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December 20, 2008

Future of war on terror

In considering the article “President Cites Gains in 2 Wars” (12/15, A-1), I do not disagree that merits have been gained in both theaters. As a veteran of multiple tours in Iraq, I have seen firsthand the progress that has been made in providing stability and a new way of life to the Iraqi people.

However, I do have concerns regarding Afghanistan. Unlike Iraq, the culture and demographics are significantly different. The people are extremely provisional with more loyalty to their clan or ethnic group than to a government or country. A rapid “surge” of combat troops could be misconstrued by the rural population and stir up memories of the mistakes made by the Soviets in 1980s.

An optimal solution would be to provide additional military transition teams and advisers, using our soldier and civilian personnel, to the Afghanistan Army and government. This would continue our trend to best establish self-sufficiency by fostering their own independence.

Maj. Christoper R. Thompson
Student, Command and General Staff College
Fort Leavenworth



I don't think Maj. Thompson advocates changing the culture of Afghanistan, at least not directly. But our Embedded Training Teams and Provincial Reconstruction Teams have done great work in building institutions and infrastructure. If their success continues, the scattered and isolated people of Afghanistan will someday feel a connection (and loyalty) to their own nation.

The ETTs are small groups of servicemen embedded within Afghan Army units. They teach the skills and values needed to make the ANA an effective fighting force AND a force that helps the Afghan people -- unlike the opium warlords.

The PRTs are mixed groups of military and civilian experts whose job is to help each province build the schools, roads, bridges, clinics and hospitals that provide basic services for ordinary people. Again the goal is to connect the Afghan people to their government and give them a stake in the future.

But we could fail in Afghanistan if we send in masses of troops focused on killing bad guys instead of helping good guys.


Thank you for your service Major.

I hope you read this and answer, what is the goal of changing someones culture?

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