With Friends Like These…

…Who Needs Enemies?

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
         An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.

–Rudyard Kipling, The Young British Soldier

After I separated from the army in the fall of 1968, I joined the labor force and, like many ex-GIs, began a career, in my case happily short-lived, touring a number of America’s most menial professions, everything from removing commercial wastes to dipping steel into a phosphorous wash, the drippings from which eventually ate the toes right out of my old jungle boots; but my true avocation in those less than halcyon days of yore was bar-fly. Not much of a career choice, I grant you, but it was the preferred method of re-adjusting to civilian life for many veterans of our interminable soiree in Southeast Asia.  As my hair lengthened and my attitude worsened, I whiled away the evenings after work imbibing shots and beers–many, many shots and beers.  The counter-culture was in full feather, but I’d never been much of a pot head, and had given up the noxious weed entirely ever since some incoming had rattled my carelessly expanded consciousness months earlier. And I was by nature a fairly peaceable sort. I’d never absorbed much more of the Spirit of the Bayonet than had been required to complete basic training. Unfortunately, I could not say the same for my some of my reprobate bar room compadres, many of who displayed a disconcerting joy in initiating hand-to-hand combat sometime prior to last call—and, if there was no convenient enemy to whom they might take the fight, they were just as happy to take it to a convenient friend. You’ve got to watch your back, no matter the company you keep.

I recalled this lesson while reading of the latest tragedy inflicted upon our troops serving in that God-forsaken pile of rocks east of the Hindu Kush by our so-called ‘partners’ in the coalition against Islamic radicalism—8 soldiers and a civilian contractor disarmed, then murdered in cold blood by a Muslim Afghani pilot. According to The Army Times,

Those killed were trainers and advisers for the nascent Afghan air force. The shooting was the deadliest attack by a member of the Afghan security forces, or an insurgent impersonating them, on coalition troops or Afghan soldiers or policemen. There have been seven such attacks so far this year.

[…] Before the airport shooting, the coalition had recorded 20 incidents since March 2009 where a member of the Afghan security forces or someone wearing a uniform used by them attacked coalition forces, killing a total of 36. It is not known how many of the 282,000 members of the Afghan security forces have been killed in these type of incidents.

Afghans have a long history of treachery in dealing with foreign forces.  From Wikipedia:

On 1 January 1842…an agreement was reached that provided for the safe exodus of the British garrison and its dependants from Afghanistan. Five days later, the withdrawal began. The departing British contingent numbered around 16,000, of which about 4,500 were military personnel, and over 12,000 were civilian camp followers.

They were attacked by Ghilzai warriors as they struggled through the snowbound passes. The evacuees were harassed down the 30 miles (48 km) of treacherous gorges and passes lying along the Kabul River between Kabul and Gandamak, and were massacred at the Gandamak pass before the survivors reached the besieged garrison at Jalalabad. The force had been reduced to fewer than forty men by a withdrawal from Kabul that had become, towards the end, a running battle through two feet of snow. The ground was frozen, the men had no shelter and had little food for weeks. Of the remaining weapons possessed by the survivors, there were approximately a dozen working muskets, the officers’ pistols and a few swords. The remnants of the 44th were all killed except Captain James Souter, Sergeant Fair and seven soldiers who were taken prisoner. The only Briton to reach Jalalabad was Dr. William Brydon.

In the ‘Stans, yesterday’s friends are today’s enemies—and vice versa (For Soviet-Afghan political analyst Katya Drozdova, the Afghanistan war logs tell a familiar story of treachery):

[…] in many cases, the U.S. is dealing with the same cast of characters the Soviets did: former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum, Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Afghan insurgent leader Jalaluddin Haqqani.

“This underscores the relevance of Soviet history and the enduring challenge of this complex conflict where many of the key players from the past are still active, and many who were on our side are now our enemies,” Drozdova said … “insurgency is driven by ethnic and religious concerns as enduring motivators, and that the Afghans do not want foreigners – infidels – ruling the country, whether they are Soviets or Americans.”

And the Soviets reached the same impasse the U.S. now faces over education and women’s rights.

“Empowering women, education of children is good in our view, and in the Soviet view,” Drozdova said. “But it’s opposed fundamentally by Islamists and the tribal culture.”

Afghanistan is essentially what it’s always been, what it always may be–a medieval Islamic gangland.  Cohering it into a modern nation is a fool’s errand.  It’s time to bring the boys home.

Related stories:

The Murder of Our Soldiers In Afghanistan (John Bernard in Big Peace)

US Military: Schizophrenia Is The New Normal (Diana West in Big Peace)

Taliban not only danger to troops (Tom Vanden Brook, USA Today)

“Greetings From Afghanistan, Send More Ammo” – Fighting The Good Fight (In Flip-Flops) (Michael Kane, NY Post)

American casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond (USA Today)

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About Bob Mack

Retired since 2003. Military Service: U.S. Army, 36th Artillery Group, Babenhausen, Germany 1966-67; 1st Signal Brigade, Republic of Vietnam, 1967-68 Attended University of Miami, 1969-73
This entry was posted in News, Opinion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to With Friends Like These…

  1. TomR, armed in Texas says:

    I wish we would get entirely out of the MidEast and leave them to kill each other. That is their natural means of population control.

    obama is bringing so damn many “refugees” from muslim countries into the US that we are going to have big problems in the not too far future.

    • Bob Mack says:

      TOM, I’m with you. I thought we went in to knock out the Taliban, not to spend $18 billion and 10 years on a medieval backwater whose only products are opium poppies and religious fanatics.

  2. John Carey says:

    Great analysis Bob. I agree, I think it is time to wrap it up and bring’em home. We’re fooling ourselves to think we can change a society that has been ruled by gangs and warlords since before the crusades. I added you to our blogroll at the SENTRY JOURNAL.

    • Bob Mack says:

      Thanks, JOHN, will return the favor. The always creative WordPress spam filter snatched up your comment–sorry about that. Just saw this headline in Newsmax:

      Islamic Extremists Threaten Muslim Actress Who Appeared Nude in Playboy

      I wondered just how long it would take for that to happen, Islam being the famous Religion of Peace & all…

  3. TexasFred says:

    I realize that this is probably a highly oversimplified solution for ALL the ‘stans, but NUKE THE BASTARDS would be MY platform if I were POTUS…

    Just sayin’… 😐

  4. segmation says:

    Hi Bob,
    I don’t think anyone needs enemies! You might like to take a look at my blog that discusses schizophrenia and art at http://segmation.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/an-overview-of-outsider-art-www-segmation-com/. Thank you for allowing my comments.

  5. My USMC cousin was recently deployed to Afghanistan — his first deployment. To say the least, he is not impressed with Afghan “society.”

  6. samiam60 says:

    Love it Bob and am adding to the Village as part of our Conservative Blitz this week-end

  7. Pingback: With Friends Like These… (via Be Sure You’re RIGHT, Then Go Ahead) | Village of the Banned

  8. Otis P. Driftwood says:

    Great post – it’s not easy having to watch your back while keeping an eye on the front. And out so-called ‘Rules of Engagement’ don’t make it any easier.

  9. roblorinov says:

    Excellent post Bob!! Afghanistan is called the “Graveyard of Empires” for a reason. We used to call it the A-Hole of the planet LOL (which we though much more fitting btw). In that godforsaken land of Afghanistan ALL foreigners are seen as invaders. This is how the Soviet were viewed and this is now how the American military is viewed by the Afghans. This is one big reason why foreign troops have a difficult time winning the trust of the Afghan people. I like the term you use (ie: God-Forsaken pile of rocks) because that is exactly what Afghanistan is.

    Smiles and niceties in Afghanistan are most often deceiving. When in that land it is best to be suspicious of your Afghan “partners” as they will turn on you and put a bullet in your back in a heartbeat. They are a people that cannot be trusted and IMO should not be trusted.

    Katya Drozdova is correct unfortunately. The US IS dealing with the same cast of characters as the Soviets did. Hekmatyar, Dostum, Mullah Omar, Haqqani, and others appear to still be on the stage. Allegiances turn quickly among the Afghan leaders and people. She is also correct in her statement about foreigners being considered “infidels.” That includes ALL foreigners. And, yes, the Afghans do not want foreigners ruling their country be they Soviets, Americans, or anyone else. The tribal chieftains are the real power in Afghanistan. Karazi and his US supported government mean nothing to the Afghan people. They listen mainly to their tribal chieftains and what they have to say far outweighs anything Karazi has to say.

    Yes, the Soviets reached an impasse in Afghanistan. Some said it was the Soviet’s Vietnam. Thousands of Soviet soldiers were killed in the conflict and the war took a large toll financially on the Soviet economy. The Kremlin finally came to realize that they had no choice but to withdraw so they gave the order to do so but in the wake of the withdraw many Soviet soldiers were left behind amid those who had defected to the Afghans as well. It was a very disorganized withdraw. Some Soviet soldiers did not even know about the withdraw until their units came back to camp and found everyone gone! Of course the “brains” in the Kremlin were never very good at planning anyway. 🙂

    In Afghanistan women are little more than property. They absolutely reject the Western attitude towards women. And as for education, in the mind of the Afghan education consists of training a boy in tribal warfare as that is every boys purpose in life. They care nothing for science, mathematics, philosophy, or anything else outside of warfare and Islam. It must be kept in mind that in Afghanistan one is dealing with a tribal culture that has no interest in being modernized or westernized. The DON’T want to be just like us!!

    As you say Bob, Afghanistan is what it has always been. A Medieval Islamic gangland. Little has changed there since Aleksandr the Great’s times. And, yes, trying to transform Afghanistan into a modern state is a fool’s errand!! There are only two things people there care about and that is Islam and the poppy fields. And in Afghanistan the brand of Islam adhered to and advocated by the Taliban is the Afghan form of Islam complete with human torture and slaughter.

    Everything you see today encountered by the US and coalition forces is the same as what the Soviet forces encountered during the Soviet-Afghan War. Nothing has changed! Same techniques, same players, same archaic ideologies. The West is learning the same lessons that the Soviets learned in that land. The absolute BEST thing that the US and coalition could do is to get the hell OUT of Afghanistan NOW! The longer we stay, the worse it will get!

    The Soviet forces discovered very quickly that identifying the enemy in Afghanistan was very difficult. They all farm, herd animals, work in the poppy fields, and carry weapons. None wore uniforms. None drove tanks or flew gunships. So Soviet soldiers used to wonder how the hell they were suppose to identify the enemy just as US forces are wondering today. You see a simply farmer along a road and you think nothing of it until you see your comrades blown up by the IED he just planted. Then you realize the simple farmer is the enemy but your comrades are still dead! And do the Afghan fighters care if you shoot them dead? Of course not! They glorify martyrdom!

    When you find yourself in the deep valleys and gorges in that A-Hole country the enemy sits up in the rocks or among the trees and he can clearly see you from the very moment you enter the valley or gorge. He starts to shoot at you and you try to shoot back but you can’t see him as he blends in perfectly with the terrain. So you are sometimes shooting at the air! Meanwhile the Afghan fighters are taking your comrades out one by one! It is a very rocky and mountainous land and it is a land that is very hard to fight in.

    Recently I read a story of how when the Canadians first went into Afghanistan they decided they were going to do things different from the way the US forces did. The Canadian commander went into one of the villages and met with some tribal leaders. The tribal leaders were all smiles. Very nice. And during the middle of his speech to them one of the tribal leaders stood up, took out a knife, and slit his throat! And the leaders were still smiling at him as he bled to death! This is the kind of people the West is dealing with in Afghanistan. These people will smile at you and even be nice to you and then suddenly turn and slit your throat or put a well placed bullet in the back of your head. These people are REAL BARBARIANS and the US and coalition had better realize it by now.

    The Soviet forces reached an impasse in Afghanistan and now the US and coalition has reached the same. It IS time to GET OUT! However, I suggest the American withdraw be more organized that was the Soviet withdraw and not leave any soldiers behind. I hear that most of those Soviet soldiers left behind where cut open like pigs and never made it out! We don’t need a repeat of that with American soldiers.

    Smiles and niceties in Afghanistan are very deceiving and MUST not be trusted. The West is NOT going to transform Afghanistan into a modern state. They love their tribalism, their gross corruption, their horrendous barbarism, and their way of life. No one is going to make them give it up and the US is putting money down the sewer thinking they will change it and make it into a pillar of democracy! Is NOT ever going to happen!

    We went into Afghanistan to take out the Taliban and find Osama bin Laden. We know bin Laden is in Pakistan, a Western “friend.” As for the Taliban, we drove them back but they are now coming back and the Afghan people are welcoming them with open arms. They LIKE their Taliban! So let them have it. Let the Taliban have the whole damned cesspool of a country!! Some people love slaughter and oppression!

    If the West ever decides to nuke this pit, please allow me to push the button as I would willingly and gladly do so without hesitation! I hate Afghanistan, I hate the people of Afghanistan, and everything about it and them. You will find my feelings widely shared among former Russian soldiers who were forced to ‘experience” the asshole of the planet!!

    Sorry for the long rant Bob. 🙂

    • Bob Mack says:

      Great comment, ROB. I’m not sorry I missed serving in that dump. I’d read some first person histories of the 1st Afghan War & so was familiar with the treacherous nature of the Afghanis. I wouldn’t turn my back on any of ’em for a second.

  10. The need for ground troops ended along time ago. Let the politicians go in and nation build if they want but bring our soldiers home.

    • Bob Mack says:

      I think a nice long tour serving on the ground in Kabul is just the thing for Obama & his henchmen, JIM.

      • roblorinov says:

        I believe in the old idea. That is putting our leaders on the front lines like the kings of old times used to do. I’m sure there would be fewer wars nowadays if that were the case. LOL can you see BO on the front lines in Libya or Afghanistan?

  11. Matt says:

    It’s time to bring them home. The Taliban was run off. Better to leave them to live in their own lifestyle, killing each other.

  12. Pingback: Saturday Afternoon – Rather Be Readin’ – Laundry Time , An Ol' Broad's Ramblings

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