While we were occupied in Zaranj our esteemed Secretary of State declared we were switching tactics. The new tactic will be “Fight, Talk, Build” and if you have no idea what those words could possibly mean welcome to the club. “Fight, Hold, Build” I could understand, but the Fight, Talk part – that is a little hard to believe. It’s not like we haven’t been talking to the Pakistan Government, The ISI, President Karzai, The Afghanistan Government, The Taliban; Impostors of Taliban etc.. for years. Maybe its just me but it seems that the talking has not gotten us very far . And now even the New York Times has caught up to Baba Tim on its opinion page wondering if maybe Pakistan might sort of maybe not be our friend after all.
And the optimism in my last post? Apparently misplaced; we are not reinforcing troops on the border but instead we are withdrawing them and turning the border forts over to the Afghans. Then there is this unfortunate topic; the firing of MajGen Peter Fuller for having the audacity to tell the truth about President Karzai and the Afghan government. General Allen had this to say about the firing:
“These unfortunate comments and neither indicative of our current solid relationship with the government of Afghanistan, its leadership, or our joint commitment to prevail here in Afghanistan,” Allen declared in an official statement.
“The Afghans are an honorable people. Comments such as these (by Gen. Fuller), will not keep us from accomplishing our most critical and shared mission – bringing about a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.”
The Afghans are an honorable people but that has nothing to do with what Gen. Fuller said. What about the scandal of wounded Afghan soldiers, unable to bribe nurses at the Afghan Military Hospital in Kabul for food, being allowed to starve to death. One could ask why the general in charge of that debacle hasn’t been fired? The American Army funds the place, built it, equipped it and are supposed to be “mentoring” their Afghan counterparts there. Patients are starving to death in a military hospital we built and equipped and help run and that’s just the cost of doing business and therefore OK but negative comments about the Karzai regime from an American general are a problem?
Why spend another moment on these dreary topics when better material is at hand. The closing of the Zaranj City Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project was completed with the opening of their brand new sports complex. We built this along with a bunch of other infrastructure for the municipal authorities for (in the big scheme of USAID things) peanuts.
After a few fighting demonstrations Governor Barahwi stood; said a few words to the assembled teams and was off. We were right behind him and I have to admit it was a bittersweet afternoon. Saying my goodbyes to all the elders and officials who worked with and supported us over the years was tough. We were pulling out and nothing is coming in behind us. As I said in my last post these people are now on their own but late that evening some of them dropped off a gift.
The beer felt like it just came out of a pizza oven is was so hot so we threw it into the two freezers we have up on the second deck and waited for an hour. But it turned out we were on city power which isn’t strong enough to run the freezers so now the beer had brought everything in them to room temperature. I went downstairs and tell the night guards to turn on the big generator so we can run the freezers. They said no because they can only run the big generator for eight hours a day and are not supposed to turn it on for another three hours. I ask who told them that and they said “you did”. I explained that we have a case of beer but can’t get it cold and it was an emergency. They knew that and said they were not turning on the generator. I threatened to shoot them but they laughed at me and countered with a request for two beers each before turning on the generator. I smiled the wolf smile and threatened to call Zabi down because his Dad is the senior Mullah for the Province and no fan of demon rum. They balked and turned on the big gen but I gave them each a beer anyway just for being good sports.
We started drinking them down warm; the last few were chilled but this was typical – nothing and I mean nothing is easy in this country, yet somehow things always work out. The parting gift was a considerate gesture – we’re going miss our friends in Zaranj.