Afghans see Americans as nomads
by Salim Mansur
Two of the best battlefield reporters in recent years are Dexter Filkins and Michael Yon.
Filkins writes for The New York Times and Yon runs his own weblog. Both have provided from Iraq, and now Afghanistan, stories that take their readers beyond the blood, dirt and grind of war into the hearts and minds of common people trapped in it.
In a recent nearly 10,000-word essay titled 'Stanley McChrystal's Long War,' Filkins took his readers along with the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan for a tour deep into the interior of the country.
This Filkins report is necessary reading for everyone concerned about the Afghan war over the past year and it provides a glimpse of the fear swelling in the hearts of people in Afghanistan's remote villages.
The war has possibly reached a tipping point and could be lost to resurgent Taliban warriors unless the Obama administration meets the request for additional troop deployment as requested by Gen. McChrystal.
But the American public is evenly divided over the war and the administration is caught, unable or unwilling to make the tough decision. Deep inside Afghanistan, people sense the Americans are ready to abandon them.
The median age for the Afghan people is 17.6 years, which means half the population is younger than 18. The median age for the U.S. is 36.7 and for Canada is 40.4.
Afghanistan is demographically speaking an adolescent teenager and, having known violence just about his entire life, is being asked in a hurry to behave as a reasonable adult all by himself. He is being asked to stand with foreign forces against local Taliban fighters when he is unsure of foreign protection.
Filkins reports McChrystal asking a local official during the tour inside the country to suggest what the Americans might do better.
'You need to live in a building, not a bunch of tents,' he is told.
When McChrystal looks puzzled, the Afghan explains. 'You need to build something permanent – a building. Because your job is going to take years. Only then will people be persuaded that you are going to stay.'
Afghans know people living in tents are nomads, here now and gone soon. With nomads there cannot be any permanent deal and they cannot be trusted.
Yon in his blog writes, 'It's crucial to hold in constant memory that Afghanistan is the societal equivalent of an illiterate teenager. The child-nation will fail unless we are willing to adopt the people. Many Afghans clearly hope this will happen, though of course we have to phrase it slightly differently.'
There is a Democrat in the White House who spoke as recently as six months ago of the Afghan war being one of necessity and not of choice. He displays an easy skill with words, but has yet to show he has the resoluteness to stand behind his words.
The Afghan people do not know the recent history of Democrats who are quite prepared to abandon America's allies. Their survival instinct tells them to hedge their bets with the Taliban unless they see signs of General McChrystal's soldiers moving from tents into buildings to stay for the long haul of the Afghan war.