Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Train, Advise, Assist, Accompany, and Enable (TA3E) Mission Update

Photo - A member of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) takes part in a training exercise at Fort Benning, Georgia in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan. (Photo by SPC Noelle E. Wiehe, 50th Public Affairs Detachment, October 23, 2017).

'Guardian Angels' from Australia. A member of the Royal Australian Regiment describes his job protecting advisors for the Afghan Air Force (AAF) in a post by the Australian Department of Defense, November 22, 2017.

Mentors at 'Sandhurst'. The ANA Officer Academy (ANA-)A) is located just outside Kabul. A British Army officer describes his job in this one-minute long video entitled "Mentoring at the Afghan Officers Academy", Resolute Support, November 24, 2017.

Bacha Bazi. Two reports were completed in 2017 about the sexual exploitation of young boys by officers of the Afghan police and army by two investigative services of the U.S. government. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) completed one in mid-2017 but the Defense Department 'classified' the report. The Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG) also conducted an investigation and published its report - this one unclassified. The Washington Post reports that the DoD IG's report was a watered-down version of the SIGAR report and less damaging to the Dod. Bacha Bazi - 'playing with boys' - is a fact of life in Afghanistan and more common than some realize. U.S. advisors with Afghan police and army units - especially at the lower levels of command - were confronted with the practice of Bachi Bazi - and put into a dilemma of how to navigate through the situation.

"Pentagon tried to block independent report on child sex among Afghan forces, Senate office says", The Washington Post, November 26, 2017.

Implementation of the DoD Leahy Law Regarding Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse by Members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, DoD IG, November 16, 2017.

TAAC-Air Trains Up Afghan UH-60 Pilots. The first six Afghan Air Force (AAF) pilots graduated from the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter transition program. The Train, Advise, and Assist Command - Air (TAAC Air) advisors trained up the newly-qualified pilots in a course that was completed in late November. See "First Afghan UH-60 pilots graduate"DVIDS, November 20, 2017.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Afghan War News Snippets

EU Providing 12 Million Euros. Afghanistan faces a critical humanitarian crisis as a result of the intensifying conflict. The European Union is upping its contribution for humanitarian aid by 12 million euros bringing the total humanitarian aid to 40 million euros for 2015. (European Commission, Dec 22, 2015).

Taliban Leadership Struggles. There seems to be three distinct groups of the Afghan Taliban emerging and the divide is going away soon. Read "Dueling Fatwas, More Dissension as Afghan Taliban Leadership Struggle Intensifies", Gandhara Blog, December 22, 2015.

Sexual Assault in Afghanistan. Danielle Moylan writes "When It Comes to Sexual Assault, Afghanistan Is All Talk and No Action", Foreign Policy, December 21, 2015.

Peace Talks? Looks like Afghanistan, Pakistan and others will make another attempt at peace talks. Reports say that another round will take place in Pakistan on/about January 11th. China and the United States may (will) also participate. (Radio Free Europe, Jan 2, 2016).

Georgian Deployment Program (GDP). The GDP is a multi-year training program with the goal to increase the interoperability between the Georgian Army and Resolute Support Mission (RSM). The training consists of six six-month rotations designed to train six Georgian infantry battalions. Read more in a contract announcement about driver training for the GDP-RMS project. (, Dec 22, 2015).

Earthquake - Again. A 6.2 earthquake hit Afghanistan in late December 2015 causing about a dozen injuries. (Telegraph, Dec 25, 2015). A second earthquake was experienced in Kabul on January 2nd - measuring 5.3.

Nuristan - A Remote Region. Mujib Mashal writes about a remote and isolated province in northeastern Afghanistan in "Afghan Province Tucked in Mountains Lies Beyond Reach of Aid and Time", The New York Times, December 25, 2015.

Islamic State Radio. The IS militants based in eastern Afghanistan has launched their own radio station that features a 90-minute long program daily show entitled the "Voice of the Caliphate". It is in Pashto and reaches out to a wide audience within the province. Naturally the Afghan government is not pleased. Watch a two-minute long video by Radio Free Europe, December 22, 2015.

Nomads in Pamir Region. The Kyrgyz of the Pamir Mountains live in three different countries in a remote part of the world - Afghanistan, China, and Tajikistan. Learn more in "Modernity of Ancient Nomads in Pamir of Tajikstan", Radio Free Europe, December 21, 2015.

Former TAAC-South Cdr to 10th Mtn. BG Paul Bontrager is heading to Fort Drum, NY to be deputy commanding general for the 10th Mountain Division (Light). (, Dec 15, 2015).

Corruption. The country of Afghanistan is no doubt one of the most corrupt in the world. This culture of corruption is compounded with the billions of dollars that the U.S. and international community has pumped into the Afghan economy through aid and military expenditures. It is a small victory when someone actually gets charged with corruption. Read "U.S. Charges Afghan Businessman With Bribing for Contracts", Radio Free Europe, December 30, 2015.

TAPI and Peace. Barnett Rubin writes about the importance of the TAPI pipeline project and the impact it will have on peace in the region and Afghanistan's economy. While everyone applauds wildly about this seemingly important economic event some wonder how it will be built and secured in a disintegrating security situation. President Ghani's promise of protecting the pipeline's route through Afghanistan with 7,000 security personnel is ambitious but untenable. Read more in "The TAPI Pipeline and Paths to Peace in Afghanistan", The New Yorker, December 30, 2015.

Bad Year for Ghani. Afghanistan is experiencing weakness and disunity in both government and insurgent ranks. Some believe that President Ghani's first year did not go well. Read "The Guardian view on Afghanistan: a bad year for Ashraf Ghani", The Guardian, December 30, 2015.

Landai Season. Fazal Muzhary writes about this late fall / early winter traditional food feast that takes place in rural parts of Afghanistan in Landai Season: a delicacy and a feast in rural Afghanistan, Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), December 30, 2015.

Data Book on Gender. The World Bank has published a handy pocket guide for users interested in gender statistics. This country by country reference could be helpful to those working gender issues in Afghanistan.

UN Security Council Debate. The Afghan ambassador to the United Nations, H.E. Mahmoud Saikal, addressed the UN Security Council in December about the situation in Afghanistan. You can listen (and watch) his 18-minute long address at the following link on YouTube.

USAID and CVE. Where does the fight against violent extremism fit within the broad spectrum of development? USAID tells you in a recent report dated September 28th, 2015.

New TAAC-North Cdr. The Train, Advise, Assist Command - North based at Camp Marmal near Mazer-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan has a new commander. A quick look at his bio indicates that this is his first deployment to Afghanistan. Hmmmm. Perhaps it was just an oversight and he has completed five six-month tours to the Graveyard of Empires? Or are the Germans falling into the American practice of selecting officers to command in Afghanistan for their career development rather than selecting officers for their vast knowledge and experience of Afghanistan's politics, culture, tribes, ethnic groups, language, history, and many years of conflict.

Turkish Labs & Afghan Opium. The director of Russia's Federal Narcotics Control Service has said that Turkish laboratories are processing Afghan opium for deliveries to Europe. According to Russia's Sputnik news (real dependable source there) the drug cargo sometimes travels along northern Afghanistan into Iran and then on to Turkey. Once processed it finds its way into Europe through the Balkans. (Khaama Press, Dec 22, 2015).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

SF Afghan Cooking Course

The United States Army Special Forces Command G-4 has completed the second of four Islamic Field Feeding Courses preparing Culinary Specialists (92Gs) for duty in Afghanistan. The objective of the course is to show the cooks how to prepare authentic Afghan dishes. Special Forces Soldiers typically will host their Afghan military and civilian counterparts to dinners in order to build relationships. Some of the important aspects of the Islamic cooking course includes detailed explanations of foods which are 'halal' and other foods which are 'haram'. Learn about Afghan cooking and impress your spouse in the kitchen! Read more in a press release on the Special Forces Field Feeding Course for Afghanistan by Oak Grove Technologies (April 14, 2015).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Guide - "Civil-Military-Police Language Guide"

This publication - a language guide for those personnel working in conflict zones provided by the Australian Civil-Military Centre - is ideal for those working in the military, police, humanitarian, or development sectors in Afghanistan. There are many different 'cultures' in Afghanistan. The first and most obvious is the Afghan culture. But also important are the differing cultures within the international community working in Afghanistan - from the military of Resolute Support, the police trainers of EUPOL, or the many humanitarian workers belonging to the hundreds of international organizations working in the development, government, and humanitarian sectors. The document is 80 pages long and worth taking a look at. An abstract from the introduction is provided below.
"The civil-military-police community is as diverse as it is broad. It contains a wide range of actors who employ varying methodologies, use a variety of techniques, utilize unique equipment and often pursue different objectives in service of different masters. Diversity is a strength of the civil-military-police domain, although a common understanding is require between community members to realize that strength. The range of different terminology employed across the civil-military-police community can make it difficult to form a common understanding. Strategic level decision making should be driven by shared information and understandings. A Civil-Military-Police Language Guide can help ensure that information sourced from the operational level is precise, consistent and unambiguous. The demand for these qualities increase during crises."
"Civil-Military-Police Language Guide", Australian Civil-Military Centre, March 26, 2015.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Cultural and Situational Understanding

The United States Army has published ATP 3-24.3, Cultural and Situational Understanding, April 2015 - a manual that "establishes the techniques and procedures used by individuals, teams, and units of the United States army at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war." This manual is valuable for all members of the military (as well as contractors) who are engaged in security assistance. This publication elaborates on doctrine contained in FM 3-24, Insurgency and Countering Insurgencies. This manual should be suggested pre-deployment reading for those contractor or military personnel who will be engaged in the Security Force Assistance mission in Afghanistan. Many advisors deploy to Afghanistan without a basic knowledge of how to advise, how to engage in cross-cultural communications, and how to adapt to a different and strange environment. The reading of this pub will help the future advisor in knowing how to establish rapport and build a relationship - which is key to the ability to train, advise, and assist - and influence - a counterpart from another country.

Chapter 1 - Intro to Cultural and Situational Understanding
Chapter 2 - Cultural Perception and Mindset
Chapter 3 - Cross-Cultural Communications and Engagement
Chapter 4 - Cultural Understanding: a Three Level Approach
Chapter 5 - Cultural Counterparts
Appendix A - Working with Translators and Interpreters

Cultural and Situational Understanding, ATP 3-24.3, April 2015.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Video - "Afghan Faces: The Photographer"

Take a look into the life of a Kabul-based photographer. Ahmad Sohrab Taki likes to gather scenic shots form all provinces of Afghanistan, though this is sometimes not possible because of the security situation. Video posted on by NATO TV Channel, published March 19, 2015 (3 mins long).

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Bamian Buddha Destruction - Anniversary

Fourteen years ago, on March 1, 2001 the Taliban began the destruction of the two famous Buddha statues at Bamian. Mullah Muhammad Omar, leader of the Afghan Taleban movement, ordered the destruction of all statues and non-Islamic shrines in late February 2001. Thomas Ruttig and Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analyst Network (AAN) look back into history and share the story on how it happened. Read "An attempt to wipe out history": The destruction of the Bamian Buddha colossi in 2001", AAN, March 1, 2015.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Restoring Historic Afghan Landmarks

Afghanistan has a rich history and this is reflected in some of the historic landmarks left behind by older civilizations. Unfortunately, many of these historic sites have been destroyed by the Taliban, are decaying, or are suffering from neglect. There are some organizations and individuals striving to reverse this trend. Read more in "Meet the Afghan Workers Restoring Historic Landmarks Destroyed by the Taliban", Vice News, December 28, 2014.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Gardens of Afghanistan

In a war torn country like Afghanistan there are sometimes few pleasures to enjoy. This is especially true if you are member of the international military spending a lot of your time on a huge Coalition base - built of concrete, crushed stone, and pre-fabricated buildings. A first impression of Afghanistan is that of a country with lots of open spaces covered with rock and sand and little in the way of vegetation. For someone from a forested area of the United States Afghanistan can appear to be a desolate region. However, a lot of my time was spent on Afghan military bases where I discovered the Afghan joy of gardening. While the ANA may not be the best fighting force in the world they certainly are adept in planting gardens. The ANA has an abundance of new bases with modern buildings (paid for by Uncle Sam) - and although the ANA might have trouble maintaining the buildings - they certainly can spruce the surrounding areas up quickly with gardens. This was especially true of the 209th ANA Corps in northern Afghanistan where on any given day over 200 ANA soldiers were engaged in gardening and landscaping activities. Many SFA advisors often wondered which was more important to the 209th - providing security for RC North or tending to their flowers. Certainly the ANA far outclassed the U.S. military in this area; the U.S. military bases were essentially very drab places to live. The only U.S. military attempt at providing vegetation on a meaningful level that I can remember (I am sure there were a few others) occurred in 2013 when Disney Avenue at Bagram Air Field got a row of trees planted from one end to the other. ISAF HQs compound in Kabul has a nice garden but I think it dates from when it was the Afghan Army Sports Center; I am sure that somewhere along the way there was an American general officer who wanted to pull the trees and plants out to put in some pre-fab buildings. Read more about the importance of gardening in Afghanistan in a online report by Lalage Snow posted on the Afghanistan Analyst Network (27 Dec 2014).

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Culture: Weddings Costly in Afghanistan

Weddings are very costly in Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Taliban wedding costs have increased enormously. The government of Afghanistan is trying to put a cap on wedding costs. Costs of weddings for the upper class can go to $20,000 and beyond. Because of these costs a person can not get married for many years. Some engagements last over five years. Dresses are expensive - from $100 to $2,000. To compensate for the increased costs mass weddings are gaining popularity. View a video (4 mins) entitled "My big fat pricey Afghan wedding", NATO Channel, December 22, 2014.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

American Woman With Life Long Afghan Interest

A recent news article provides us with information about a women who has spent much of her life in Afghanistan gathering books, artifacts, and other cultural treasures about Afghanistan. Nancy Hatch Dupree fell in love with Afghanistan on her first visit to the country in 1962. She has studied the countries history, writing travelogues, and collecting maps, photographs, and recordings of folk music. Read more in "American seeks to preserve storied Afghan past", Yahoo! News, December 15, 2014.

Video - Afghan Dance "Attan"

Banned under the Taliban, the centuries-old Afghan dance known as the Attan is flourishing once again. A traditional dance with its origins buried deep within Afghan history, the Attan was once a Pashtun specialty but is now performed by Afghans of all tribes for various occasions. View "Reviving the Attan; Afghanistan's national dance", NATO TV, December 9, 2014 (posted on YouTube, 3 mins).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Video - "Crafting Afghanistan's Future"

During the civil war and Taliban regime, art in Afghanistan was non-existent. But thanks to the work of Turquoise Mountain, there is a new generation of young Afghan artists, like Storai and Saida, who are working hard to bring the traditional schools of craft back to Afghanistan as it moves forward. Watch "Crafting Afghanistan's Future", NATO TV, November 25, 2014 (2 mins).

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Paper - Foreign Culture and Train, Advise FSF

The United States is conducting train, advise, and assist missions in areas of the world where foreign cultures are sometimes perplexing and will complicate the mission. In many of these locations the private sector and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) have experience that DoD should learn from and adapt into its training and education programs. This paper presents some of those lessons gained in the non-security development sector that could be useful in future training and advising missions for foreign security forces. Read "Foreign Culture and its Effect on US Department of Defense Efforts to Train and Advise Foreign Security Forces", Small Wars Journal, November 26, 2014.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Six Surprising Facts on Afghanistan

There is a lot of doom and gloom in the news reporting about Afghanistan. Two writers, Mehreen Farooq and Waleed Ziad, are fretting that we won't appreciate some of the good things about Afghanistan. They have penned an article entitled "Six Things About Afghanistan That May Surprise You", The South Asia Channel (Foreign Policy), October 27, 2014. Briefly:

1. Hardline Islamism is not the mainstream religion in Afghanistan.
2. Afghanistan has had some famous poets and artists.
3. Kabul and Kandahar were not always the backwaters of Asia.
4. While socially conservative some women have played major roles.
5. Sectarianism is not as big a problem as viewed by westerners.
6. It is possible to promote progressive values.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Video - Jewelry Crafting in Afghanistan

During the Civil War and Taliban regime, art in Afghanistan was non-existent. However, there is a new generation of young Afghan artists who are working hard to bring the traditional schools of craft back to Afghanistan. See a video on the topic - "The Jewellers - Crafting Afghanistan's Future", NATO Channel on YouTube, October 22, 2014.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Video - Traditional Afghan Pottery

The link at the bottom of this post takes you to a short video on Afghan potters and traditional Afghan pottery. In quotes below is a description of the video by NATO TV.
"Traditional Afghan pottery has been made in the village of Istalif for over 1,400 years using the same traditional methods. Its craftsmen believe that pottery arrived in Afghanistan with Alexander the Great and that their techniques have changed little since then.
But history has not been kind to Istalif’s artisans. The civil war found the small village on the frontline of the battle between rival militant groups, trying to capture nearby Kabul from the Taliban. The fighting almost destroyed the village and its kilns that had already been pounded by Soviet airstrikes.
Today the Turquoise Mountain Foundation is seeking to preserve the skills of Istalif’s ceramics masters. They have established a ceramics school in Kabul’s Murad Khane district and have produced 33 master potters."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Video -"To Kill a Sparrow"

This video is the story of a woman from Afghanistan - named Soheila - who was betrothed at the age of 5 to an older man in an attempt to settle a family feud. Baad is a practice used to resolve disputes - providing a daughter to pay off a grievance. The video of the woman - now 24 years old - follows her tragic story. The documentary - "To Kill a Sparrow" - is a 30 minute long film that shows Soheila's long struggle to escape the life her father intended for her. See the video at "Bartered Away at Age 5, Now Trying to Escape to a Life She Chooses", The New York Times, October 19, 2014.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Story of UK Female Artist in Afghanistan

Here is a news account about a female artist from the United Kingdom who spent time with British military units and the Afghan people painting and drawing about the war in Afghanistan. Read more in "An artist in Afghanistan: 'To tell the story, you've got to take risks'", The Guardian, October 19, 2014.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Three Cups of Tea? Back in the Game?

It has been reported that the disgraced author of "Three Cups of Tea", Greg Mortenson, has returned to Afghanistan. His charity, the Central Asia Institute, underwent an investigation in 2012. It was found that he had spent millions in donations on his expenses, travel, and clothing. There were a number of fabrications in his book. Many of the schools for girls that he claimed to have built do not exist. The co-author of his book committed suicide. But despite all of these setbacks Mortenson is still working on his projects in Afghanistan. Read more in "Three Cups of Tea author returns to Afghanistan, trying to move past his disgrace", Stars and Stripes, October 13, 2014.