Free Markets, Free People

Afghanistan


Russia, Afghanistan and the US: A changing of the guard

Earlier in the week, former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld had some rather harsh words to say about the current administration’s relationship with Afghanistan.

“Our relationship with Karzai and with Afghanistan was absolutely first-rate in the Bush administration,” Rumsfeld told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren on Monday. “It has gone down hill like a toboggan ever since the Obama administration came in.”

Rumsfeld pointed to the fact that the Obama administration has failed to get Karzai to sign an agreement that would allow some U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014, when combat ends.

The U.S. has status of forces agreements with more than a hundred countries, Rumsfeld noted. “A trained ape can get a status of forces agreement,” he said. “It does not take a genius. And we have so mismanaged that relationship.”

Now I’m not going to go for the troll about that being a “racist statement”.  Neither of our SecStates or SecDefs were/are black and that’s who would be charged with getting a SOFA agreement.  Rumsfeld’s right.  The relationship has dramatically and drastically changed.  And he’s also right about why:

“And what happened is, the United States government — and I realize these are tough jobs, being president or secretary of state. But, by golly, they have trashed Karzai publicly over and over and over — (Richard) Holbrooke, the special envoy did, Vice President Biden did, Secretary Hillary Clinton has. The president has been unpleasant to him.

“And it seems to me they pushed him in a political box where he really has very little choice. I think there is probably not a politician in the world who dealing with the United States, instead of having the United States deal with him privately through private diplomacy, came out repeatedly, publicly, in an abusive, unpleasant, manner. And I personally sympathize with him to some extent.”

Again, he’s precisely right.  This administration did all it could … in public … to poison the relations.  And yes, Afghanistan is likely corrupt and Karzai as well, but that’s nothing new there.  Karzai was installed by the Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga (assembly).  He’s their president.  It’s a tribal culture.  Figure it out for heaven sake … oh, and keep in mind the big picture instead of playing small ball.

Anyway, these sorts of actions cause reactions and have consequences.  The latest?

Citing “the free will of the Crimean people,” Karzai’s office said, “We respect the decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.” To date, only Syria and Venezuela have taken a similar position.

Does it embarrass the US publicly?  You bet.  And that’s precisely why Karzai did it (or it is at least one of the reasons he did it).  And, there’s more:

“In Afghanistan, Russian officials point to their development activities as a counterexample to U.S. aid projects, which many Afghans criticize as wasteful and misguided. . . . Many Afghans, including President Hamid Karzai, praise the Soviet model even though they fought a bloody 10-year war against the country’s army, which invaded in 1979 to support an unpopular communist government.

“The Soviet money went to the right place. They were efficient in spending their money and doing it through the Afghan government,” Karzai said in an interview with The Washington Post this month.

Yes, there’s likely corruption. Yes the “Afghan government” is likely getting its hands on some of that money. But when in Rome, and looking for particular results, maybe knowing what to expect in such a culture and a willingness to play the game might turn out better results (and be cheaper) in the long run that trying to go around the incumbent government and forcing yourself on the population. You know, just a thought … which, apparently is more than our State Department commits to Afghanistan anymore.

Funny, in an ironic sense, isn’t it? “We welcome our former overlords”.

Outplayed by Russia … again.

~McQ


Gurkha single-handedly kills 30 Taliban

Gurkhas are incredible soldiers who live, eat, breath and sleep an amazing tradition associated with the British Army.  From the tiny country of Nepal, these soldiers are, many times, legacy soldiers – 3rd or 4th generation serving in the 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles.  And they hold themselves to the highest standards and traditions imaginable.  So when you read that one of them did something like this, well, if you know their history, you’re still in awe, but you’re not that surprised.  This is another brilliant and valorous chapter in their storied history.

The fight occurred at a remote checkpoint.  The story is amazing:

‘At that time I wasn’t worried, there wasn’t any choice but to fight. The Taliban were all around the checkpoint, I was alone.

‘I had so many of them around me that I thought I was definitely going to die so I thought I’d kill as many of them as I could before they killed me.

Statement like that are stunning in their simple logic and the resolve they inspire.  OK, odds are I’m going to die – so I’m going to make that noteworthy.  A lot of times it is denial of reality (even if it doesn’t end up working out that way) that get people killed.  Cpl Pun looked at the situation realistically, calculated the odds, made what I’d call the proper assessment and that drove his action.   And it is that action which helped him beat the odds.  Also note that he was resigned to being killed.  No quitting, no surrender, no quarter asked and, as you’ll see, none given:

Cpl Pun, an acting sergeant during his Afghan deployment, was on sentry duty at the time of the attack when he heard a clinking noise outside the small base.

At first he thought it might be a donkey or a cow, but when he went to investigate he found two insurgents digging a trench to lay an improvised explosive device (IED) at the checkpoint’s front gate.

He realised that he was completely surrounded and that the Taliban were about to launch a well-planned attempt to overrun the compound.

The enemy opened fire from all sides, destroying the sentry position where the soldier had been on duty minutes before.

Defending the base from the roof, the Gurkha remained under continuous attack from rocket-propelled grenades and AK47s for more than a quarter of an hour.

Most of the militants were about 50ft away from him, but at one point he turned around to see a ‘huge’ Taliban fighter looming over him.

The soldier picked up his machine gun and fired a long burst at the man until he fell off the roof.

When another insurgent tried to climb up to his position, the Gurkha attempted to shoot him with his SA80 rifle. But it did not work, either because it had jammed or because the magazine was empty.

He first grabbed a sandbag but it had not been tied up and the contents fell to the floor.

Then he seized the metal tripod of his machine gun and threw it at the approaching Taliban militant, shouting in Nepali ‘Marchu talai’ (‘I will kill you’) and knocking him down.

Two insurgents were still attacking by the time the heroic Gurkha had used up all his ammunition, but he set off a Claymore mine to repel them.

In all he killed 30.  When relief arrived, he was unwounded:

In total he fired off 250 general purpose machine gun rounds, 180 SA80 rounds, six phosphorous grenades, six normal grenades, five underslung grenade launcher rounds and one Claymore mine.

More importantly, he was still in control of the checkpoint and the Taliban had retreated.  He was also out of ammunition.

As for tradition and legacy:

The only weapon he did not use was the traditional Kukri knife carried by Gurkhas because he did not have his with him at the time.

The married soldier, whose father and grandfather were also Gurkhas, is originally from the village of Bima in western Nepal but now lives in Ashford, Kent.

Finally, from his Conspicuous Gallantry Cross citation (just under the Victoria Cross and equal to our Distinguished Service Cross or Navy Cross):

‘Pun could never know how many enemies were attempting to overcome his position, but he sought them out from all angles despite the danger, consistently moving towards them to reach the best position of attack.’

He attacked.  He didn’t defend.  He attacked.

Both amazing and awe inspiring.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Podcast for 28 Feb 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the Obama Administration’s security policies and the healthcare summit.  The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Podcast for 10 Jan 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael  and Dale discuss the Crotch bomber security Failures, the Met’s removal of Mohammed images, and the surge in Afghanistan.  The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Podcast for 05 Apr 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the G-20 Summit, Pres. Obama’s foreign policy, and the Geithner Plan.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.