Friday, August 24, 2012

Afghanistan focus groups

Among the reasons they don't like us in Afghanistan, as cited in focus groups consisting of members of the Afghanistan National Security Forces conducted for a U.S. military study:

They don't like busy bodies buttin' in when they torture dogs.
"How we treat dogs is no one's business; the Koran is very clear about the low status of dogs."
They don't like where our soldiers pee.
"They pee in the water, polluting it.  We told them to stop but they wouldn't listen."  
"They peed in front of a house; they do not care if women see them.  An ANA NCO got furious.  He had to be transferred because he wanted to do violence."  
"We do not like nudity."
They think their American-supplied guns are junk.
M-16s were strongly disliked.  Complaints were that they jam constantly and are very unreliable. They resented that the U.S. supplied them with such an unreliable rifle.  They want their AK-47s back.  Some thought that the M-16 was an obsolete leftover from World War II.
The comments and assessments are among those in a military study entitled A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility. The study was not a frivolous one. And it documents clear cultural divisions in outlooks and behaviors between the Afghans and Americans as well as other coalition forces. I  picked the few citations above to show serious animosity can arise over everyday activities. The study was intended to probe a divide that's so deep, members of the Afghan forces were increasingly turning on coalition allies and killing them, a trend that's continued. The study also polled American troops about what they disliked about Afghan forces.

The study, released in May 2011, noted clear opinions that relations were getting worse, not better.
Many ANSF members emphasized that they noticed a negative change in U.S. Soldiers' attitudes and general helpfulness starting last summer.  This June, 2010 period correlates with many factors, including a substantial increase in kinetic activities and lED incidents, the replacement of GEN McChrystal with GEN Petreaus, a subsequent and substantial increase in ISAF-caused civilian casualties when compared to the preceding 12 months, a brigade RIPITOA in the region, another failed Afghan election, and a rapid increase in fratricide-murder incidents involving the ANSFs.
The situation in Afghanistan is often called a complex one. But our political leaders, the military, and our media aren't telling us the half of it. A lot of the so-called complexity boils down to very basic cultural differences.

You'd think we'd hear more about an ongoing eleven-year-long war in an election year. But maybe we've let Afghanistan drag on so long that it's now melded into our national psyche and seems part of our natural state of things. If that's the case, it's a big mistake.

Related post: Long noted, disturbing trend in Afghanistan

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