"Stay the hell away from Afghanistan. We're at the tail end of this war, and it's become mostly about making a quick last buck for contractors. Especially "Big Army" is driven by a lot of pressures that make it very hard for commanders to make truly reasonable decisions. Right now, it's all about short-term results due to political timelines. Social science just doesn't fit into that -- for many, this isn't as much a war as an industry"Wait until about 2020 for the military system to rearrange itself."
Before moving on to the core story (below), there is news on Amir Hekmati, the Iranian-American being held on death row by the Iranian government for alleged spying. At one point during his contractor-military career, Hekmati was working at a refugee camp West of Bagram, Afghanistan. The camp was described as better than most with two school buildings. "The people were well-taken care of," said a source, "the camp was private and not United Nations." Hekamti was working with Iranians located at the camp in Afghanistan. "He was a trusted agent sort of guy." The refugee camp housed Iranians and Kurds among other nationalities. "A mixed bag" is how the camp was described. Another source indicated that it was not "appropriate to comment because of the sensitivity of the matter."
The insights provided this month (below) on the war on Afghanistan provided by a soldier there are illuminating. It should win some sort of recognition from the journalism community. Strip out the focus on the OSD-Intelligence, US Army Human Terrain System (HTS), and replace it with hundreds of other programs/ideas designed to "win" in Afghanistan/Iraq (cups of tea, all of government, smart power, analytics) and what you see is that even in January 2012, on the eve of President Barak Obama's State of the Union Address, American political, economic and military leaders remain blissfully ignorant of the world around them. The thinkers in academia, media and think tanks cling to the powerful and seek their blessings. Subservient as they are, they offer no real critique or new direction for the USA and its people.
Now, US leadership is taking the country to the brink of war with Iran and its proxies. Iran is a nation far less dangerous, racist and anti-Semitic than Saudi Arabia. If that were not enough, the US is making a military push into Africa (Nigeria and Uganda) and is groping its way back into Asia, Southeast Asia. The sanctions and embargo on Iran have rekindled the West versus East madness of the Cold War. It's whitey versus non-whitey again: What's our energy doing under their worthless sand?
The sanctions and embargo will affect the Asian economies as well perhaps forcing energy prices up and destabilizing currency arrangements. If Iran can't make currency swap deals with Asia and India/Pakistan it may well resort to military action. Further, the BRICS are not likely to sit idly by as the USA and EU seeks complete dominance of the world's dominant energy sources and trade/shipping routes and lanes. Then there are the wildcards like Israel, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and the Kurdish and Baloch rebels and the provinces in which they live. Who knows if the governments currently in charge will last?
This is an extraordinarily dangerous game the USA and EU are playing and it may well lead to a kinetic global war. The question here is this: How can the USA afford it all? How many more dollars can it print? What about the Homeland? Do we really fear Boka Haram and the Lord's Resistance Army? Already these groups are being pumped up as the next AQ.
The whole of Africa is the most worrisome matter. The US has a very small footprint in the nations of that massive continent other than through its Foreign Internal Defense program. Its trade with the nations of Africa according to the CIA Factbook and the US Trade Representatives' Office amounted to $95 billion (US) last year. The European Union's trade was nearly $300 billion while China's was $170 billion. China trades with nearly every nation of the African Continent in percentages greater than the USA. Non-US global mining and energy companies dominate the African landscape (there is only one US mining company in the top ten).
It is easy to see the US going bankrupt as tries to be everywhere at once on earth. The homeland is expendable it seems. And there is not enough manpower in the all-volunteer military to complete the full spectrum dominance so sought after by the country's political, economic, military and academic minds.
Finally, Real Journalism: Thank You!
The Student Doctor Network contains two posts that sum up the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan perfectly. Those are listed below in italics.
The scene is advice being given to someone interested in joining the HTS. Forget about the fact that it is HTS. There is not a soul familiar with it that isn't sick of the acronym and the incredible amount of money and bullshit that has been expended to make HTS glow and work correctly.
Replace HTS with hundreds of other US programs undertaken over the past decade (money + bullshit) that were designed to "win" in Afghanistan and Iraq. One can't say anything more than that it is tragic that no one is accountable or, for that matter, even cares about the waste product in lives, money, time.
And it is set to continue.
"Don't be taken in by the mystique that HTS is trying to build as a burgeoning intelligence organization. Yes, what they do is classified (as are flight times and a million other mundane things). They might even tempt you with "you might work with Special Operations Force's"rarely are people here impressed by the "value added" offered by a lot of the HTS guys the Special Operations Task Force encounters. And those HTS guys are hand-picked. If they had to work with your average Human Terrain Team, HTS would quickly be kicked out of the SOF world for good.
It's a miserable environment. Press reporting about HTS has died down, because the internal on-goings have become less salacious and sensational. But that doesn't mean things have got better. What critics like John Stanton used to write is about 60% true and is still laughed about internally by people who see the same problems at their teams today. Sadly - because the Army really needs this knowledge and HTS doesn't even come close to providing it, I can almost guarantee you will be miserable, unless you're willing to drink the Kool-Aid and pretend things are alright. Which brings me to scholarships"Because there'll be no room for cognitive dissonance once you actually apply to PhD programs.
You'll find that the bigger issue is that HTS simply isn't very good. It's actually very bad. The quality of both your peers and especially your superiors will be generally poor and the quality of your products even more so. I still encounter Human Terrain Teams on a frequent basis as I travel around Afghanistan for my current job, and they're almost universally derided or ignored by the units they support.