One of the advantages of working outside the wire is the ability to travel. Internationals can move freely through most of Afghanistan without taking elaborate or expensive security measures. It is always a good idea to be armed due to the extent of armed criminality which plagues the land. One reason that internationals are rarely targeted by criminals is the universal belief among Afghans that we are all armed and capable with those arms. That is not always true but it is the conventional wisdom.
My oldest daughter Megan came over last summer and worked for us when we had a few bomb and drug dog contracts. She is an excellent dog handler/trainer and like her father thrives on travel and adventure. Here she is with her friend Sarah, formerly of the Australian Army and at the time the Kabul coordinator for ANSO (Afghan NGO Safety Office.)
The picture above was taken in the Panjshir Valley where the girls had gone to visit with the families of Sarah’s driver and her interpreter. This was not considered by myself or any of my colleagues to be unusually risky. My daughter is very capable with a sidearm after taking multiple four day handgun courses at Front Sight in Las Vegas when I was on the staff there. Sarah has a few years of experience and is very capable too but the reason they were perfectly safe on this trip is the Afghan people.
One of the facts of life on the ground here which has not translated well in the media coverage is the acceptance of internationals by vast majorities of the Afghan people. Without their active support the various international organizations involved in the reconstruction fight could not stay here or operate. Afghanistan is a poor country with little infrastructure, a spotty track record of central government control, and no ability to extract the valuable natural resources (which are considerable) that have been identified to date. The people have little and expect little which is why they respond so positively to internationals who have come to help them. This includes the international military. There are few places in this country happier than an isolated village who just had a platoon of Americans roll in with plans to stay for awhile.
The more the average Afghans interact with internationals and specifically the international military, the more they like us. We have tens of thousands of troops deployed here but a vast majority spend their entire tour behind the wire on gigantic military bases. These bases are called FOB’s (forward operating base) but when there are restaurants, American and Canadian fast food stands, coffee shops, gigantic bazaars and massage parlors it is hard to think of a base as being forward or operating. The words rear and supporting are better descriptors.
We cannot continue to rely on technology to solve tactical problems. When you do that you end up with the MRAP a vehicle so tall it will rip out the electrical wires from every street it drives down if it moves off a main road into a village or town. It is also so heavy it cannot maneuver well on the local dirt roads, or cross local bridges, or climb the many mountain passes in Afghanistan.
Yes it will protect the troops inside from most of the mines and IED’s used by the AOG but as a student of history I know it is easier and cheaper to defeat new technology then to develop it. The AOG will develop IED’s big enough to defeat this improved armor. All the players in the game know that.
There will be additional posts covering the north, south, east and west of Afghanistan. They include lots of pictures which I hope all enjoy. Many of the places pictured are no longer safe for internationals. It will be decades before another westerner is able to photograph them again. We are losing terrain to the bad guys and with the terrain go the people. In a counter insurgency fight the people are the center of gravity, we cannot allow this current trend of ceding terrain to the Taliban to continue or we will lose. It is that simple.