I was watching a PBS report on the War in Afghanistan last night. A young Army Captain was speaking through an interpreter to a small group of village elders in the southern part of the Country, far removed from the 21st Century in so many important ways. This young American had been in Country about two months. He and his men had walked two hours from his Forward Outpost, over goat trails, and less, in extremely rugged terrain to get to this village. This was one of many such visits he had made to elders in various villages in his Operational Area. He had a list of questions he was to ask each group. Questions which would help him establish the strength and influence of hostile forces. Questions which would tell him what was needed and could be provided by his Command to further American goals. The Captain later stated there was only one question the villagers asked. It was always their first question, and often it was their only question: "Are you going to stay?". The problem is not the question. The question is literally life and death to the villagers. Hostile Afghan units surrounded the village. They were known by name, lineage and tribe to the villagers. These armed men were, as were the villagers, born there, raised there and would die there. They were not going anywhere. There is no question of Taliban influence over the next five, ten, twenty or thirty years. The question was, would these strangely outfitted pale people be around to keep their promises of protection and assistance? No, the problem is not the question, it is the answer. The Captain's answer would have to be a lie.
Understand this; the Captain can lie with impunity. He will not be taken by force, interrogated and held prisoner indefinitely if caught in a lie. A villager may well enjoy that fate if he is caught in a lie. The Captain will tell the villagers that he will stay. That his Country's presence, protection and assistance will be ongoing and constant. That America is in their Country for the long haul and will be there for them. Will the villagers call him a liar? The village idiot might, all others know how to count guns.
First, know this, the Captain does not have the authority to fulfill his promise. He will locate where he is ordered to move to, when is ordered to move and he won't look back. Second, the Captain does not have the knowledge to make that promise. Deliberations are ongoing at the highest levels in Washington on just that very subject: how long and in what numbers and configurations of forces do we remain in Afghanistan? Third, the Captain knows to the day how long it will be before HE will arrive safely (hopefully) home to his family and loved ones, and it is a time frame measured in months, not years.
Thousands of Vietnamese were told we would never leave them. We acquired their allegiance based on such false assurances; then we left them to the tender mercies of the North. Special Forces and Civil Affairs units bear the brunt of this particular mendacity. They work closely every day with the local populations and indigenous forces and depend completely on their continued honesty and loyalty, yet American Forces returned the favor by repeating the false mantra: "We will remain for your continued support and protection.".
It is not commonly known that one of the standard procedures of Special Forces Operations is the selection of a "Kill Phrase". These units are imbedded within indigenous forces and may be as few as two to a platoon or even a company. The SF personnel know that they may be withdrawn from an area of operations at any moment for any reason. They also know that their withdrawal may well not meet with the approval or acquiescence of their charges. Indigenous forces depend on US support for resupply of rations, medical supplies, weapons and ammunition. A phrase is selected, one which would never come up in normal conversation, for example: "The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain.". When this phrase is spoken, the SF forces know to immediately open fire on their indigenous troops in order to effect their compliance with orders to withdraw.
I only know of one instance where this had to be done, but I have reason to believe there were many. An SF Captain was in a "hooch" with his ARVN Company Commander and Executive Officer. The war was all but over, a chopper was on the way to airlift the Captain ONLY back to Saigon. The ARVN Officers were not going to let that happen. The SF Captain killed them with his pistol and met his chopper. He would have been killed if he hadn't, I'm sure. Life was cheap in that Country in those days.
Being illiterate and uneducated does not mean a person is stupid. Afghans over the age of ten know they are being lied to when US Personnel tell them they are there for the long haul. The young Captain mentioned earlier was back home in the United States four months after this meeting with the villagers and a new Captain was in their village lying to them.
The long and the short of it is this; how can something good come out of a framework built on lies?
In a very few months, Afghanistan will be our longest running war, surpassing Viet Nam. Soon it will have exceeded, by twice, the time it took to defeat the Axis Powers on two fronts in a World War.
No more lies, no more death, get out now. We are accomplishing nothing good in Afghanistan.