omar’s influence has waned here.

Haircuts for sale.

More haircuts.

ANP post in Sangin.

The Gurkhas seem polite with the police but they don’t trust the ANP.  They say the ANP are corrupt and infiltrated.  One Gurkha told a story about an ANP who shot to death seven other police while they were sleeping, and then ran away.

Whatever the truth of this story, it did not happen in Sangin.  Nevertheless, U.S. troops have been killed by Afghan security forces.  Captain Toby Woodbridge said patrols with ANP create safer conditions for British soldiers.   As a third-party observer, I would agree with the assessment; ANP presence ultimately increases our security.  One goal, in any case, is that the ANP or ANA do all patrols without us.  Nothing here can be considered friendly.  However—again—the British give accolades to Afghan soldiers in Sangin, and to the progress of ANP.  “The progress in Sangin is genuine,” according to Captain Woodbridge.

There is no roof over our head because, according to the Gurkhas, the ANP stacked too many sandbags on the roof and it collapsed, nearly killing two policemen.  “Sandbag mistakes” have occurred among our own troops.  Cave-in’s occurred in Iraq, for instance.  In one case, an individual stacked sandbags on his roof, which caved in, caused an electrical fire and killed him.

Was this sign was posted for people in Washington, or for people in London?  If people like Robert Gates and David Petraeus were not running top-cover, I’d agree that it’s never too late to learn, and that it’s time to go home and let cavemen be cavemen.  But people like Secretary Gates and General Petraeus think we create some sort of success here, and I do, too, but only with sincere, strategic intergenerational commitment.  Ten years more will not do it.  Twenty years will not be enough.  A century is more realistic.  Knock on wood that Stanley McChrystal can pull a rabbit out of his hat during his command, and buy time for progress.

Corporal Chitra Thapa from Baglung, western Nepal, led the patrol. Chitra is with 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles (1 RGR). For years now, I’ve asked Gurkhas why they don’t join the U.S. military. But the Gurkhas like to keep their own units and so are not apt to split off alone. They respect the U.S. military, but unfortunately will not join. Some people call them “mercenaries,” but Gurkhas don’t fit that definition in my book. If Gurkhas were true mercenaries, they might join any band that would pay. But they regularly join the relatively poorly paid Indian Army and don’t join the U.S. military despite the incredible benefits and their positive views of America. Gurkhas are not “mercenaries” as we use the term, but professional soldiers who don’t seem to like going to war. But when they do…watch out.

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