The real Afghanistan by PJ Tobia
PJ writes for the Village Voice. He has a five page article on the VillageVoice today about his fall trip to Afghanistan.
It ain’t pretty…its gritty as hell and doesn’t mince words. It’s a great read to get a grasp of what the media and our government don’t tell us about Afghanistan and our war there. In the section below, he describes the interpreters (called ‘terps’) that are essential to the troops, and how the Americans and NATO view and treat them:
Like soldiers, terps get to take leave for weeks at a time. But unlike soldiers, they don’t get transport to their home provinces, often hundreds of miles from their bases. They must travel alone for days over roads crawling with men who want to kill them. “I am from Paktika province,” says Farah. “The military flies there every day, but I am not allowed to get on those planes.”
It’s a strange policy, considering terps are indispensable to the U.S. Very few Americans speak Pashto or Dari, Afghanistan’s two most common languages, so nearly every platoon needs an interpreter.
Yet they’re stuck with older body armor and they don’t have guns, sticking out as easy targets for insurgents.
Everybody complains in war, of course. But the terps’ gripes are very different from those of the U.S. soldiers. Though they don’t expressly say it, there’s a sense of hurt in their words, a feeling that they’re being used. While NATO is ostensibly here for the Afghan people, they remain secondary citizens.
Still, it’s hard to blame the U.S. forces, who’ve come to understand that today’s friend is tomorrow’s assassin.
I understand the fear that must be heavy when it comes to dealing with Afghan citizens. I get it. What I don’t get is what we are doing there now. How are our troops making a difference, how are they cleaning out the Taliban and Al-Qaeda? What are they doing to gain the trust of the Afghani’s? What is the plan man? From PJ’s article:
“My buddy was killed by a terp who got religion,” says a sergeant with the 101st Airborne out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, near the Tennessee border. He recalls standing next to the soldier on base. Suddenly, a terp grabbed a gun and started shooting at everything in uniform.
The sergeant turned toward the shooter, never guessing that his terp had gone rogue. A bullet ripped through his sleeve, missing flesh. His buddy standing next to him wasn’t so lucky. By the time the sergeant realized what had happened, both his friend and the terp were dead.
“All it takes is for one of these guys to get religion, and that’s all she wrote,” he says.
The situation is indicative of the relationship between the coalition forces and the Afghans. In dozens of conversations with soldiers, they gave the impression that while they wish the country well, they’re equally frustrated with the Afghans’ lack of willingness to rise to their own defense.
A second lieutenant tells the story of some Afghan workers in a parking lot outside a base: “The workers—maybe about 30 of them—were walking to their cars. The Taliban rolls up, two guys in a car with AKs. They single out two of the local nationals, pull them aside, and execute them on the spot. What did the other Afghans do? They put their fingers in their ears so the gunshots wouldn’t be so loud.”
What a fucking nightmare, what a clusterfuck it has become in Afghanistan.
Yet NATO isn’t chipping in much help and we are sending another 17,000 soldiers there.