Afghanistan-the land in which Doctor Watson served and was wounded by a Jezail bullet- efore he met and was befriended by Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories were written in the late 19th century. Various retellings are placed in the early 21st century without creating any literate anomalies.
Trying to understand Afghanistan is a complicated issue. I will share my perspective, but I will try to be as brief as possible. However, being brief means bypassing a lot of facts. We’re at the point that America has invested more than enough to allow the Afghans to manage their own affairs, but that is not yet happening.
I served in Southwest Asia. I had troops in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, and Kuwait, and tried to make sure that I spent time with as many of my people as possible wherever they were stationed. I got to see Afghanistan, up close and personal. For the record, the Afghans I met were warm, friendly, and gracious. They were wonderful hosts, sharing many things with us—as an affecianado, I proclaim their bread as the finest in the world.
In attempting to let the Afghans govern themselves there are complicating issues:
- Afghanistan is not a country in the same way that we define a country. Individuals identify with their families, with the extended family being part of a tribe. Tribes often live in proximity, such as in a single village. What happens in their village is important; what happens in Kabul or Kandahar, etc. is not. Therefore, there is not a national identity as we understand it.
- As with many others in that part of the world, they are Muslims, but with somewhat of a different style. They’re use of Inshallah—“If God Wills It”—is a bit different. If someone has a winter coat and it’s spring, he may trade the coat for something else. He does not think of needing it next winter. If he needs a coat next winter, Inshallah—God will provide.
- When renting an apartment, applying for a license or an account, or whatever, paying the agent to expedite the process is not viewed as a bribe; instead, it is viewed in the same way Americans view tips. Before you feel too smug, much of the rest of the civilized world views the American practice of tipping as, well, bribery.
- When American Special Forces first arrived in Afghanistan, they used the local militias as allies against the Taliban. These militias were organized, they were well armed, and they were effective. Eventually, Hamad Karzai created a coalition to enable him to form a government and be appointed (not elected) president. He recruited the most powerful men, who just happened to be the warlords who headed the various militias. As a result of the coalition, many warlords became provincial governors, cabinet ministers, and other powerful officials.
After I retired and hung up my uniform, I worked as an analyst for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While there, we conducted a study on corruption in Afghanistan. If you want to read some fascinating issues, check out https://www.sigar.mil. SIGAR is the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
America provided money and materials without monitoring what it was used for. Much of it was not used as intended. Today, Swiss banks are holding much more wealth than they did before America tried to rebuild Afghanistan.
To keep this short, I skipped over so much. Joint Forces Quarterly published an article that we wrote about some of the Afghanistan issues. It can be accessed at https://ndupress.ndu.edu/JFQ/Joint-Force-Quarterly-75/Article/577577/dealing-with-corruption-hard-lessons-learned-in-afghanistan/
Those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it. In any case, I wish the Afghan people well and ask God to generously bless them.