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Quite a bit of history has been lost over the years because no one took time to record it. My
Aunt Velma worked at the Richmond munitions facilities during World War II and I never found
time to gather her oral history before she passed. With my Uncle Mac, I just could not record his
stories of Vietnam. I still remember turning the computer recording off and just listening to him
over a keg of homemade beer. I will need to get those memories down soon. Little to nothing is
known about my Grandfather Leroy and his brother Busy's time in World War II. While stationed
in Europe, I had several opportunities to pinpoint locations where my grandfather and his unit
traveled and made river crossing. I was fortunate to have found one of his unit's historical year
books. The history and pictures helped me match up the towns and bends in the rivers they
traveled through and across. It gave my just a glimpse of his history.
This lost history pushes me to take time to right down my memories of service. What is almost
always lost are those stories of real life and the untold that will never be grasped through the
filtered, official reports or the raw facts. A perspective is lost where livers of events do not record
what they saw and experienced. The historian can only guess and theorize for the reality of a
moment in time and the reason why, not just the cold facts as that can be interpreted later. Even
then facts change when new information surfaces. Very few facts beyond a date, a place name,
or personnel names can remain un-subjective. In rewriting and digitizing my uncle Gib's
personal letters from World War II, I wrote these notes in the foreword now archived at Marine
Corps Recruit Depot Museum Historical Society:
Gibs experience represents a different perspective of WWII rarely seen in
popular writing, if at all. War and the warfighter have been spoken about,
volumes written, and miles of film portray the archetypal superhero. Depicting the
warrior, the special operator, the dramatic, and the exciting make movies sell for

Hollywood. The Private Ryans, the John Waynes, and the Navy Top Gun pilots
have become synonymous with the military. In reality the majority of military
service is spent supporting those very few archetypal figures. Gibs writings
represent a culture in and of itself that few scholars have embraced, few outside
of the support community have written about such mundane aspects of military
life. Never the less, they are a fundamental part military life, one that has
changed little in the last 65 years of the U.S. military. It is not to lessen what
these heroes have done; Gibs account is an account of the other service
member. It is the story of a quiet, professional man who spent his service time in
the kitchen, on guard duty, on details, and in the service of those who went
forward into battle.
Gibs letters and diary entries provide wonderful insight into Gib Little. Gib had a
knack for poetry that went right along with his sense of humor and teasing that all
the nieces and nephews experienced time and again. In his writings to his
sisters, I can see that we were not the only ones to take Gibs teasing. Those
letters the great love he had for his younger sisters, Rayetta and Vera. While the
Little family did well in their move to California, Gibs many references to the
amount of food and eating well in the service showed that times were still hard
and money a bit tight. His letters revealed great frustration in not being able to
help out during the family harvest and his inability to get into the fight while other
Marines went forward. Gib found himself in a support role, guarding P.X. supplies
and working at airbases, always one or two islands back from the action.
The early death of many of our familys war veterans has left a great gap in our
family history. I know that my fathers father served in WWII with the 89th Infantry
Division in Europe. I have walked his companys route to their crossing points at
the Mosel River and the Rhine River and their eventual advance through
Germany to the old Czechoslovakian border, now the Czech Republic. His
brother saw service in one of Pattons divisions; however, little else is known of
my great uncle. They just never talked about the war, at least with those who
would never understand. All we have now are discharge papers, a few training
records, and some faded medals. I have been able to piece together some of
their histories but have lost any chance of their personal insights. With Gibs
sudden death in 1991, we never had the opportunity to talk about his WWII
experiences. His letters provide a moment to make up for some of the missed
opportunities. I wish I had had that opportunity, and not just his wartime letters
and poems.
I know what I need to do, write down those stories of life so they are not lost. Allow others a
glimpse into a fuller story of history, put a face to all the numbers and cold facts. And yet, every
time in recent days, when I sit down to write during this air advisory mission, I find a feeling of
hopelessness falling around me like a lead shroud. Every note, or description of our missing,
leads me down a path of utter chaos. The programs are so far gone, the people of sub-caliber
material, the almost complete mismanagement. And yet these vacuums are coupled with some
of the most outstanding people I have met. Ones fighting a battle everyday to protect the air
advisors while we work. Walking the patrols and standing over us as guardian angles to ward off
the constant threat that can come from any of our Afghan counterparts. Our support folks
bending over backwards, twice over to support our misguided efforts. I am grateful to their

sacrifices, yet full of hostility, as I watch politicians and our military leadership throw greatness
into a never ending pit that is Afghanistan. Decision makers who have not lived here, nor even
talked with an Afghan, yet make policy from thousands of miles away or surrounded by T-walls.
They never come forth form the fort, and if they do, only surrounded by a company of troops
and millions of dollars of combat aviation as overwatch.
Remote political and Department of Defense leadership, coupled with the political buzz sayings
like "we can't have another Iraq, you know, lose all the gains we've made in Afghanistan,"
provide yet another movie reference, Tom Hanks' classic, The Money Pit. Such a noble idea to
rebuild a nation, until you realize that the foundation and every other aspect is crumbling and
holed with dry rot. Then one hires a general contractor to organize the repairs, but he cannot
organize the multiple sub-contractors he has hired. The multiple sub-contractors have little to no
understanding of basic construction. They are not working from a coherent or existent set of
common plans. But the contractors do have an unlimited line of credit, at least what appears to
be one, and end up all trying to build the house simultaneously. One's effort succeeding only to
be weakened by the others' efforts. And at the same time, a brutal war is being waged in
Afghanistan. Coalition, tribal, and insurgent forces, provide ample rebuilding opportunities that
fall on top of thousands of yeas of warfare. Now you have the basic understanding of that which
is nation building that is Afghanistan.
My first memoir, or written memories of one of my missions, had me retell a short story of my
time in Pakistan with the NATO mission during the 2010 floods that devastated that country.
Most of this was written and corrected over time from my official report to NATO Headquarters in
Brussels and from my memories. I still find a moment now and again to reword and walk back
the memories of that document. I still need to add my AWOL charges story into my Pakistan
mission. As part of this collection of thoughts, I will do my best to recount experiences from my
other missions. I am certain that the advisory mission will dominate my history. I had thought
that it would be because of the recent touch, but as I look backward and inward in self
evaluation, I see it is more than just this recent history. I believe that it is a growth in maturity
and experience that has allowed me to see more deeply into the reality of what surrounds me,
see past the superficial, unrelated details with eyes wide open to the horizon. Even today, I still
catch myself running down the rabbit trails, missing the big picture. I have to pull myself back,
relax and do not force fixes, make work, where none are required. Always at peace with taking
one step at a time and always speaking truth, no matter the consequences. Easy to understand
why the US Air Force promoted me then saw fit to pull me from the command lists and write me
off of any more school slots. They have lost my confidence. I will build my beach house, get my
dog, make my homemade wines, surf, and live in one house from now on.
Over the years I have been fortunate to have been placed in situations that have forced me to
open my eyes to the bigger world. Take in everything at all levels and see senior decision
making processes. Now as a more senior officer, I see more and more that increased rank or
position has very little correlation to common sense. Should have learned this watching my
father struggle with worthless school administrators throughout his teaching and coaching
career. Most importantly I see that people get caught up in the fixes, like bandaids on arterial
bleeding, without the ability to truly assess and cure a situation. Nor do they have the sense to
see if a cure can even be developed and applied properly. Leaders have lost the ability to
identify quickly the root problem and then make a decision to address that root problem.
Everything is powerpoint presentation decision making built upon countless hours useless
courses of action that handicap critical thinking to a sound bite. Even then, the time spans of

true corrective action are unacceptably long. There are few, if any, quick fixes, in real life. Nature
provides this basic lesson over and over with the natural formations of geology and even
something as simple as a tree's growth to maturity. Our Western culture does not have the
longterm patience required of true strategic thinking. This culture translates directly to military
and political leadership. Short terms of office, quick developmental movements of officers, few
longterm diplomatic postings, each brining a burden of proof of relevancy. The need to show
progress, something accomplished to move on to that next, higher position. Well and good if the
accomplishment builds to a strategic end and compliments efforts of others working in parallel
for a common strategic outcome. I just have not been able to open my eyes wide enough to see
this, yet.
And then, each of these efforts should tie to something far into the future but without systematic
time tables for measure but rather methodical calculations of the end result. The basic concept
of wining all the battles but losing the war, the end game. Interesting to think that US National
Strategy can be rewritten every so many years. One has just to watch the movie, The Pentagon
Wars. The exquisite bureaucracy and the dynamic intrigues of inter-office warfare in the
development of a simple troop vehicle. A system of rotating leadership, multiple new ideas,
derailing the simple and making it unusable. A parody on our military that is more true than one
uninitiated could even fathom. Even something as simple as a vehicle falls victim to the culture
that has shaped our decision makers and leaders. Think what this means to our global efforts to
secure our lands.
This is my recount of a story that has been lost as many of us have served over and again
without a mark in the record of time. A glimpse of history to allow others to see the irony of what
can come with military service when political aims are translated into strategic, operational, and
then tactical operations. As with my story of Pakistan, I write these memories not to glorify
myself but rather to record what may be lost. Field-Marshal Montgomery began his memoir with
similar sentiments, fears of self glorification, and like him I write this short history ...because of
many suggestions that such a book of memoirs is needed.1

Bernard Law Montgomery, The Memoirs of Field-Marshall the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, K.G. (Cleveland:
The World Publishing Co., 1958), 15.

Air Advisor to the Afghan Air Force


For several months I had been working on various Middle East planning efforts. In May of 2013,
I left South Carolina with a small cadre of US Central Command planners for our forward
headquarters in Qatar. Sent awaiting a US Presidential announcement to finish our Afghanistan
planning effort. We watched a two week back and forth between the Pentagon team and the US
National Security Council to determine the ultimate troop numbers the President wanted in
Afghanistan. General Austin, our US Central Command, Commander, had provided the
President with several courses of action linked to troop levels to accomplish each choice. Once
the decision was made via public speeches, we completed the planning. We would end
America's longest running war and transition the US mission to an advising focus that would
end in a more regular Embassy, Defense Attach or security cooperation relationship with
Afghanistan by December 2016. Recent news has shown some rethinking of the timelines with
troop numbers but the plan ultimately remains the same plan we had developed.2
Our team chief and I finished out briefing the Combined Forces Air Component Commander, US
Central Command's senior Airman, and his deputy commander, on the plan to end America's
war in Afghanistan. Then we moved back to our rooms to pack up. While squaring away my
gear, I received a call from Texas. On the 30 of May 2014, my personnel manager at our Air
Force Personnel Command contacted me about a 365 day temporary duty assignment. In a
fairly typical technic, my personnel manager did all but openly threaten me with the 365 tasking.
Beech, Eric, "U.S., allies review Afghan pullback options: WSJ," Reuters, 25 September 2015, accessed 25
September 2015,

Basically, if I did not volunteer for the deployment I would be selected involuntarily and would
not get a good assignment at the end of the tour of duty. Volunteer or get nothing from us. In
truth, the assignment team had me. I was sent to Naval Postgraduate School to work on an
Special Operations and Irregular Warfare masters degree, which earned me a three year
service agreement. It was a pay back to the US Government for a degree I had not asked for
and one which they have not used my skill sets. The same assignment team that sent me to
school turned around and sent me to Shaw Air Force Base, to the logistics staff of US Air Forces
Central Command. Having nothing to do with the special operations community nor anything to
do with my degree work, military or private.
The assignment team had told me that this was a high priority fill position; they were short of
people at Shaw Air Force Base. When I contacted the new office nothing added up as they had
no job for me. The Logistics staff, we call the A4, had no desk, computer, nor a job planned for
me when I arrived. After my arrival, it held true. I piddled around desk hoping for a few days and
then had had enough. I acquired my own desk and computer systems. Then I began cleaning
the office and finding jobs, everything from coffee support to cleaning out the office files. During
the first six months of my job, I was a promotable lieutenant colonel getting paid to clean the
office and organize files. My father always said, "If a shit shoveler, be the Goddamned best shit
shoveler." My coffee was great, the office spotless, and the files organized. It was not until the
office fell into crisis that they needed my help. One of their planning officers was discharge for
drunk and disorderly and assaulting a local UAE police officer. Then they needed me. My
supervisor then offered me a job. That job eventually took me to the Qatar meeting of US
planners and another trip to Afghanistan. This time as an air advisor.
My personnel manager told me I would be falling in with the air advisory mission to the Afghan
Air Force. Finally, 16 years later my anthropology, history, teaching, and Naval Postgraduate
skills could be applied. The difficulty with any deployment is disengaging with your home unit.
They have demands for your time as you have demands to begin preparations. Especially the
physical conditioning. Our service as Air Force logisticians is generally focused on individual
deployments rather than deploying in a unit. This means that units have to give up personnel
supporting their current mission without backfill or reduction in mission requirements, their
workload. In my case, I was to leave a hole in a staff that supported the air advisory mission, it
was a case of rob Peter to pay Paul.


My training began on my own personal time, sorting out the kit provided and breaking in boots
and such, along with preparing physically. My formal training began on 28 July 2014 with the
SERE B ECAC, Evasion and Conduct After Capture school. The training was quite good. I am
surprised that with all my other deployments and overseas time that I had never received this
preparation. I am glad that it was provided but would critique the tardiness of this type of training
for the support forces. Generally the military plans well ahead to infinite details and through
endless rehearsals, but then they utterly fail to think through simple training things like preparing
the general force. Great and powerful military might with little continuity in programs and much
lack of common sense. Any simple search of the Congressional Research Service reports or
better for Afghanistan the Special Inspector General reports will reveal this truth. Even a quick
survey of the internet will show how poorly managed the US Military is in general and its direct
impact on their mission operations.
Following directly on the ECAC course, I had the weekend to drop bags and then drive up to
New Jersey for the Air Advisor Academy course. The month long course as a whole was of little
value. One day of advising training, two weeks of language training, one day of weapons
training, multiple days of powerpoint provided all be contractors. We started on the first day with
some military folks of the school and then were turned over to contractors to train us. We did not
see the military team until the last day when two folks showed up at the final exercise. In typical
fashion, same crap in Officer Training School, the big end battle with all kinds of attacks

designed to stress you. We have given over our training to some fine and very experienced
contractors. Even ECAC was a contracted operation. In the general force, at least in the Air
Force, our officers and NCOs are no longer training and mentoring the next generation of
Airmen. They have abdicated their responsibilities, and maybe for the best. They themselves
are not qualified to do the training, brining into question their ability to be officers and NCOs.
During the advisor school there were many great contractors who took the time to train and
work with us. Mike and his team in the medical training, Rosy in the tactical IED course, the
team in the tactical driving skills, to name some great people. But by the end of the course the
realization that the school was just a cover our ass school was more than apparent. One
designed so the military can say look we provided the training, they are ready for their mission.
But in truth little was done but provide one day of weapons skills, a useless 40 hours of
language training, one day of hands on advising (but even then no prior training had been
conducted so it was a wasted effort), and power point briefings that were far behind the current
planning and operations being conducted in the field and in US Central Command's Component
Headquarters. My realization was like every other unit I have fallen into, trial by fire. The Air
Force is not serious about this mission, yet at the same time they are deadly serious about the
mission. In both strands they continue to throw random money and manpower at Afghanistan,
there are random personnel selections for the mission, with little forethought except the next
person on random personnel lists, no real language training, cursory tactical experience/
preparations, and only a year deployment. Jump in, learn the mission and your job, start
cleaning up the mess, try to leave the posting better for the next person. In less than a year with
leave and transportation, you will be done and moved to some completely new non-related job
and start the process over again.
Had this style of manpower and personnel management been localized or
sporadic, it might be accounted for in the actions of poorly trained individual
leaders or isolated organizational disfunction. However, the problem is much
larger and systemic, from the top down. In April of 2015, on the heals of the
latest appointment of our newest personnel chief, acting undersecretary of
Personnel and Readiness, Brad Carson, Lawrence Korb published a Defense
One article, "Make Manpower Count."3 Korb's article focuses on the
importance of this position that the acting personnel chief must fill and his
office's role in building a capable force for the future. What drew my attention
was the graphic timeline Korb presented, the Personnel Chief Merry-GoRound. With the exception of David Chu, the Pentagon's senior personnel
managers have rotated at an incredible rate. It is inconceivable that any of
these quick transition provided the needed long-term strategic guidance
necessary to shape coherent policy for our Department of Defense. If senior
positions as these are not taken seriously, it is completely understandable how
its subordinate organizations are lost to the requirement of strategic foresight
on manpower rotations. Without this strategic leadership, focus is placed on
the immediate crises. The plugging of gaps, the fighting of the closest
alligators, the cleaning up of personnel spreadsheets, instead of shaping the
future force that is required.

Korb, Lawrence J., "Make Manpower Count," Defense One, April 22, 2015, accessed April 23 2015, http://

While at Naval Postgraduate School, Dr. John Arquilla and his staff of the Defense Analysis
Department, pushed us to understand the nature and history of insurgency warfare and the
work of the counter insurgency. For me, with my background in history, anthropology and
international wrestling, the classroom work and research was easily grasped. Understand your
enemy, like a sporting opponent through hours of studying his techniques and yours - both
strengths and weaknesses, to overcome him and gain victory. I am guessing that my father's
closets still hold miles of film of my wrestling matches and of my opponents. However, these are
academic exercises that often prove difficult to execute in the field as counter insurgency is
draped in politics. Politicians set policy, like the rules of a match, as is their right. These rules
enable and hinder actions, but from a Western mentality where time is the critical element. Like
in a sporting event, politicians and by extension military leadership set unachievable timelines
on counter insurgency operations. Action must be quick. It must swiftly achieve results for the
public with little loss of life, in an age of imbedded reporters and 24 hour media coverage. When
in reality the results of counter insurgency efforts can only be measured in timelines that are
truly unacceptable to our Western culture. Especially so when the fight is in a distant land not
fought within the bounds of the counter insurgent's nation. The problem is further complicated,
with the personnel "merry-go-round" that Lawrence Korb describes.
Dr. Arquilla recommend that we read the works of Dr. Otto Heilbrunn on partisan warfare. I was
drawn to Dr. Hielbrunn's book, Partisan Warfare, and his discussion on the German
Jadgkomdmandos of World War II. Dr. Heilbrunn describes their operations from the German
Manual on Warfare against Bands,
'Much cunning is required to lead a Jadgkomdmando,' says the German Manual
on Warfare against Bands, 'Exact knowledge of the fighting technique of the
bands and the local conditions are a prerequisite for the successful application
of crafty battle tricks. For this reason the band hunters should be deployed again
and again in the district known to them.'4
The continuity of forces, very similar to our US idea of regionally aligned army brigades or the
alignment of special operations groups to areas of responsibility. As with any military
organization, advancement in rank requires movement and the personnel "merry-go-round"
takes hold. Some of this is nullified by aligning this brigade mission to the national guard. One
hopes the units will preserve the continuity while people come and go, but these are however
small forces having to cover areas as large as a continent. And as in Iraq and Afghanistan, the
bulk of the mission fell to conventional forces under ever rotating military and political
leadership. I am not sure how local police units accomplish their mission but I cannot imagine
that their leadership continually rotates units in and out of different areas......about the time a
unit had an upper hand, knowing the local populace (good and bad), building trust with the
community...then you move them? So they start the process over again....
I do not wish it on anyone, but if we are to be truly serious about this mission to Afghanistan
then assignments should be frozen until the mission is accomplished. It is far too easy to just
make it through a year or six month deployment and coast through leaving little impact on the
mission you will not have to live with. Personnel should be permanently assigned to
Afghanistan. Know the languages without leaning on our interpreters. Know the people inside
and out to break the constant cycle of playing the new guy, waiting until the next advisor or

Dr. Heilbrunn, Otto, Partisan Warfare. (London: George Allen & Unwinn LTD., 1962), 68-69.

mentor comes, whom they can take advantage. This was the premiss behind the well meaning
AF/PAK hands program. Language and culture training, three years, two rotations for continuity.
But they are an even smaller group and are now being squandered on staff positions and
wasted assignments; then passed over for promotion having been away from their services,
career fields, too long. These permanently assigned personnel should be honored with
promotion and their advancement should be cared for and guaranteed. This is not palatable and
even borderline blasphemy. I know. And again, I would not wish it on anyone, but it shows me
that this mission is not serious.



Arrival was one week of traveling, typical military cost savings to use the established channels
and airlift system. I am an individual deployer, going to live on an international airport, with
international air service. Ticket runs about $1.5 to $3K, one day flight with meals included. My
travel took 7 days, government paid meals, lodging, and travel expenses. I was fortunate to
have caught a Navy charter aircraft directly out of Shaw Air Force Base on 3 October 2014. The
flight wound us around the world, a technical stop in Maine where in the wee hours of the
morning some of the locals lined up to shake hands and thank us for our service. The always
gracious people of Bangor, Maine. Then on to Romania for more fuel and such, which followed
on to a stop in the Horn of Africa and then one more stop in Kuwait. A few hours later we where
in Qatar for my stop, late 4 October 2014. I found the normal transient tent setup with 40 or so
other folks coming and going.
The next morning I found out the local logistics team had no flight for me because the personnel
force managers at US Central Command had not validated my deployment. This means that
someone failed to push a button in a computer system. I should never have left Shaw. Cannot
do anything but laugh as my air advisor unit was expecting me two weeks earlier. The guy I am
replacing was already somewhere in the US or near to it. My US Air Forces Central Command
A4 unit has two forward elements in Qatar, so I stopped in to see our forward logistics director,
Colonel Don Van Patten. He and our local war reserve materiel unit commander, Lt Col Cook
gave me a room at the unit's headquarters. It gave me a chance to ground my gear and cleanup

my laundry for the next leg of my trip. It also gave me time to sort out what was going on with
my orders. I let the local logistics team try to work my travel for a day, worked a bit with the
forward team on old stuff from my previous job, until I had had enough. Approved orders in
hand, the logistics folks were not wiling to send me home, so stopped talking with them and
went to the passenger terminal on 6 October 2014. That night multiple aircraft were headed to
Bagram and so I thanked our unit for their hospitality and left Qatar.
At Bagram, no flights were headed over to Kabul on 7 October 2014 so I racked out for the day,
sleeping on my weapons case because the local logistics unit would not store my weapons. The
next morning looked like the same scenario, but met up with a Mr. Keck, retired US Army aviator
turned contractor, headed out to the same air advisor mission. He had met up with the local
rotary wing guys and they had a two ship CH-47 mission going to Kabul that night. Cleaned up
my gear and headed to the Green Bean Coffee shop for a coffee and a muffin to wait for the
flight. The flight was uneventful, 15 minutes later we were in Kabul and I was settling in to my
shipping container room, 8 October 2014. By the morning I had my room squared away and
cleaned enough for me to live with, well enough anyway. Began my first day of work 9 October
2014. Talk about the great living and camp as compared to the first time during the International
Security Assistance Force Headquarters tour with General McCrystal in 2009. And even my time
in the old military general purpose medium tents at Camp Andy out at the old Al Udeid Air Base,
Qatar 2003.



After I attended Naval Postgraduate School, I still tend to keep up with the journals, especially
the Small Wars Journal. That was a favorite of the Special Operations and Irregular Warfare
students and faculty of the Defense Analysis Department. In a recent read, this quote came up
in the banner,
Theres a sociologist who spent a lot of time [in Afghanistan] who asked
Americans to define what corruption is. They would say something like, when
you give your cousin a job. Then he went to Afghanistan and asked them to
define corruption. They said, thats when you have a job to give and you dont
give it to your cousin.
- David Brooks, May 14, 2013 public lecture at CSIS
For those who know of the classic movie, The Princes Bride, a simple movie line may come to
mind. Actor Mandy Patinkin, as the Spaniard, master swordsman, Inigo Montoya, had listened
to follow actor Wallace Shawn, cast as his Sicilian boss named Vizzini, overly use of the word,
inconceivable. Finally Inigo turns to Vizzini and says, "You keep using that word. I do not think it
means what you think it means." Had Mr. Brooks drawn his story from William Goldman's
classic, The Princes Bride, who is to know. Over and again, the word corruption is thrown
around by leadership, without a true understanding of the word nor even an attempt to define
what it means to a culture so different from our Western understandings of the world.
On August 7, 2015, I sat down to watch a sunset and smoke a seasoned cigar, or two. A
moment to re-read my thoughts, collect myself, and look back on eleven months of work as an

air advisor. I had been avoiding this section of my thoughts related to the actual mission and the
programs that I managed. Truthfully, I sat down may times to write it out and each time it
depressed me, even embarrassed me. I am sure it will take all my effort to finish this section

over the next month. All these past months a jumbled mess sat on the last pages of my running
draft awaiting my procrastination to subside. Most of this comes from my family and their legacy
and their impact on my life. I have always tried to gauge the relevancy of my service on the
military service of my family members and impact that my father had on amateur wrestling. My
Grandfather Leroy and his brother Busy served in World War II. My Grandfather was an
infantryman and like many others who lived through the war, he earned his combat
infantryman's badge and for that citation a Bronze Star. My four great uncles', on the Little side
of our family, also served World War II. Most particular to me was my uncle Gib's Marine Corps
service. Having redone his personal letters from World War II and having had unique
opportunities to spend time with him in the high Sierra Nevada mountains, I felt a special bond
with Gib. My uncle Mac's service began in Vietnam and ended with two rotations to Afghanistan
and one in Iraq. We crossed paths many a time, even took care of his unit moves a few times
while I was stationed in Saudi Arabia. My father was part of a cadre of men who broke away
from AAU wrestling in the 1970s. He ran the state of California's amateur wrestling program and
established what would become today's USA Wrestling, the US's sanctioned amateur wrestling
body. Those efforts and his time as one of five internationally ranked US officials and as a three
time olympic official earned him a spot in both the California and US National Wrestling Hall of
Fames. These men's lives both at home and in their professional careers have set a high bar for

my life, and my expectations of others and of the military. First glance and impressions of the
unit, I have walked into yet another broken, disorganized unit. Every fucking time. Now I am
here for a year, nothing else to do but dig in for the long fight.

Having set aside my explicative and having more than eleven months under my belt, my first
impression has not changed. We have built a house without foundation....sandcastles that will
be washed away as soon as we step away from Afghanistan. There is little more that I can do
before I leave next month. I have reached that point in time, much like that period at the end of a
US President's term in office, were I have to prepare for my replacement to take the reigns. At
the same time, I am pushing a very short timeline at home to prepare for a 30 October
reassignment to Special Operations Command in the Pacific.
On 9 October 2014, I was placed in charge of the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing logistics advisor
mission to the Afghan Air Force. After some time at the job and after a review of our programs, I
found that we were also a quasi NATO agency, NATO Air Training Command - Afghanistan or
NATC-A. An old colleague of mine from Joint Force Command Brunssum was also deployed to
the advisor mission here in Kabul. We often joked about the lack of joint and combined trained
officers, who actually have gone through the joint classes to be joint qualified on paper, but only
on paper. A quick look around the camp showed our NATO partners relegated to secondary
work if even then. The only partner actively engaged were the Czechs, because they supported
the Mi-series programs, the Russian helicopters. Even then, they are pushed to the side by the
US officers that are in charge, but have less experience in the Soviet, Eastern airframes than
even the Czechs and Afghans. The Afghan leadership has better qualifications than even the

trainers, even the Czechs. Training in Russia and the Ukrainian military technical universities
that place the Afghans technical learning far ahead of the NATO advisors. Do not confuse
technical expertise with wiliness to work. The Czechs are an outstanding people, good advisors,
while the Afghans leave little to be desired. Four months into my tour here and our supply
section just ordered a NATO flag for our NATO command. This NATO command has been in
place for many years. The NATO flag finally flew in our court yard at the end of July 2015. The
recent rotation of leadership has been a great breath of fresh air. They have begun to pull our
partners into operations and actively engage their vast experience. I hope it is a sign of a better
Our directorate or section CJ4, hard to say because we are
really not a staff - not really an air expeditionary wing, has a
coin. The coin is in the shape of a swallow tail fat boy surf
board, not sure why. It doubles as a bottle opener, in a
country and during an operation where one can not drink
beer. On the backside of the coin there is an inscription that
reads "YJCMTSU!" It so eloquently stands for, "you just can't
make this shit up!" It has gotten so bad at times that we have
taken to adding variations of Fuck as a wildcard to
YJCMTSU!, a creativity piece. Give it a minute? Having a
pretty good knowledge of my programs, the CJ4 office liked
to think it was miles ahead of the other sections and not part
of the problem. Interesting. Contracts and programs are built
upon requirements. CJ4 held the requirements. Garbage in,
gets garbage out.
The CJ4 programs on the logistics side CJ4L, were nonexistent and inconsistent with the unit's mission that should have supported an end of mission
strategy for December 2016 and a transition to an embassy based mission. The Afghan Air
Force logistics system was missing a vehicle maintenance program. The national level depots
of the Afghan National Army were to have supported this operation, but various contractors and
military leadership came and went without training or establishing a logistics system to support
longterm sustainability, life cycle management, nor the physical maintenance. There are aviation
contacts to support logistics, an expansive portfolio managed by five US based program offices
with no contract integration nor long term planning to transfer the programs to the Afghans. Six
different aviation contracts; six different sustainment and software systems, with six different
supply chains. Only one is allowed to use the designated Afghan inventory system of record.
Additionally, we have a seventh parts contract that has no forward presence in Afghanistan and
no way for the Afghan supply system to order new parts. This may change in the future, but they
will not be able to use the Afghan inventory software. Many of these aviation contracts cannot
be adjusted for years so that we can integrate the aviation enterprise before end of mission.
One contract is so expensive that for its annual cost we could purchase a new fleet of its
supported aircraft every year and forgo the whole contract all together. Like a corporate lease,
would have been cheaper. I cannot wait to see the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan
Reconstruction's report when they get wind of that one. YJCMTFSU!
My first concern was the lack of continuity and oversight of the training of our Afghan counter
parts especially the very technicians that we will or should have already turned over operations.
I am also concerned with the lack of accountability over the equipment we have turned over to


our Afghan counter parts to fill their Tashkil, their version of manning and equipment
authorizations, and the lack of sight picture on the inbound equipment that has been ordered for
Tashkil authorizations. I am also worried about the units that have already been turned over to
Afghan control. I have no way to judge their effectiveness with no advisor presence at the air
detachments nor to account for their equipment and personnel numbers. We are not allowed,
for security reasons, to visit these detachments for periods of time needed to advise and build
Just recently our unit changed names and roles. NATC-A converted into a TAAC (train, advise,
assist command) to mirror other organizations within the new mission, Resolute Support. We
are now Train, Advise, Assist Command - Air (TAAC-Air). A mirror of the old Regional
Commands under the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters. Not sure folks
thought through the changes. We are a functionally aligned unit, that advises the Afghan Air
Force who draws support from all the regionally aligned Afghan Army Corps and their TAACs or
smaller Advise Assist Commands (AAC). Since February 2015, I have been inundated from our
own command for reports to report just like the other TAACs/AACs. The transition from warfighting under International Security Assistance Force and the plethora of reports and operations
that once were, has not made a clean transition to an advising mission.
On the internal support side we manage programs for supply, both general supply and
equipment accounts, we manage the personnel side of redeployments, and the unit's vehicle
control program. We provide some private support to the US National Support Element, quietly,
because the old CJ4 leadership within the office did not support this. Within each of these
programs, the various managers forgot that we are customer service.....working to correct this,
we will see.
By 21 October 2014, I had the opportunity to see almost two weeks worth of battle rhythm within
the NATO Air Training Command - Afghanistan operations. Colonel Saifor Shah's staff, the
Afghan Air Force A4, is quite small for a service chief of logistics, but consistent with an air force
of less than 7,000 personnel. Because of personnel shortages on their Tashkil, their table of
allowance for people and equipment, Colonel Saifor Shah also acts as their Class III officer. He
is supported by Lt Col Tawoos who generally manages the Afghan Air Force property book for
their equipment Tashkil. My team also has the responsibility to advise the commander of the Air
Force National Supply Depot, Colonel Hasan, of the Afghan National Army. In addition, we have
a support responsibility to the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing. Not being a full wing, with normal
support structures, our team has three Noncommissioned officers for logistics planning, supply,
and transportation support.
When I arrived, our team was aligned each with an Afghan counterpart. Myself with Colonel
Saifor Shah as the A4 advisor. US Navy LT Kato Luedke with Colonel Saifor Shah as the Class
III advisor, US Air Force Capt Diana Halferty with Colonel Hasan as the supply advisor with the
support of contracted supply trainers and contracted logistics sustainment of the aviation
programs in the National Aviation Supply Depot. Greek Air Force Major Thomas Konstandinidis
with Colonel Hasan and Lt Colonel Tawoos to assist with supply advising and also with the
property books. US Air Force TSgt Eric Olbera is our logistics planner and is currently picking up
all the additional duties. Our supply sergeant, US Air Force MSgt Doug Deveney, arrived and
now works for the camp's mayor. US Air Force TSgt Rich Tucker arrived and has taken Eric's
place. For a short period I was fortunate to have the company of the Czech Republic's Lt Col
Michal Vecheta. An outstanding logistics officer who helped me tremendously in building up the


national aviation depot and preparing the Afghan Air Force ammunition tables after Diana and
Thomas' departure. I could not have been where I am today without all three of these great
officers. But for the last three months, Rich and I have been running the shop. All our team has
been moved to other jobs or redeployed without replacement, due to short sided leadership. I
have hired additional contractors to assist my replacement. I hope it is enough for him.
Ultimately, I see an advisor program that has implemented a Western approach to logistics in
doctrine, procedures, equipment, and software that will not be sustainable in practice nor with
the fiscal constraints that will be placed on GIRoA and its Ministry of Defense. To maintain the
logistics to support the current Afghan Air Force, indefinite Western support will be required.
Anything else will see the Afghan airframes slowly move to their bone yard. The remaining time
with the advisor mission will not see resolution due to the lack of foundation. The US spent
countless years fighting, wasting precious life, struggling to form a country. Even we scrapped
our first founding document. All this with the luxury of an economic foundation and oceans for
safety.....And in less than ten years we are to take Afghanistan that has not formed, has no
economic base to support its air force, let alone a standing army, and develop an Afghan Air
Force and a nation. And all with less than a year remaining......
So my mission was added to on of 23 October. Our CJ4, US Air Force Colonel Scherzer, the
short sided one, asked us for our advisor plan, for the end of mission December 2016. I cannot
understand how this man ever earned a commission nor how he was allowed to become a
colonel. Many more like him in the k-span offices. I am embarrassed, and this is why I will leave
the US Air Force disgusted. It is a bit disconcerting that the end of mission was not already the
goal. I am certain that someone should have an end goal for the Afghan Air Force? I was not
certain though with the yearly rotations of leadership and varying national priorities within the
coalition and our national establishment. Research for the development of an end strategy
began in earnest that same night in my shipping container home. Just a matter of realigning our
efforts with the operation plans I had already written. Right after arriving, I had began reading
through the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction's reports to the US
Congress to pull out any references to our work and logistics in general. I also kept up with the
Naval Postgraduate School Librarian, Ms Greta Marlatt. She produces a weekly summary of
news, private (RAND, etc) research publications, and the Congressional Research Service
report and studies. So now to apply it to the lack of planning by the command.
I have already seen that our team has been doing for the Afghan Air Force instead of allowing
them to step forward and begin to develop Afghan solutions to Afghan problems. We develop
plans and track logistics that they themselves do not care to track. Their President and Minister
of Defense turn to the coalition for reports on the status of their forces instead of turning to their
own military commanders. They have our leadership played like a marinate. They wait to the
last second to do things, plan missions, reorder supplies....then they cry to the new advisors or
directly up to the Afghan President and his National Security Council. Who then forces the hand
of our senior leadership to execute logistics for Afghanistan, throw more money at the problems
they themselves will not fix nor properly manage.
There is little or no Afghan acquisition program to support Afghan independent sustainment, let
alone their military. The current Resolute Support logistics team is madly rushing to establish a
system to support GIRoA acquisitions and also life cycle management, but that has been going
on since my arrival in country. A dear friend of mine began the program to establish a coherent
Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics organization, the acquirers and programatic people,


within the Afghan Ministry of Defense before he was medically evacuated out. The system being
created within the Afghan Ministry of Defense and the Afghan Air Force, as an independent
budgetary authority, is in conflict with the national level logistics infrastructure and institutions. It
undermines and works against what the national level advisors are trying to implement. At one
point, President Ghani found out that the Ministry of Defense team had colluded with various
fuels contractors to fix prices on a very large contract and ensure their retirements. He almost
instantly took away the Ministry of Defense's ability to do acquisitions. The large concerns of
corruption in the letting of contracts, and the fear of losing the coalition's faith, money. Because
of a hotly contested national ground fuels contract, President Ghani ordered an investigation
and then cancelation of the current ground fuels contract.5 Good on him; however, decisions
have consequences. In this case, he no longer had the ability to sustain his military and it turned
on the coalition to provide interim support. President Ghani got the coalition to do the work and
provided our leadership with another example of why we needed to stay longer.
In time, gaps were filled by the coalition and old contracts were allowed to continue. In the end
new players arose with the same problems and little changed. I managed the Afghan Air Force
aviation fuel contract. Literally provided all their strategic fuel supply, theater distribution, and the
into aircraft services at twenty six airfields. Provided their quality control and payed all their bills.
The Afghan Acquisition Agency was hand delivered a prewritten aviation fuel contract with US
vetted venders in 2009. When I arrived in the fall of 2014, the contract was still pending. Every
month a renewed hope and report to senior leadership that we were close. Luck that coalition
leadership rotated so much, otherwise staff officers heads would have rolled in the US
organizations. Finally on 24 August 2015, the entirety of the Ministry of Defense was able to
complete the contract for award and execution. The delays were due to a myriad of issues but
primarily because the contractors had been unwilling to allow the various Afghan military officers
and GIRoA bureaucrats to shake them down for money. Additionally, why would you take on this
responsibility when others had been doing it for you The contractors just so happen to be the
companies that I used and provided me with a unique insight into the challenges they face in
conducting business within Afghanistan.
At the highest levels within the Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics organization Afghan
leaders attempted over and over to get these fuels contractors to provide security deposits. I
saw this practice six years ago when working the NATO fuel contracts at Joint Force Command
Brunssum. Our contractors deposited great sums of money, up $60 million dollars a year, that
would never be seen again. Once the Afghans have your money, in their bank, then they can
contractually fine away all the deposit based on their interpretations of non-compliant
performance or simply take it. Our current contractors know this and will not make the deposits
to be awarded the contracts. In the middle echelons, there are hundreds of under paid military,
police, and technocrats who work scheme after scheme to profit from the free flow of fuel.
Everything from "cooked" Army Corps fuel consumption books to checkpoint fees charged for
passage of contractors' fuel trucks. At the lowest levels, fuel farm managers are sitting on
hundreds of thousands on unaccounted liters of fuel or just simply syphon fuel out of my tactical
vehicles and aircraft on the Kabul flight line. And then the mission is jeopardized and politics
come into play, true international politics. A military failure that would lose a province to the
insurgency and possibly the country is unacceptable, and then additional fuel flows. Some
Afghan officials are removed, other political officials relieved of duty, but it is a blocking action to

Ghani Orders Probe into Alleged $215M Fraud in MoD Fuel Contract, Khaama Press, February 1, 2015, accessed
February 1, 2015,


keep the political lines of effort solvent, get Afghanistan through the 2015 fighting season, buy
time for stability - maybe peace. Whole volumes could be written on this subject; maybe
someone will some day. 6
The GIRoA aviation fuel support contract was probably the most realistic solution within the
Afghans ability to manage and it took six years to get into place. The Afghan Air Force is small
and set twenty plus locations to support their operations without really thinking through the
coalition drawdown. Smart advisors developed a series of contracts that segregated themselves
from the lager GIRoA fuel contracts, in an effort to avoid the Ministry of Defense problems and
their management styles. US bridge, backup, contracts are in place and will continue until 2018.
We will support airfields with into truck, tank, and aircraft service through commercial
contractors. A very simple process, difficult in execution. Fuel orders are required 24 hours in
advance with a capability to support an emergency 4 hour resupply. Even in this the Afghans
fail. They do not plan ahead. Aircraft magically forward deploy from their air wings and need
immediate fuel to fly their combat operations.
The contractors did finally concede to the security deposits. I will keep watching the Afghan
contract and see what happens, and help my Afghan counterparts to the end. Their next
struggle will be in paying the contractors. The Afghan financial systems are incapable and
unwilling to pay their bills. The contract will likely run until the companies can no longer afford to
do business, and all will turn back to the coalition contracts or a hell of a lot of coalition money to
cover the Afghan failures. We will see.
For the past months, I have been seeking mitigation strategies to support the Afghan style of
management and planning and at the same time watching the aviation mission set expand to fill
the gaps that have been left by the coalition drawdown. The twenty of so fields planned have
blossomed into no less than twenty-six airfields supporting more than 140 helicopter landing
zones and unimproved airfields. The Afghan Air Force, on paper, is equipped at two air wings
with only twenty-five fixed based type aviation refuelers, not designed to travel over Afghan
roads. In reality they have roughly sixteen trucks (five different types from four different nations)
they have acquired or taken from abandoned sites and can field only about seven of these. And
then, their ability to provided dry, clean fuel is highly questionable. I reached out to all my
contacts to look for a donation of excess refuelers, neither the US nor NATO had any. The
Afghan National Army Corps commanders had no acceptable variant that could support aviation
fuel. The foreign military sales program had developed a purchase of more fixed base tankers
but the price doubled, reducing the quantity we could buy, and the manufacture timelines
increased so that delivery would not reach the Afghan Air Force until the 2018 fighting season.
And as noted above the Afghan Air Force had no vehicle maintenance program to sustain their
fleet, let alone the new refuelers.
The coalition made up the gap through the aviation fuel contractors in order to buy time for me
to sort out a new tanker and stand up a vehicle sustainment program. In this I was fortunate.
Vehicle sustainment and lifecycle management was a much broader problem across all the
Afghan National Defense Security Forces, both the military and police units. This was the first
hurdle. No reason to throw more unsustainable equipment at the Afghan Air Force. The
Resolute Support logistics team saw this problem coming and began contracting actions in the
Grim, Ryan, "Why Afghanistan Is Going To Fall To The Taliban Again. And It's Not Why You Think." The Huffington
Post, 3 October 2015, accessed 4 October 2015,


Fall of 2014 through Army Contracting Command to support Afghan vehicle readiness and
sustainment, on the magnitude of $7 billon. In the interim, my colleagues in the Resolute
Support logistics team restarted the previous vehicle maintenance contract for the Kabul Air
Wing vehicle depot. This will help the Afghan Air Force buy time, get the fleet healthy, especially
the tanker fleet. My colleagues in our engineering section also turned on an inspection contract
for the crash fire rescue fleet in order to provide a picture of how bad the maintenance picture
really is. This will assist the interim maintenance team get ahead of the game.
This new contract would become the National Vehicle Maintenance Strategy or simply the
National Maintenance Strategy. To support the Afghan Air Force, I included their vehicle fleet
maintenance requirements into the contract's performance work statement and ensured they
would have a vehicle support depot at The Kabul Air Wing that began operations September
2015. But this was just a bandaid on a deep wound, more contractors being thrown at the
symptoms instead of addressing the cause, a cure. The Afghans had an ineffective supply chain
that could not provide support and no lifecycle management capability in their Acquisition,
Technology, and Logistics organization to reach out to the foreign military sales operation or
procure their own parts. Teams of coalition logisticians are actively working this and there may
yet be a light at the end of this tunnel. Time will tell. The Afghan vehicle mechanics were not
trained to support their disparate fleets. Those that had been trained were not retained or were
not held long enough to reach a master technician level so as to be able to train future
generations of Afghan mechanics.
This was the heart of the problem and my key, build master mechanics who could train their
own mechanics. If this can be accomplished, the perpetual cycle of coalition training will be
broken. Raytheon provided the solution. Over a period of months and $8 million later, I
repurposed a vehicle operations training contract to develop a master mechanic train the trainer
program. I say I, but many people helped especially the teams at PEO STRI warfighter focus in
Florida and at Resolute Support. They helped me get the contract through all the wickets. Each
Afghan student would have a dedicated trainer and an interpreter (a one to one ratio), the
proper tools and diagnostic equipment as a carrot to stay the year, and be required to learn their
specialized area by instructing their own apprentice mechanics. An idea very similar to student
teaching programs in the US. The first classes began in June of 2015 and are scheduled for a
one year period in order to get the Afghan Air Force mechanics ready for the 2016 fighting
season and beyond. This gave me a sustainment plan to support the Afghan Air Force fleets
and the acquisition of a new aviation tanker.7
Support for the new tanker came from the Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command
team's liaison officer to Resolute Support. While establishing the vehicle maintenance
programs, the Afghan Air Force played an end round on me. They went to the Afghan General
Staff G4 and levied a requisition on the MoD level advisors. Pretty typical technic on their part.
Anytime they can get a sympathetic ear and they have a new advisor to do their work, they play
them like little children. I ended up with a tasker from Resolute Support and constant pressure
to get the vehicles bought. Too many times we have thrown equipment at the problem instead of
fixing real issues, proper sustainment with the fielding of equipment. The last piece was the
actual vehicle. The army liaison officer caught wind and put me in contact with their NAVISTAR
company representative. Two months of e-mails later and we had a pretty good plan in place.
Capt. Sakura, Eydie, "Afghan Air Force Trains to Develop Vehicle Maintenance Master Instructors," Defense Video
and Imagery Distribution System, August 20, 2015, accessed August 20 2015,


Fifty trucks, a standard base platform already in the Afghan Air Force inventory, a training plan
with the Raytheon team, required training aids, a two year parts package, commercial off the
shelf fuel pumping and filtration system. We had the right tactical system for the Afghan Air
Force. The trucks and the maintenance and sustainment plan all coupled with the contract
aviation fuel would give the Afghan Air Force a fighting chance at some self sustainment with
the Afghans in the lead.
Yet, I am unlikely to see these truck so needed by my Afghan counterparts. My enemy is not the
insurgents but the bureaucrats of my own coalition. They block my every attempt to support my
colleagues who are spilling their blood daily because of lack of air support. No fuel, no air
support. A powerpoint war is being waged that I am no longer willing to fight. Years upon years
the coalition has thrown equipment at the Afghans without sustainment or thought to support.
The Afghan vehicle fleet is in shambles, thus the $7 billion vehicle maintenance program the US
Congress and Resolute Support is throwing at the Afghan military. Here Resolute Support
leadership has been handed a complete package, proper and simple vehicles, trained vehicle
mechanics, trained operators, tools, supply packages, logistics sustainability, technical manuals,
a national fuel supply chain, and the command and control to employ the vehicles. Yet they fight
me citing the years of mismanagement of logistics programs. Trying to force me to create an
overly complicated system. How can my way be different? They are blind. A thousand paper
cuts everyday while millions of dollars are thrown to buildings that will never be completed,
airframes that will be destroyed like the G222, and contract logistic sustainment programs that
cost more than buying new aircraft. A year of building solid, sustainable and tangible logistics for
the Afghan Air Force and creating jobs in the US, wasted to bureaucracy. I lived the goddamn
Pentagon Wars. My replacement will be carrying this one to the finish, if I cannot leap the
bureaucracy unscathed.
The GIRoA approval and acquisition of a aviation fuel contract is a huge test of the Afghan
acquisition system and of the Ministry of Defense as a whole. Right now the Acquisition,
Technology, and Logistics organization and their shake down of the contractors has jeopardized
the contract. It is likely that more Afghan general officers will be removed for their corruption and
the contract will fall off GIRoA budget. Resolute Support leadership will eventually pull the $52
million dollars out of the Afghan Ministry of Defense budget and fall back on the three year
backup contract we already have in place. I hear rumors of coalition personnel actively
undermining my efforts in the hope that it will fail. I do not understand. If the Ministry of Defense
cannot manage this contract it means they will have little hope of developing or managing any
contract logistics programs to support future maintenance and supply operations and will be
wholly dependent on advisors. If they played it this way on purpose then the Afghans achieved
another great victory over our general officer corps. The contract for 21 serviced airfields is
along the same lines as the US bridge contract. One must be careful, as this is just a thin crust.
The contact is only as good as the money backing the Afghan Air Force and their Ministry of
Defense budgets. No money paid to contractors, no contract.
Col Saifor Shah eventually found a fuel and lubricants officer, Lt Col Said Masoom. Our first
meeting was in June or July of 2015, hard to remember time has blurred too much during my
deployment here. Lt Col Said Masoom requested a private meeting in my office, without Col
Saifor Shah. It was an interesting meeting. I already new about the current fuel scams and the
doctoring of consumption reports so fuel went away from military operations. In August, I was
able to put some controls in place to reduce the problem. My contractors delivered some poor
quality fuel, old JP-8 instead of Jet A1. This allowed me to cut deliveries to storage to ensure


flight safety, providing me also a cover story. I began to deliver only into aircraft and turned to
the NATO contracts at Kabul to provide service to all the aircraft here. Almost immediately, I had
Afghan officers at my door begging to turn the storage deliveries back on. I had safely cut into
the black market proceeds. While the flight safety concerns with bad fuel existed, I could
continue to mitigate the corruption, safely. I have not asked nor pushed for a resolution to
cleaning the Afghan tanks nor for their fuel samples they have promised so that we could begin
storage deliveries. Lt Col Said Masoom freely brought these same corruption issues up without
my asking, thus the private meeting. I understood now and was quite impressed. Fuel is an
interesting commodity, especially in Afghanistan. I have learned a few thing over the years. Pay
your contractors on time, keep pristine records to cover your ass, and if surrounded and out
gunned, do not fuck with the black market. You will get folks killed and you yourself killed. Lt Col
Said Masoom came seeking my advice on what to do with this information he had. My advice,
do what you think you can live with, I cannot protect you nor your family.
Now he runs the aviation fuels contract and its oversight. His contract also delivers into aircraft
only. He must live within an Afghan system that will not provide the same securities that I
enjoyed. The colonel is developing some cautious plans for good oversight. On our last formal
meeting, Lt Col Said Masoom was quite outstanding. His oversight program was amazing. His
documentation of the first month's orders pristine. Even better than I could have ever hoped to
produce with my coalition contract. His people at the detachments provide the oversight that I
could never obtain. I hope that he can see it through, but he will have many challenges both
from his own Ministry of Defense who no longer find ways to profit from aviation fuel and our
own Resolute Support Headquarters bureaucrats who want the program to fail because it was
not of their creation.


An early bright point was the Afghan aerial port program. I stopped the idea of training Afghans
in the US technical military schools. Instead we were able to course correct and setup an all
Afghan training program. They train their own now, while we provide advice. But very little is
needed in this area, they have a very small air mobility operation. Our Danish advisor teams
have been invaluable in working with me on putting the Afghans in the lead. I am on my fourth
rotation of Danish advisors, everyone of them outstanding. A good people, proud of their
contributions to Afghanistan. The aerial port, Interqalat as the Afghans call it, has good trainers
who work hand in had with the Afghan load masters to ensure the future of their mobility
systems. The last stage we are working on is their support to Afghanistan's foreign military sales
programs. Over the course of the next two Danish rotations, I hope to end their national mission.
Once the Interqalat can support their Ministry of Defense and coordinate the inbound cargo
shipments we will have successfully completed a full transition, and our Afghan counterparts will
stand on their own.
Culturally, time is very relative. So schedule of events are really suggestions. Higher echelons
within the US want a mobility system like ours, multiple stop C130 C208 missions, when just
recently the aerial port units began speaking with downline stations to identify cargo and
passenger requirements. For the longest time Interqalat units would not put aircraft pallets on an
aircraft without getting an empty pallet in exchange. After almost a year of fighting and
arguments between us and Afghan crews with the Interqalat commands, they still argue but fully
know now that the crew will not give them a pallet. So the Intergalt commanders began, well
were forced to work with each other to track their assigned pallets. Now crews are starting to
see empty pallets being pushed back to the owners. I listened to the advisors frustrations but in
reality, minus the plane side drama, this is almost the way we do it. Pallet and net managers
reallocated items from over stocked units, when units fall below their allocations. The Afghan
Interqalat commanders or whomever in their officers had an Afghan problem and developed an
Afghan solution without the advisors spoon feeding them. The crews fostered this by being
Outside of the Afghan Air Force chain of command is Afghan Army officer, Colonel Hasan. Col
Hasan runs the National Aviation Supply Depot. He carries many years of experiences in
running logistics. He has had positions of command throughout his career that on paper look
like he can handle supply operations. I had the opportunity to have tea with him on 18 October
2014 and discuss operations and where he would take the aviation supply depot. He was pretty
clear that when we leave he will do it his way. My initial observation of the operations gives little
hope that the years of work spent building systems and training the folks will mean anything
after we leave. The systems and ways of doing business are not really the Afghan way. We
have implemented supply and maintenance systems that are internet based, yet not all the
facilities and sites have internet. And one is making an assumption that had the facilities had
internet, that there would be power to run the computers. Afghan mismanagement of of fuel and
facilities has deeply limited the electrical power supply from the generators. So supply
requisition forms are completed manually and hand couriered up the echelons of command. If
they cannot be filled then they end up at the aviation supply depot in the hands of a liaison
officer who is to represent the submitters of the requisitions. In some cases they do well in
others they are politically placed officers that do little other then collect requisitions until a senior
flag office yells at them and demands parts. Now mix in culture, ethnic mistrust and senior
officers will not talk to others not of their group. Even go around each other to more senior
officers of their tribe. The Afghan culture is sitting on the edge of hopefulness in the words of
their government and the hope that this ethic alignment will change; however, they continue to


perpetuate this culture. And we have further exasperated the situation by our inability to build a
coherent contract logistics sustainment system to support the Afghan aviation enterprise.
Earlier, I wrote briefly about the aviation contract logistic sustainment. The Afghan Air Force is
supported through the Afghan Army National Aviation Supply Depot by five major contract

logistic sustainment programs and dozens of minor supporting contracts. They provide
everything from flight crews and all levels of maintenance to supply chain management and
procurement. The majors support the Mi-17/Mi-35/PC-12 group, the MD-530 program, C-208
program, C-130 program, and both the stateside and overseas A-29 programs.8
None of these programs were established with an integrated supply system in mind that could
be transferred to Afghanistan. Each contract has its own computer supply systems, each has a
separate US program office, they are not all collocated in the aviation depot, and the Afghans
have their own supply system that is manual. Effectively, the Afghan depot is 98% contracted.
Six of the C-208s assigned to Shindand Air Wing make up the 2%, but they are supported by
one of the minor contracts. In and of itself, contracted logistic sustainment is well established in
military operations around the world. The problem here is that I was told that we were to transfer
the National Aviation Supply Depot by December 2015 by Colonel Scherzer, our previous CJ4.
I looked through the computer drives and asked around but could not find the plan for the
transfer. A few discussions with the colonel and our CJ5/8 staff and they all told me "nothing
more to do, the program was ready to transfer to the Afghans," they were trained and the
programs ready to pass off. All the contracts read differently. The majors had no clauses nor any
plan to give up services to to Afghans. Each was tied to the flight line maintenance portions of
the major contacts. Any impact on the supply chain meant impacts on mission capable rates,
contractual obligations. None of the contracts were written to be transferred to the Afghans nor
was a transition consistent with the operational requirements. The colonel continued to tell me
that there was a plan, and wanted me to call my predecessor whom he had allowed to rotate
without allowing for a turn over. I even watched a formal walk through tour of the warehouse
where he briefed that the depot was on track. All the Afghans came out to meet the International

Capt. Sakura, Eydie, Taken form the TAAC-Air FaceBook Page,


Security Assistance Force J4. I had never seen the Afghans before let alone see them work in
the warehouse. It was always our contractors. I finally just asked him where the plan was?
There was none, but our commanding generals had been told everything was on track.
Yeah, I got it. Still in my first month on the job, I sat my officers down and asked for the truth. It
was bad and they confirmed it. The colonel said they were ready. My order to my officers, test
the Afghans. Stand down the contractors and let the "ready" Afghans run the warehouse. Grade
them on the training plan that was said to have been accomplished. I had already met privately
with the contracted warehouse foreman, and already new the true status of the Afghan's abilities
and capabilities. The first test went as expected, they failed miserably, and I documented it. The
Commander, Colonel Hasan, demanded a retest. Good on him. The next month, they did
marginally better, but again proved unable to complete the tasks for which they had been
trained. Again the test was documented. I already knew the problem, this was just for the
documentation. The contractors, by contract, had the responsibility to both run the warehouse
and train the Afghans. A pretty good conflict of interest. I was less concerned with this, I could
control this conflict. What this confirmed was that classroom only training and on the job training
was not sufficient, until the Afghans owned the responsibility of supply and had to answer for
supply problems to their leadership. Further supply training was wasted. I briefed my colonel
about the problems with the contracts and the warehouse but it never left his desk. That ended
an professional relationship we could have had. I was giving him the truth that was counter to
what he had been feeding leadership. October 2014 ended and I documented the problem and
set about the solution.
I tasked my officers for an end of mission plan for the aviation depot and let them run. I ran
block on the colonel. Over the next months they and the contract warehouse foreman came up
with a solid plan. They identified the core skills required of warehousemen. These where the
skills that would have to be transitioned. All agreed that some areas would never transfer.
Things like parts procurement and the return of parts for depot level repairs. Repairs that were
required to be accomplished by off-site facilities to original manufactures specifications. On my
side, I had worked with the various program offices. They provided after action reports that
detailed the problems they had faced in Iraq and Egypt. Almost a mirror of what we had in
Afghanistan, but they lost control of the warehouses during the revolution and the growth of
ISIS. When they finally got back into the warehouses the system had collapsed, warehouses
were in shambles, the shelves bare. It validated the need to put the Afghans in the lead early
while we still had the opportunity to help, risk now instead of later when only a handful of
advisors were left in the various embassies. I also learned the need to have some oversight in
the warehouse. Some one to provide Afghan leadership with assistance and also someone to
keep an eye on the millions of dollars of spares for the embassies who had funded Afghanistan.
With the core skills identified and the requirement of a leadership function added, we had a solid
way forward.
My officers developed a simple evaluation system to judge the Afghans' readiness that I agreed
to, the Afghan Air Force agreed to, the local warehouse foreman agreed to, and Colonel
Hasan's Afghan leadership who managed all the Afghan national depots agreed to. The
evaluation system provided a two phased approach to the transition for each core skill. One
month of heavy on the job training, contractor and Afghan side by side, with all parties
evaluating the results. The second stage was a month with the Afghans in the lead and the
contractors only watching. Again all parties evaluating the results. At the end of the second


month, my review of the results would provide a recommendation of transition to the

commanding generals in charge of the aviation programs. By March 2015, the plan was
developed, and I began the coordination with the program offices. Here I ran into almost instant
push back, especially with the special mission wing side of the house. For the special mission
wing, their counter narcotics and various other sponsors wanted none of it. Full contract logistic
sustainment, no impact on the flight operations. Complete coalition management of their
operations. That was it. Problem is that the advisors are leaving. Either assume risk now or
assume risk later. No one wanted to heed the lessons learned from Iraq and Egypt nor see the
dangers that were approaching.
We had developed the way ahead and marked dates on the timelines to effect a transition by
December 2015. It was not until after Colonel Scherzer's departure that I was asked to provide
a depot briefing. Our new Colonel, Romanian Air Force Commander Dodu, was brought up to
speed and was completely surprised by my briefing. Colonel Scherzer had not provided him any
handover on the depot problems and he had even told Colonel Dodu to watch out for me. I over
react and make problems where none exist. Colonel Dodu asked me for a full run down of all
my programs, which I provided. Again he could not believe it, he had been told nothing. A few
months later, he confided all this to me and apologized for not believing me. How the hell was
Colonel Scherzer ever allowed to make rank? I finally briefed our generals on the truth. The
reaction was as expected, disbelief. They masked their frustration well, they knew they had
been played by their old friend. And yet, those dates marked on the timeline continued to shift to
the left. No decision has been made to transition the warehouse. Nothing will transfer in 2015.
When my officers redeployed, I was fortunate to have Lt Col Vecheta arrive from the Czech
Republic. He picked up where Diana and Thomas left off. But without support to transition the
warehouse, little could be done. Instead we focused our efforts on integrating all the major
programs into the footprint of the warehouse and providing english language and computer
training. Michal and I saw this as the only way to mitigate the history we saw in Iraq and Egypt.
At some point the Afghans will take control, one way or another. To give them a fighting chance
at a successful warehouse, we began work on a single footprint. Over six months, Michal
tirelessly worked with all the contractors' logistics leads. Identifying their spacial requirements
and learning their supply operations. At the end of his tour he presented me an outstanding
spacial integration plan, coordinated and approved by the Afghans, had Afghan students
enrolled in classes, and developed a phased relocation timeline plan to meet our December
2016 end of mission.
Now in September, days from redeployment and hand over take over. The warehouse is coming
together and contractors are beginning to integrate into the warehouse. The transition still left
undecided by leadership. I continued my effort until the end but had to leave the plan to my
The US has pushed a logistics system on the Afghan Air Force and the Afghan National Army
that will not outlast the advisor mission. They have been give aircraft from multiple nations, with
divergent supply chains, with supply and acquisition systems that can only make one think of a
cold war era system or a bad episode of the TV show M.A.S.H., where the lead characters
Hawkie and BJ try to get an incubator. They go all the way to the generals unsuccessful in
obtaining this critical medical item; but then a corporal trades a bbq which they can get in the
supply system for the incubator. At each level of the supply chain units hoard items, each level
not trusting the other. Sometimes the traditional army air force rivalry, other times the man


running the depot is not the correct family or tribe and will not be listened to, or items are simple
stolen......after all this time the Afghan Air Force and in general the Ministry of Defense do not
have an acquisition system in order to procure parts, really anything, even AA batteries for their
night vision googles. The first real test of the system will be the GiRoA fuel contact to support its
operating locations. No one supply computer system has be designated, The Afghan Army has
a system that is inadequate to meet the needs of an integrated maintenance and supply system
and unsuited for life-cycle management. And then no Afghan commander wants a system that
will provide visibility over their warehouses. In some cases, even killing the host country
nationals hired to implement the systems.
To add a bit of injury to insult, our Resolute Support leadership commissioned a very expensive
air study through the MITRE Corporation9. An independent group to present a unbiased look at
the Afghan Air Force programs and its progress to make some recommendations to use in the
US Congress. The injury is that this has already been done before, 200610, 201011, various
RAND and other government reports12, and the many hours trying to explain to senior
leadership the reality the air advisory mission13. The insult is the request for information from the
MITRE Corporation that tasks us to provide the researchers with all the information for their
research. The MITRE study has just begun and I do not believe they will ever meet an Afghan
nor come to Afghanistan to see with their own eyes. I may be wrong. Well paid researchers
working on our backs who will be credited with what one hopes will be a seminal piece of
research for Resolute Support and ultimately the US Congress. A report that will determine the
fate of the Afghan Air Force.
After my first week on the job, the hopelessness set in. I look back on my time advising
Afghanistan's' Senior Air Force logistician, Colonel Saifor Shah and his staff and also the

MITRE Corporation, "Afghan Air Force Air Study Draft."


"Afghanistan National Army Air Corps Concept of Operations (draft)," 16 November 2006, US Air Forces Central

"Afghanistan National Security Forces Airpower Requirements Review," 28 February 2010, US Air Forces Central
Christopher A. Mouton, David T. Orletsky, Michael Kennedy, Fred Timson, Adam Grissom, and Akilah Wallace,
Cost-Effective Alternatives to the Mi-17 for Partner Nations: Focus on Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen. Santa
Monica, California: RAND Corporation, 2014. Not available to the general public.

DoD, Medium-Lift Helicopter Requirements for the Afghanistan National Army Air Corps (ANAAC). Operational
Requirements and Analysis Document, February 11, 2010a, p. 13; DoS, 2009.
DoS and DoD, Foreign Military Training and DoD Engagement Activities of Interest 2011-2012. Joint Report to
Congress, 2012; U.S. Air Force, Mi-17 Program of Instruction, USAF Air Education and Training Command, 2012.
Christopher A. Mouton, David T. Orletsky, Michael Kennedy, Fred Timson, Adam Grissom, Akilah Wallace, CostEffective Helicopter Options for Partner Nations. Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation, 2015,
Adam Grissom, Alexander C. Hou, Brian Shannon, and Shivan Sarin, An Estimate of Global Demand for Rotary-Wing
Security Force Assistance. Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation, 2010. Not available to the general public.

Evans, Michael Lt Col USAF, "Memorandum for Record," 9 October 2014 - 28 September 2015, 438th Air
Expeditionary Wing.


National Aviation Depot Commander, Colonel Hasan. I was told by my staff officers that Colonel
Saifor Shah was brilliant with years of service and experience as a logistician. I had hoped to
find this true. It may well be true, my first week's work did not lead me to believe that his abilities
were able to transfer into actionable logistics command and control of his Air Force. As for
Colonel Hasan he was a waste of effort that was further exasperated by the coalition never
giving him responsibility to run the warehouse he commanded. After one year nothing changed.
I have wasted my time here. Years of mismanagement and poor advising are expected to be
corrected in the sprint to December 2016. Leadership hungers for the good news stories but is
unwilling or incapable of providing the rod to a spoiled child we created. Unwilling or incapable
of correcting course. I have expressed my opinions and provided my recommended solutions.
My programs are on track for my replacement. I walked away clean, shaking the dust off my
sandals, as I moved to the next job....And the personnel "merry-go-round" takes hold yet again.
Experience must once again be rebuilt in my replacement, and that which I must gain in a new
area of operation that I have not served in since being a second lieutenant, more than 17 years


Additional Thoughts on the Air Advisor Mission to Afghanistan

Al Jazeera ran a 2014 opinion piece entitled, "No Peace in Afghanistan without Tribal
Participation," written by Prince Ali Seraj, who at the time was the President of the National
Coalition for Dialogue with the Tribes of Afghanistan. His thoughts provide a simple, yet cogent
summary of the stumblings of the Western campaign in Afghanistan. The opinion piece is worthy
of a complete read. If one knew nothing about the Afghanistan Campaign, Prince Ali's thoughts
provide all that is needed with the exception of his ideas surrounding the neglect of the 45
million Pashtun tribesmen and his lack of discussion of the culpability of Afghans themselves.
Had the tribes, particularly the Pashtun people, truly proved to have been the central grace of
Afghanistan, then a country of Afghanistan would have emerged. Thousands of years of tribal
warfare and disjointed, dysfunctional governments would not have passed into history. The very
nature of a rigidly, religious tribal societies, that does not tolerant other peoples, does not allow
for the formations of a non-homologous western style central government. The history of these
societies, as example the religious wars within Europe and the spread of Islam through the
Middle East and North Africa, shows that only through violence and subjugation has a tribal
society expanded beyond its tribal boundaries. Afghanistan's various attempts at nation building
have only proved successful through powerful leaders who by force subjugated the tribes for
periods of time. Systems of peaceful alliances of tribes are just that, an alliance, that is heavily
dependent on personality and that person's access to capital by which to fund an alliance of
tribes. But then this is still an independent tribal society, ready to fracture as allegiance change,
not a nation as one might think.
Prince Ali's discussion runs as a series of questions and concludes with a focus on the
importance of the Afghan tribes in the future of Afghanistan, as discussed above. Like most
opinion pieces only cursory evidence is provided as support, but his thoughts cut right to the
bone with their accuracy of questions. His first question begins,

"Since the enemy was defeated in less than three weeks, why did the West opt
for the militarization of Afghanistan, instead of economic development?"14
I would offer this response. Had the West been a cohesive, singular body the answer might be
easily articulated. Just as Afghanistan is tribal and disjointed, the West may be more so. And
with each nation of the West there are deeper divisions between the civil and military
authorities, and further divisions within each group and sub-group. In most cases each
operating on multiple Western strategies for the Afghanistan operations that independently
worked to counter each's efforts. While the West propagated the 2001 Bonn Agreement that
would look to provide security assistance and aid to the latest government of Afghanistan, the
West's forces and other government agencies were developing courses of action that would
raise up and empower regional tribes while in parallel developing a centralized government and
military system. Leadership of the International Security Assistance Force was given to the
military for a military solution to secure and protect Afghanistan, rather than putting an agency
like the US State Department's USAID in the lead with a reconstruction, rebuilding, and aid
focus. With continued military force, in counter insurgency fighting and an uncompromising and
unconditional hunt for terrorists, a window of opportunity was missed. Regional leaders, and the
fledgling central government quickly learned to use this hunt to settle old debuts and consolidate
their power base and funding, thus creating an insurgency to fight. Force brought retaliatory
force, initiating a cycle of violence that required extensive efforts in militarizing Afghanistan in
order to counter the declining security situation. A new force, creating more force, with the
anticipated retaliatory force.
Author David Blight, wrote an eloquent piece on the US Civil War entitled "The Civil War Isn't
Over."15 His 8 April 2015 article in The Atlantic, could not have expressed my above sentiments
better. What I ultimately express as the amateur, Blight has captured beautifully as the master:
Wars end loudly and in ruins, and sometimes on silent, beautiful spring
landscapes such as the surrender field at Appomattox; but history keeps
happening. Making men equal on earth in the sight of other men, to borrow
again from Baldwin, is a long-term proposition, and for that matter, a definition of
the meaning of America.
While this may very well be the quintessential aspect of what America is, America is also a
culture of instant gratification. The short occupation by Union forces of the South failed to
change the culture among the races. 150 years later we repeat the same experiment in lands
far more divided by cultures of uncompromising religion and ancient tribal systems. Now almost
fifteen years into our latest experiments, military forces have again failed by force to bring about
equality among the groups of the Middle East. We stand back and critique, apply more force,
and still cannot see why our efforts have not provided a stable democratic set of nation states
across the Middle East. A Middle East, in areas like Afghanistan, that can not benefit from the
economic advantages the US held, a basic singular religion, the basis of a common culture

Seraj, Ali, "No peace in Afghanistan without Tribal Participation," Al Jazeera, February 2, 2014, accessed April 28
Blight, David W., "The Civil War Isn't Over," The Atlantic, April 8, 2015, accessed June 13 2015, http://


without the tribal nature of the Middle East, and the safety of isolation from subsequent warfare
to buy time for change. Even then, the US today continues to struggle with inequality among
man. Blight said it like this, "Americans still struggle every day to discern and enact that society
of equality that the Civil War at least made imaginable."
Blight's insightfully article is deserving of some longer quotes that can help understand our
failure in the Middle East. I have taken the liberty to extract some of the most poignant sections
that help me understand and relate why I am here in Afghanistan and the US is in the situation it
is today:
It is easy to proclaim all souls equal in the sight of God, wrote James Baldwin in
1956 as the Civil Rights Movement took hold in America; it is hard to make men
equal on earth in the sight of men. Philosophically and theologically, claims of
human equality are as old as the hills. But the real struggles for genuine equality
of natural rights, of equality before law, and of equality of opportunity are much
more recent in historical time. And such a profoundsacred and legalquest as
equality is not a destination, a place over the horizon, but a long, grinding
process of human striving. In short, equality is process of historical change. It
forever tacks against the trade winds of individualism, self-interest, material
accumulation, and widely varying notions of the idea of liberty from which it
draws momentum. Americans often begin conversations about equality with
Thomas Jeffersons invocation of it as one of the four first principles in the
Declaration of Independence. Americans like being first with ideas. But as
Abraham Lincoln reminded us, more than four-score years later, the nation
founded in a revolution against monarchy had to fight a second revolution against
itself in order to determine whether the proposition of equality had a future in
any republic. And that second revolutionthe Civil Warwas so bloody, so
devastating, a result so fundamental and astounding, as Lincoln put it, that ever
since, Americans of all backgrounds have yearned to declare, or at least feel, its
deepest issues over and resolved. Americans may love the epic story of their
Civil War, but would, by and large, prefer its nightmarish causes and
consequences to fall quiet, to rest in peace.
But history does not end; it keeps happening. The radical wing of the
conservative movement in America, still ascendant in Congress and dominant in
most of the South, seems determined to repeal much of the twentieth-century
social legislation, and even tear up its constitutional and social roots in the
transformations of the 1860s. As Americans disturbingly learn, generation after
generation, many have never fully accepted the verdicts of Appomattox.
The war may have decided the restoration of the Union and the excision of
slavery, he declared, but the war did not decide Negro equality. Wars of ideas,
hopefully always conducted with civility and without weapons, are the essence of
republicanism and democracy. But every time a federalist such as Senator Ted
Cruz of Texas vows to stand on principle and stand up for liberty in order to
reestablish the crucial boundary of dual sovereignty, or pledges to protect selfgovernment through a return to our founding principles of limited government
and local control, his audience should be alert not only for political ambition, not
only for policy positions advancing the liberties of the powerful against those of


the powerless, but for an effort to push the present back into the lost causes of
the past.
But history never stops, and although it is an ancient human utopian dream to
live above and beyond it, or to ideologically control its pace, only fools think they
can turn off its gears. Past and present are always utterly interdependent. Such
was the claim of the great historian Marc Bloch, murdered in the Holocaust,
about a solidarity of the ages. Misunderstanding of the present, wrote Bloch,
is the inevitable consequence of ignorance of the past. But a man may wear
himself out just as fruitlessly in seeking to understand the past, if he is totally
ignorant of the present. Wars end loudly and in ruins, and sometimes on silent,
beautiful spring landscapes such as the surrender field at Appomattox; but
history keeps happening. Making men equal on earth in the sight of other men,
to borrow again from Baldwin, is a long-term proposition, and for that matter, a
definition of the meaning of America.
I cannot speak for what was done before me, nor will I. First glance and impressions of the unit,
again I walked into yet another broken, disorganized unit. Every time. Now I am here for a year.
It just helps me better understand why we are in the situation we are in in the Middle East. So
nothing else to do but dig in. It can be all summed up by a fellow anthropologist:
The problem is we spent money on what we wanted to see, as opposed to
thinking about what Afghans wanted to see, said Noah Coburn, a political
anthropologist at Bennington College.16
Throughout these notes, I have gone back through and added and changed my writings. I also
kept a running memorandum for record at work detailing all the programs that I am responsible
for managing, let us say provide advice on. In the mornings, I usually wake up early and put on
a pot of water for my french press. Today, a cup of coffee and a read through the news led me to
Mr. Coburn's quote. Like Prince Ali Seraj's Al Jazeera opinion piece and Mr. Blight's Atlantic
article, Coburn's quote is a good representation of what we have done wrong time and time
again. We impose our ideology blindly on other cultures without thought to long term goals or
consequences of those actions. Nor do we think how we could use that culture to our benefit.17
To quote a new friend, "don't judge me." It is a long running office joke, repeated over and again
by beaten down staffers and sometimes advisors to pick on a young energetic woman. But the
hidden truth is subtle. We do judge, and we have judged the Afghan people and their traditional
systems of government and military to be unfit, not "good" not "correct" like ours. But without a
conscious look at either their systems nor a conscious look at ours. The best way to describe
this dynamic is to call it, at best, duplicity - more likely criminal hypocrisy. I will go back to the
Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstruction reports, and anyone who has served
in Afghanistan, little continuity and lack of accountability within our own forces have been
documented time and again. Even now the Special Inspector General For Afghanistan
Azam Ahmed, Taliban Justice Gains Favor as Official Afghan Courts Fail, New York Times, 31 January 2015,
accessed 31 January 2015,

Adam Pain and Georgina Sturge, Taking village context into account in Afghanistan, Secure Livelihoods Research
Consortium, 18 September 2015, accessed 13 October 2015,


Reconstruction reports and oversight operations in many places are now classified to "protect"
the troops, then suddenly the new Resolute Support command declassifies the reports and
Right or wrong it was done. Yet, in the same breath, Commander Resolute Support and
Western leadership demand that we hold Afghanistan accountable for their programs. They use
a carrot and stick of donor monies and military support to attempt an accountability that we
ourselves cannot maintain within a "modern" military or our government system. Again a simple
read of the public press or any one of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan
Reconstruction reports show this. Just ask the people in charge of US Forces Afghanistan how
many shipping containers they have in country, they do not know. How many people do they
really have in country. I doubt you will find one single number for the military let along the
contractors and not counting their sub-contractors. Whole teams have been dedicated to finding
out. It will be interesting to see if they ever figure it out...yet we ask the Afghans to be
accountable? Nothing less than hypocrisy.
Let me relay a short story that ties into our similarities when it comes to money and business.
Durning the month of January 2015, the Afghan Air Force placed an order for fuel for their
detachment at Shorbak, at the old site of Bastion in the Helmand Province. Part of their mission
involves forward deploying helicopters to support the corps commanders. Only a partial order
was taken and the helicopters' fuel lights came on indicating that bad fuel had entered the
system, where fuel then dumps directly into engines bypassing the filters. An advisor friend at
Kandahar reported the problem, but was not able to provide a fuel sample or tell me where the
aircraft took fuel. A little research later and the aircraft tracking systems where not working. We
just do not know where they flew, no log books nor tracking, and how they supported the flights
with only a partial order. A sample of fuel was provided to the NATO lab at Kandahar but the
source is unknown, and they tested it for the wrong grade of fuel. Later I would discovery a
strange Afghan organization called the Afghan National Standards Agency. A quasi government
agency no ones knows about yet played a role in testing all fuel in Afghanistan, for a hefty price
of $4,000 a test. Some how they were involved. I do not fully understand but for their price a
contractors fuel could be cleared as good. Their lab reports showed clean fuel, but all was very
suspect in their work. Our contractor's lab report showed fuel within specification. The aircraft
were fixed and quickly back in the fight. The information, like in any military, was passed up the
chain of command. The Afghans are quick to report anything that can be blamed on the
coalition, and especially, the US forces, quickly forgetting their own agencies approval of the
fuel. Their own little private war with us.
Sometime later the Shorbak fuels officer began rejecting deliveries, stating that the fuel was
bad, but he would not provide a sample and ours showed that the fuel was again within
specifications. After this game played on for about a week, the fuels officer called and provided
a name of the contractor he wanted. The next day the truck arrived, fuel was clean and
accepted. It all came down to the correct contractor. Finally made sense. Now folks are quick to
point and cry corruption, but take a look at any of the US Congressmen or Senators. For years
the Department of Defense has been trying to consolidate or close bases, but the politicians
have blocked almost every attempt. It would mean a loss to their local economies, ultimately
their voting base. Or just simply look at a bill, where "pork bellies" are added, to support
Jessica Donati, U.S. forces declassify data on Afghan troops after watchdog dispute, Reuters, February 2, 2015,
accessed February 2, 2015,


politicians projects. Many times undermining the purpose of the bill and drastically increase the
costs, often forcing the bill to be rejected. For a politician to support his state, pet project, over
the better good or at wasteful cost. It is noted but acceptable. No corruption pointed to, just
politics. When an Afghan supports a specific contractor or tribal men, legal by our coalition
contract, it is a cry of corruption. I do not think we really understand our own culture or systems
back in the US. Oh but for the wisdom of a Spanish swordsman. It is easy to stand high and
point to what someone should do, harder to actually practice the same levels of professionalism
and standards we demand of others.
I mentioned the carrot and the stick use of donor monies and countries' support to Afghanistan.
In reality, the wiliness of leadership to truly use the stick and withhold support is nonexistent. At
best the willingness is inconsistent among the efforts of nations and those elements of power
within nations. The Afghans are masters of this game we are playing at. They put to shame
coalition leadership every day. I am uncertain if it is high level political pressure or simple lack of
common sense, maybe a mix of both and the nature of the high rotation rates. The Afghans
watch our actions, are extremely smart, and see that we are going to do their work for them. We
are unwillingly to allow the "gains" we have made be lost, and allow the Afghan's an opportunity
to fail. Fail is a poorly received word, let us say instead, allow a teaching moment to occur.
Afghan logisticians know that if they wait until the last minute to order fuel, or any of a thousand
other commodities, and then complain of shortages and cry mission stoppage, that the coalition
nations will advert the crisis.
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and his cancellation of his Ministry of Defense's acquisition
and procurement capability without an alternative scored a great Afghan victory in delaying
Afghan management of their processes. He played perfectly into our buzz words and concerns
over corruption, turning this to his advantage in order to keep coalition support contracts in
place. Now the Resolute Support Headquarters and coalition financing and management of
contracts will continue with an indefinite end date. We circumvent transition efforts, for the
rooting out of corrupt officials and officers, and replace Afghans with coalition personnel.
The best example comes with the Afghan mismanagement of their aviation enterprise. Within an
aviation enterprise, the leadership of an air force, or for that a commercial company, must
balance the need of operations with the need to maintain operational aircraft for operations.
Because almost every aviation enterprise works within the reality of a fixed fleet of airframes
with limited human capital, finite fiscal resources, and time and spacial constraints; great effort
is put into planning the maintenance cycle for those airframes in order to optimize operations.
With limited resources, every airframe type has a balance point between operations and
maintenance. Fly two much and resources become overstretched and fewer operational aircraft
are mission capable. Find that balance point and a steady, fairly predictable number of
airframes can be made ready for operations. Even if the supporting resource base could be
expanded without limit, airframes reach a point where they must be removed from operations for
larger, time intensive overhaul or depot level maintenance. Then again, without a fiscal
constraint, there is no reason new aircraft and their crews could not be purchased or leased to
fill theses depot periods of maintenance or even expand the fleet to increase operational
capability in general meeting all mission needs.
Like a spoiled rotten child with rich parents, the Afghans over fly their Air Force and put in
jeopardy the Army and the whole of their country and then cry for help. Every year the same
thing, but with the end of coalition air support in 2014 this no longer a game. My aircraft


maintenance colleagues have an uphill battle and again are left with the legacy of Colonel
Scherzer. Scott and, the ever surly, Mike have begun the turn around, but the results of their
work will not be felt for years to come. Their briefings to the command elicited that same
reactions as my first presentation of the cancers. They are good men and I hope that their
efforts account for something.
As with the Afghan procurement capability, the aviation support missions cannot fail. But there is
a political balance here. A lesson could be allowed to play out and jeopardize a nation, like in
Iraq, and bring death to countless sons of Afghanistan, or the coalition can step in. In the end,
the Afghans saw what finally happened in Iraq and know that the US will intervene. So the
reality is that there is no stick the US can wield before the carrot, that the Afghans know they
cannot brush aside with patience. We just cannot allow the "gains" we have made to be lost.
More contractors and advisors will be diverted away from training and transition efforts will be
postponed. The coalition will take the lead and will open their coffers, spending more money to
ensure Afghanistan's success. Coalition air support has already been called in with the US Air
Force F-15s to augment the Afghan Air Force.19 In time, I am sure that more details will come
forth and The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction will likely publish a
formal report.
The training of another nation's air force is nothing more than a tactical piece of what one hopes
is a larger strategy for the US, and its partners, in providing life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness for our nation. Prince Ali Seraj began his 2014 opinion piece with a question,
"Since the enemy was defeated in less than three weeks, why did the West opt
for the militarization of Afghanistan, instead of economic development?"20
And then ironically went on to asked,
"If then the goal was to defeat the insurgents, why leave before the task is
complete" 21
Running List:
- NY Post Editorial Board, Presidential 'fudging' on Afghan war echoes the mistakes of Vietnam , NY Post, April 8,
2015, accessed June 17, 2015,
- Ahmed, Azam and Joseph Goldstein, "Taliban Gains Pull U.S. Units Back Into Fight in Afghanistan,"New York
Times, April 29, 2015, accessed June 17 2015, 2015/04/30/world/asia/more-aggressive-roleby-us-military-is-seen-in-afghanistan.html? emc=edit_na_20150429&nlid=65981113.
- Mashal, Mujib, "Afghans Protest After U.S. Forces Carry Out Raid on Strongman," New York Times, accessed June
29, 2015, forces-carry-out-raid-onstrongman.html?ref=world&_r=0.
- Norland, Rod, "Germany and Sweden Are Said to Help Make Afghan Kill Decisions'," New York Times, September
4, 2015, accessed September 5, 2015,

Seraj, Ali, "No peace in Afghanistan without Tribal Participation," Al Jazeera, February 2, 2014, accessed April 28

Seraj, Ali, "No peace in Afghanistan without Tribal Participation," Al Jazeera, February 2, 2014, accessed April 28


The answer is our western culture, particularly that American aspect of instant gratification and
our short memories. One would hope that we had learned form experiences and history that an
insurgency that takes hold cannot be defeated by short term inadequately and inappropriately
applied force. Cultures will not change without years of forced assimilation, subjugation,
reduction to a minimal power base, or annihilation, genocide. One has to only look to William H.
Prescott's seminal work, The Conquest of Mexico and The Conquest of Peru. Or look to the
history of the US conquest of the Native American tribes. The Nazis attempted the darker
eugenics program with the Final Solution, in an effort at genocide to purge unwanted cultures
from Europe.
My Romanian Commander, Eduart Dodu, and I have spent many an afternoon over a cigar
discussing various topics everything from politics to our families. Much wisdom has been
passed and I am very grateful for his friendship. He has also been following my writings and
recently brought to me a series of articles. One jumped out as an extraordinary one from
Professor Rosa Brooks, "Marking a State by Iron and Blood." 22 Professor Brooks article just
furthers my classical education and jaded, pragmatic thinking,
State formation - and the consolidation of power more generally - has always
been a bloody business..."It is not by speeches and majority resolutions that the
great questions of time are decided...but by iron and blood," Otto von
Bismarck...observed in 1862.
What caught me was her link to time. Just as I alluded to with the conquest of the new world,
the Nazi atrocities, and the US Civil War, she proffers that time heals all evils. Time provides the
ability to forget or reshape history. She provides an extensive list of bloody consolidations of
power that have lead to nation states who now are our closest allies. ISIS has just embarked on
this road. Working to right the arbitrary lines drawn through the Middle East. A base for a new
nation state and maybe hold out long enough to provide time to emerge, as others have, in
history. She makes no excuse for the evil that has been perpetrated as I have not. It is a reality
in thinking that comes from remembering our own Western histories. As Professor Brooks
states, time softens the edges of history. Even now the US has made overtures to the Taliban as
peace is sought in Afghanistan.
Ultimately for an American answer to Prince Ali Seraj, it comes back to that sound bite culture of
instant gratification. Political leaders, and by extension military leaders, work within terms of
office or position. Programs requiring years upon years to bear fruit are not politically tenable,
they do not get you re-elected, and they do not read well on a military performance report.
Results matter, not the longer building of plans that will produce results 20, 30, or even
hundreds of years later. So why do we leave before the task is over, because we gloss over and
skirt realities and force results. Leaving is now politically profitable, the one to bring home the
troops. All those military performance report show mission upon mission accomplished, officers,
noncommissioned officers, and troopers who trained, built, created, developed....program after
program ready to go. Military awards and decorations flowed like water for years of mission
success. Yet the group of us that remained after declaration of the Operation ENDURING

Brooks, Rosa, "Making a State by Iron and Blood," Foreign Policy, 20 August 2015, accessed 22 August 2015,


FREEDOM mission complete, see no light to the end of the tunnel, just many lose ends with
very little to show for within the logistics community that was left to Afghanistan.
I am told that we have been fighting the political war, one year at a time for the last 13 years.
Each year becomes a repeat, just as if we entered the movie, Ground Hog's Day and a
reoccurring marathon of the classic movie, Office Space. Just a few months before taking on the
air advisor post, I was in Bagram and Kandahar for a site survey. I got to see again, first hand
the years of poor and even negligent management of the installations. Every year a new plan,
every plan a new course and direction, every plan just a temporary one because we were
deployed and will not be here long, the SandBook standard set forth by US Central Command
for building of US facilities within its area of responsibility...yet an easy look at any number of
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reports can show the wasted
buildings built for no occupants, expeditionary standards of construction, with little or no
accountability over contractors. Facilities that can never be maintained by the local people, and
ones they never wanted in the first place. Metal sided, canvas covered temporary buildings,
above ground fuel facilities; when the Afghans need protected longterm facilities. Even we throw
up a tent and then spend thousands of dollars in sand bags and cement T-walls to bunker our
soft facilities. For the same price reinforced facilities could have been built and then given to our
Afghan partners, even the US Embassy in Kabul, leveled the old Camp Eggers and is rebuilding
it because it did not meet force protection standards. Billions wasted on temp buildings with
nothing to show for it except the bills and audits that will fill volumes of journalists' articles and
authors' books to see no one held accountable.23
An advising mission that is to put the Afghan Air Force in the lead, using their reporting and
systems, is inconsistent with the "accuracy, timelines, and volume" of reports once provided by
nearly 100,000 troops with copious staffs throughout all the regions. We are two staff officers,
advisors for all the Afghan Air Force logistics. And now I have even lost my Czech colleague to
drawdown. Leadership has been presented a rosy picture of Afghan logistic capabilities, not the
truth about the state of our logistics programs nor do they understand the logistics operations of
GIRoA. Now magically they want us to have oversight of programs that have been mismanaged
for years and somehow shadow report on the Afghan Air Force without people on site nor the
manpower to work the reports. As ordered, I will accomplish reports as best as I can and guess
on the state of Afghan logistics. Commander Resolute Support provided this clearly when he
recently testified before the US Congress and relayed a good picture of Afghan readiness and a
requirement to extend the mission, slow down the withdrawal. All this and the new Secretary of
Defense visits have done is provide our Afghan partners with renewed resilience to resist
transferring ownership and responsibility of programs from the coalition. As my advisees like to
say now,
"Brother, there is no problem. Your general and new man, says you are staying.
Our command knows this and we are told not to worry the Americans are staying.
We signed your bilateral agreement, you are staying now. You will continue to

Gault, Matthew, "This is How America Screwed Up Afghanistan's Reconstruction," War is Boring, 15 September
2015, accessed 15 September 2015,

Sopko, John F., "Ground Truths: Honestly Assessing Reconstruction in Afghanistan," Prepared Remarks of John F.
Sopko Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction for Delivery at Georgetown University Thursday, 10
September 2015. Accessed 15 September 2015


have the contracts and do the logistics for us. Come on don't worry, we have
I have been counseled that my personal bearing and the expression of my opinion, when
provided, project an aurora of arrogance or pure ignorance of my scope of understanding. Then
let me temper my thoughts with objectiveness. There are people, conducting multiple
independent missions to simultaneously support varied political and military strategies in the
coalition efforts within Afghanistan. Think of it like a youth football game. Enthusiastic children
running after the ball, to get a kick in, all with an effort to put a ball in a goal. The game tends to
migrate to a mass of players surrounding the football effecting actions in what at times is called
"bunch ball" play. In the case of a youth soccer game there is a singular end, the goal. With the
work in Afghanistan, the varied political, military and national, international missions, and the
unrelated efforts within each of theses multiple groups, it is difficult to define a singular end.
What is the overall mission of the US or more broadly coalition/Western actions in Afghanistan?
Is the latest US National Security Strategy the rudder? Maybe the newest US National Military
Strategy or the Service derivatives? And does it translate into coordinated, actionable work in
Afghanistan? Zaman Stanizai in his article "Obama's Last Stand," described it like this:
"In addressing a policy shift in regards to Cuba, President Obama correctly
paraphrased Albert Einstein whose definition of insanity is, "doing the same thing
over and over again and expecting different results." The crisis in Afghanistan
shouldn't take 50 years in order for the Americans to realize the same truth--the
truth that rarely if ever has any political conflict been resolved by military means.
Time to pause...
One wonders if there is some merit to the backhanded remark of that great
statesman, Winston Churchill who once said: "Americans will always do the right
thing, only after they have tried everything else." Will Obama leave a legacy to
prove Churchill wrong? Only time will tell."24
For me, outwardly and from within Afghanistan policy does not look coherent. Disparate vehicle
fleets and weapon systems from multiple nations provided to Afghanistan without a sustainment
plan. The same after action reports and audits with the same discrepancies noted for the last
five years. But then again I have been counseled for my ignorance of my scope of

Stanizai, Zaman, "Obama's Last Stand on Afghanistan: A Strategy With No Foresight," The World Post, 20 October
2015 accessed 20 October 2015,


understanding the big picture.25 In reality, I may not see the larger picture and maybe this is all
part of the 100 year plan our politicians and strategists have masterfully laid that will provide
stability to Afghanistan and the whole of the Middle East.26 Then again, the foundations for my
deployments, and countless others, to the Middle East were laid by politicians and military
leaders almost a century ago as the Turkish Empire was force out of the Arabian Peninsula in
World War I. The not so secret political SykesPicot Agreement set the stage for the future
conflicts and dabbling of Western powers in the modern Middle East.
T.E. Lawrence's, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, is probably the best telling of this story, but my
favorite rendition comes in a scene from the 1971 movie, Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence, played
by Peter O'Tool. Alex Guinness as Emir Feisal with General Allenby portrayed by actor Jack
Hawkins. And the incomparable Claude Rains in the role of The Arab Office Head, Mr. Dryden.
The scene comes near the end of Lawrence's service. A beaten down man, requesting the end
of his service in Arabia, little hope left as he enters General Allenby's office, surprised to see the
FEISAL: (spontaneous pleasure) "Aurens!"
He joins LAWRENCE in CLOSE SHOT and seizes him by
the hand, but as he does so the glow fades from his face
and is replaced by sadness and suspicion.
FEISAL:"... or is it Major Lawrence?"
LAWRENCE: (saluting: formally) "Sir."
FEISAL: (dropping his hand) "Ah."
The CAMERA PANS with FEISAL as he leaves
LAWRENCE and moves towards ALLENBY and DRYDEN.
FEISAL: "Well I will leave you, General. Major Lawrence doubtless
has reports to make."

Knight, Charles, "Afghan Army Now Ready ... to Lose to the Taliban," The Huffington Post, 15 September 2015
accessed 17 September 2015,

Stanizai, Zaman, "Obama's Last Stand on Afghanistan: A Strategy With No Foresight," The World Post, 20 October
2015 accessed 20 October 2015,
Stanizai, Zaman, "Fighting by the Book Failing by Design: The U.S. Military's Inherent Conflict of Interest with Peace
in Afghanistan," The Stanizai Org, 9 September 2011 accessed 20 October 2015,
Laub, Zachary, "Can Afghan Forces Resist the Taliban?," Defense One, 9 October 2015 accessed 10 October 2015,
Jaishankar, Dhruva, "The Definition of Insanity Is U.S. AfPak Strategy," Foreign Policy, 17 October 2015 accessed
17 October 2015,


He goes towards a glass door leading directly out on to the

open corridor, but pauses to deliver his salvoes.
FEISAL: "About my people; and their weakness. And the need to
keep them weak. In the British interest. (by the door) The French
interest too of course, we mustnt forget the French, now."
180 CLOSE UP ALLENBY. He is exasperated.
ALLENBY: "Ive told you, sir no such treaty exists."
FEISAL: "Yes, General, you have lied most bravely, But not
convincingly. I know this treaty does exist."
LAWRENCE: "Treaty, sir?"
FEISAL: "He does it better than you, General. (bitterly) But then of
course hes almost an Arab."
He sweeps out through the door.
184 CLOSE SHOT LAWRENCE. There is a silence. He
looks from the door to ALLENBY and DRYDEN.
DRYDEN. DRYDEN looks curiously and keenly at
DRYDEN: "You really dont know?"
LAWRENCE spreads his hands to demonstrate complete
incomprehension but he is already looking concerned.
ALLENBY: "Then what the devils this?"
He holds up a paper scrumpled in his fist.
LAWRENCE: (his tone is one of total exhaustion in a thin shell of
correctness) "Its my request for release from Arabia, sir."
ALLENBY: (angry) "For what reason!" (suspicious) "Are you sure
you havent heard of the Sykes-Picot Treaty?"
LAWRENCE: "No. (wearily) I can guess."
ALLENBY: (sharply) "Dont guess." (to DRYDEN) "Tell him."
DRYDEN steeples his fingers delicately.
DRYDEN: "Well now, Mr. Sykes is an English Civil Servant and
Monsieur Picot is a French Civil Servant. Mr. Sykes and Monsieur


Picot met. And they agreed that, after the war, France and
England should share the Turkish Empire. Including Arabia. They
signed an Agreement" (he glances at ALLENBY) "not a
treaty, sir, an Agreement to that effect."
LAWRENCE: "There may be honor among thieves but theres
none in politicians."
DRYDEN: (when, as now, he is stung, he is quite deadly) "And
lets have no displays of indignation. You may not have known, but
you certainly had suspicions." (He rises and walks away towards
the archway over - looking the garden.) "If weve told lies youve
told half-lies ... And a man who tells lies like me merely hides
the truth." (softly) "But a man who tells half-lies ... has forgotten
where he put it."27
While the anecdote from Lawrence of Arabia provides a rather benign understanding of the
Middle East, it represents an innocent side of politics and nations. I do not believe this exists
except in movies and in the hopes of the uninitiated, the unseasoned. As time goes by and the
years of service click past, it becomes more and more difficult to try to understand the decisions
making of senior leadership and our politicians. Again I hope it is all part of some larger plan, but
the conspiracy theorist in me keeps bubbling to the surface. My thoughts collected here are part
of my attempt to make sense of the world around me. In most things I can find an answer, in
others it will take time. One thing for sure is that I am not alone. A friend of mine, having been in
Afghanistan for yet another rotation put it like this:
So I was waiting of a helicopter to fly the 5 kilometers from the North Kabul
Airport to ISAF headquarters we used to simply drive this distance when I was
here two years, we take a helo because here in the capital the road is
deemed too dangerous to travel.
I go to thinking about this. Weve been here in Afghanistan since 2001 going on
14 years...and we cant secure a 5 km stretch of road from the airport to the US
Embassy? What the hell is going on? We are the most powerful military in the
history of the world this isnt being braggadocios or denigrating any other
countrys military it is just a simple fact we can destroy the rest of the world if
we choose to, several times over...we control space, the sea, the air, our
technology is without equal...why then cant we secure a shitty little stretch of
road in the capital of a country weve dumped billions of dollars and thousands of
lives into over the last decade-plus??? The answer is we absolutely could
secure it we simply dont care to....

Bolt, Robert and Michael Wilson, "16665787 Lawrence of Arabia," Accessed 28 April 2015,
doc/118429560, 104-105.


We dont care to because we dont really care if Afghanistan is stable we want

it to be a little stable, but mostly unstable...and we want that because we want
the opium crop in the country to flourish.
In 2001, when the United States invaded Afghanistan, that country produced one
metric ton of heroin - one. Last year (2013) it produced 5,500 tons. In 2014
estimates put heroin output at over 6,000 tons. Growth like this doesnt just
magically happen in any commodity, anywhere...
So why has this happened? Why have we allowed it to happen? Because we
could stop it if we chose to, we really could. We stop other things when we want
them to be stopped.
The answer is this. We are using Afghanistan as a proxy to wage a devastating
chemical warfare campaign against Russia and Iran. 100,000 Russians are dying
annually from heroin overdoses. Over 500,000 human beings dead over the last
five years.
Iran has a population of approx 70 million, 4 million of them are heroin addicts.
Heroin overdose is the 2nd leading cause of death in Iran traffic fatalities are #1
(got to wonder if this is related to heroin too?).
In 2014, 55 Americans died in Afghanistan. 55 Americans vs 100,000 Russians
if someone who is still fighting the Cold War is doing a cost-benefit analysis, this
is an enormous the last five years, 1409 dead Americans, but over
500,000 dead Russians....
Drug addiction is destroying Russian and Iranian societies. The impact to the
U.S. is felt, indirectly, as the flood of heroin onto the world markets has driven
down the price of South American heroin in the U.S., creating more addicts too.
But the majority of Afghan heroin flows across the Caspian Sea to Russia and
across the western border of Afghanistan into neighboring Iran.
Do I know this to be true? No, I dont. And I doubt if whoever designed this plan
would step forward and say, yep, that was our plan...pretty good trade-off...
cripple two of our enemies for just a few thousand American lives and a few
billion dollars... But if this is true, it is horrible. It is not who we are as a people,
as a Nation. We dont poison other peoples children with drugs...these are
human beings...if we want to fight them, then we should fight them honorably....if
this has indeed been our goal here in Afghanistan, then it is shameful,
And while Im mentioning dollars, lets examine that aspect of this incursion into
Afghanistan. Why is there no enormous outcry from our elected leadership on
this lengthy war could it be because there are so many contracts that support
the war which create jobs in home districts that politicians simply dont want to
upset the apple cart???


The economy has been weak, producing thousands of radiators or windshields

for vehicle in Afghanistan keeps people employed in the U.S. If thats in the
Nations interest, well, I guess thats why Im waiting on this fucking helicopter to
take me 5 kilometers....28
This dark version of political ways and means is in stark contrast to Bolt and Wilson's portrayal
of politics from a more genteel period of movie making. I have time in the Middle East, by no
means an expert or scholar, and time in the military. Like my friend, I still have no way to know
the reality, let us say the truth. Even historians and analysts will take years to come to common
agreement on this portion of Afghan history, but this is just mere academics to pacify and allow
articles to be published. It is the nature of academy, even humanity, to question, dig deeper to
find the root cause or come to the absolute truth. But few if any moments in history have an
absolute. If so, there would be but one story teller for each event; I quick stroll through any
library's racks will show this is not the case.
My thoughts and experiences lead me to believe the story of Lawrence and the idea of a quasi
reverse heroin drug war tell of the unintended consequences of well meaning but shortsighted
Western leaders. The English Civil Servant, Mr. Sykes and his French Civil Servant counterpart,
Monsieur Picot met and agreed that, after the World War I, France and England should share
the Turkish Empire, including Arabia. Their artificial division of the Turkish controlled Middle East
had no foundation in the economic or ethnographic geography of the region which has not
allowed the region to reach a natural equilibrium. The Middle East has not had the ability to
establish a sustainable resource base nor come to a cultural balance within the tribal nature of
people. Each time a group tries to extend to gain such a base, Western enforcement of these
artificial national boundaries resign the region to hopelessness. The unintended consequences
of this division have been the extreme cost burdened by the West to support these artificial
nations' stability, the subsequent loss of capital that could have been spent to support internal
programs of Western nations, the unimaginable death and destruction that years of war have
brought to the region and Western nations, and selfishly for me...yet another deployment to the


Private thoughts of a friend and colleague with his armchair reacher notes

Articles on heroin in Russia:, heroin-for-500000-deaths/25385583.html,, filthy-needles/ar-BBkaRvN\.
Articles on heroin in Iran:,, http:// alarming-speed-acrossafghanistan/2015/01/06/2cbb61ea-94e7-11e4-aabd-d0b93ff613d5_story.html.
Afghan Heroin:, http://, farmers-seeds-boost-opiumoutput-060423845--finance.html.
Combat deaths in Afghanistan:,


As for the reverse drug war, we should have never stayed in Afghanistan to rebuild a nation
while we were actively fighting a war. We should have never pushed for some kind of power
sharing in the military and the government. The political side of our operations pushed this while
at the same time Western regional commands and the various other Western government
agencies supported regional power brokers, countering any authority of the Afghan central
government. Afghanistan is not ready for it. The country should have been allowed to fragment
along ethnic lines, each region given a share of the military operations like a national guard
system. If our Western politicians wanted a central government in Afghanistan, then they should
have held the purse strings, loosely over a cadre in Kabul, with a tasking to the regional leaders
to protect the capital and borders in return for their position of regional leadership, funds, and
connection to foreign military sales, finical aid, and development programs. A traditional tribal
system where elders dole out to ensure regional support to their leadership. The unintended
consequence is that war and peace can not coexist in the same space. War drives mistakes,
death that bolsters and feeds insurgency, and handicaps economic development. Insurgencies
derive their funding from sources, either ill gotten or not. A nascent nation derives it funds from
sources either ill gotten or not. The growth of the heroin industry in Afghanistan is easily
understandable. National and regional power brokers adapted to the inability of Western political
and military leaderships to rebuild a nation on realistic timelines with realistic generational
thinking and true expectations. Afghans found markets for their heroin and the needed funds
that the Western power brokers could not provide. Geological change takes millions of years, it
is no different with the people of Afghanistan.


Final Thoughts on the Advisor Mission to Afghanistan

In Arnold Fields', Major General, USMC (Ret.), the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan
Reconstruction, fourth quarterly report to the U.S. Congress, I saw a quote by Ibn Qutayba:


There can be no government without an army, No army without money, No

money without prosperity, And no prosperity without justice and good
administration. 29
This quarterly report lead me to the Afghan National Development Strategy that was according
to the Afghan Embassy, The Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), formally
approved by President Hamid Karzai on April 21, 2008, is the document that outlines the
Government of Afghanistan's strategies for security, governance, economic growth, and poverty
reduction in order to establish a way forward to 2010.30 The Afghan Strategy begins with an
interesting quote:
Verily, never will Allah change the condition of people unless they change it
themselves (013,011)31
As I understand it, the Government of Afghanistans model of governance and development
today derives from an ancient concept of this region called the Circle of Justice (daira-yi
idalat). As the ninth century Islamic scholar Ibn Qutayba,wrote:
There can be no government without an army,
No army without money,
No money without prosperity,
And no prosperity without justice and good administration.32
A century later, in Afghanistan itself, Sultan Sebuktegin of Ghazni put it this way:
The first thing you should do is to keep the private and public treasuries in a
prosperous condition; for a kingdom can only be retained by wealth. Wealth
cannot be acquired except by good government and wise statesmanship, and
good government cannot be achieved except through justice and
righteousness. 33
It is interesting that I should find this description of good government in writing about my
experiences in Afghanistan. Even more interesting that this should come from Afghanistan itself.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Quarterly Report to the
United States Congress, 30 July 2009, 46.

The Afghanistan Embassy, Washington D.C. Afghanistan Nation Development Strategy. http://


GIRoA, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Afghanistan National Development Strategy 1387 1391 (2008 2013) A
Strategy for Security, Governance, Economic Growth & Poverty Reduction," http://
sites/default/files/publications/ Afghanistan_National_Development_Strategy_eng.pdf, i.

Abu Muhammad Abdullah b. Muslim b. Qutayba, Kitab Uyun al-Akhbar (Sources of Information), 1:9, cited in
Linda Darling Do Justice, Do Justice, For that is Paradise: Middle Eastern Advice for Indian Muslim Rulers,
Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol XXII No. 1 and 2 (2002), 3.

Muhammad Nizam, The Pand-Namah of Subuktigin, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1933): 624, cited by
Linda Darling, ibid., 4-5.


I have not seen this side of Afghanistan; however, it does make an outstanding criteria for a
report card on both Afghanistan and its most recent occupying Western Allies.
I picture these five truths as a circular band. There can be no government without an army, no
army without money, no money without prosperity, and no prosperity without justice and good
administration make up the the circular band while never will Allah change the condition of
people unless they change it themselves binds the four pieces of the band together. Each of the
four pieces of the band hold equal importance within the band. Like a chain the pieces are only
as good as their weakest link. But the Westerners have focused so heavily on the security
portion, the army, and made huge assumptions that the people of Afghanistan would rise to the
challenge as had Germany or Japan. Afghanistan's Marshall plan.
Matt Weurker created a political cartoon34 that
spawned a Politico article by John Greenberg,
"Has the U.S. Really Spent More on
Afghanistan Than on Post-WWII Europe?"35
This all stemmed from the Special Inspector
General for Afghanistan Reconstruction,
Quarterly report to the United States
Congress, July 30, 2014. 36 Greenberg
surmised that it was mostly true. Monetary
values aside, the comparison is really one of
apples to oranges. Stephen Masterak and I
made similar comparison between coalition
fuel logistics in our Naval Postgraduate School
thesis; however, this was a tangible
operational analysis on the nature of similar
variables.37 But here Greenberg points out
that the Marshall Plan was focused solely on economic support after combat operations ended:
Afghanistan support took place during on going military operations with more than 60 percent
focused on military spending - irrespective of combat and military operational expenses and
future veterans medical costs and recapitalization of lost or expended resources.
So eloquently simple yet so difficult in the execution. Afghanistan has been no more than a
client state. Since time immemorial, caught between the hammer and the anvil as nation upon
nation have taken and lost Afghanistan. I can understand that the scholars and saints have
listed the order to begin with the army and why the current Afghanistan experience has focused
its efforts on the army. History has shown time and again that one must first consolidate power
Wuerker, Matt, Political Cartoon, Politico, August 4, 2015, accessed August 22, 2015,

Grenberg, John, "Has the U.S. Really Spent More on Afghanistan Than on Post-WWII Europe?" Politico, August
20, 2015, accessed August 22, 2015,


The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Quarterly Report to the
United States Congress, 30 July 2014, 46.

Evans, Michael J. and Stephen W. Masternak, The Silent Revolution within NATO Logistics: A Study in Afghanistan
Fuel and Future Application, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey California, December 2012.


and control land for a nation to emerge. But here these ideals are more esoteric where one
assumes the good and valiant exist in a people. Afghanistan has few if any of these people in
leadership. Those with such virtues have little power within Afghanistan's newest attempt at
government. Reality has shown that this is not so, nations are created by those who can hold
power and rule a land. But to truly judge the efforts of this newest attempt at government and
nation building, I can find no better measure than that provided by the Islamic scholar Ibn
Qutayba, the words from the Koran, and as told by Afghanistan's own plan:
There can be no government without an army,
No army without money,
No money without prosperity,
And no prosperity without justice and good administration.38
Verily, never will Allah change the condition of people unless they change it
themselves (013,011)39
But I believe that the order should follow no prosperity without justice and good administration,
no money without prosperity, no army without money, and there can be no government without
an army.
no prosperity without justice and good administration: Former President Hamid Karzai and his
administration developed the "Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Afghanistan National
Development Strategy 1387 1391 (2008 2013) A Strategy for Security, Governance,
Economic Growth & Poverty Reduction." In their own words, there is no administration nor good
In addition to the low level of revenues it collects, the state lacks the capacity to
execute expenditures in much of the country, in part because of inadequate
financial tracking and management systems. The combination of lack of a
functioning banking or electronic payments system and widespread insecurity
makes it difficult for government expenditures to reach much of the country or for
Government to ensure that expenditures are equitable across provinces.40
no money without prosperity: In their own words, there is no money,
Lack of resources and fiscal capacity: The IMF estimates that in 1384 (2005/6)
the Afghan government will mobilize 5.4% of licit GDP as domestic revenue, up
from 3.2% of a much smaller GDP at the start of the interim administration. This
is less than any other government in the world for which data are available.


Abu Muhammad Abdullah b. Muslim b. Qutayba, Kitab Uyun al-Akhbar (Sources of Information), 1:9, cited in
Linda Darling Do Justice, Do Justice, For that is Paradise: Middle Eastern Advice for Indian Muslim Rulers,
Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol XXII No. 1 and 2 (2002), 3.

GIRoA, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Afghanistan National Development Strategy 1387 1391 (2008 2013) A
Strategy for Security, Governance, Economic Growth & Poverty Reduction," http://
sites/default/files/publications/ Afghanistan_National_Development_Strategy_eng.pdf, i.

GIRoA, Afghanistan National Development Strategy, An Interim Strategy for Security, Governance, Economic
Growth & Poverty Reduction, n.d., 58.


Without greater, sustainable sources of revenue, Government will be unable to

pay the public sector wage bill sustainably, let alone finance public investments.
Afghans pay more for public services than is collected by the state, but much of
the taxes they pay are either captured by illicit power holders or go to support
traditional governance systems at the village level that do not form part of the
no army without money: In their own words, there is no money to provide for Afghanistan's
By 1400 (2020), we will have a reformed and professionalized national army that
will recruit from all groups in the population. We will have armed forces of a
manageable size that is fiscally sustainable.42
Fiscal constraints will continue to limit the Governments ability to invest in and
sustain the security sector. The costs of running the ANA as now configured are
beyond the capacity of the Government to fund through national revenues for the
foreseeable future. As reform of the police progresses, its salary levels may also
rise, pulling other parts of the civil service along with it, posing further burdens on
the Treasury. Even with the most optimistic estimates of national economic
growth it will be many years, before Afghanistans security sector will be selfsustainable; where Government covers both wage and non wage recurrent costs,
and capital costs as required to meet national defense objectives. 43
The financial cost of rebuilding and reforming the Afghan security sector remain
beyond the capacity of the government and our ability to cover even the core
remuneration costs for the ANA and the ANP will remain a major challenge.
Though the immediate burden is largely being carried by the international
community outside of the normal fiscal management processes of the MoF, the
Government fully accepts that the security force structures that are put in place
must be, in the longer term, operationally realistic and fiscally sustainable over
time. However, in the absence of sufficient fiscal resources, it is unrealistic to
expect government to achieve the levels of domestic, national and regional
security that the government aspires to and which the international community
expects by way of support to the global war on terror. The sector will require
continued and substantial support from the international community for many
years to come, covering both recurrent (wage and operations and maintenance)
and capital costs.44


GIRoA, Afghanistan National Development Strategy, An Interim Strategy for Security, Governance, Economic
Growth & Poverty Reduction, n.d., 58.

GIRoA, Afghanistan National Development Strategy, An Interim Strategy for Security, Governance, Economic
Growth & Poverty Reduction, n.d., 14.

GIRoA, Afghanistan National Development Strategy, An Interim Strategy for Security, Governance, Economic
Growth & Poverty Reduction, n.d., 57.

GIRoA, Afghanistan National Development Strategy, An Interim Strategy for Security, Governance, Economic
Growth & Poverty Reduction, n.d., 113.


There can be no government without an army: In their own words, there is no army that can
make a government,
While we need security forces, ultimately we will secure our national defense
through dialogue with our neighbors. Similarly, with regard to our internal security
and threats of terrorism; we cannot expect to overcome these through military
means or through the police. Every state needs its citizens to participate actively
to meet threats of terrorism and ensure the primacy of the rule of law. Therefore,
as a critical component of our security and economic development strategy we
will pursue a Social Compact as indicated in Section 5.5 below.45
Verily, never will Allah change the condition of people unless they change it themselves
(013,011)46: In their own words, as expressed by Prince Ali Seraj, the tribes of Afghanistan will
be its savior. As already noted, had this held true then Afghanistan would be a self-sustaining
nation and not a client state, but it is not. The insurgency would not exist, yet it thrives still.
This ideal of the circle held together by the people is but a misguided truth. The measure set by
the people is weighed and I find it wanting. Time may prove different, but I do not believe I will
see it during my lifetime nor that of my grandchildren. My new Czech colleague,Vlasta, and I
spoke about this struggle. He referenced his favorite foreign, not a Czech poem, "Not so long
but describe[s] today['s] reality,"
Leisure by W. H. Davies
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
It is the reference to the rush to accomplish our mission without taking the time to see reality.
More, now, faster, prove to the US Congress that we have not wasted the last years. To really
stop and see, understand what needs to be done. To see what beauty could be Afghanistan.

GIRoA, Afghanistan National Development Strategy, An Interim Strategy for Security, Governance, Economic
Growth & Poverty Reduction, n.d., 71.

GIRoA, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Afghanistan National Development Strategy 1387 1391 (2008 2013) A
Strategy for Security, Governance, Economic Growth & Poverty Reduction," http://
sites/default/files/publications/ Afghanistan_National_Development_Strategy_eng.pdf, i.


In everything, I hope that the blood spent here in Afghanistan amounts to something. In reality, I
know that all has been of little value, countless sons and daughters of Afghanistan have been
lost in yet another war for Afghanistan. Thousands flee the country daily knowing what their
future holds taking with them Afghanistan's future. And soon no people for a government to
rule.47 The catalogued American dead and the unknown men and women lost to the mental and
physical struggles we will have to endure through a lifetime of torment for nebulous political
aims. My Greek colleagues from the 2014 Greek Mission to Afghanistan painted an amazing
piece of art work depicting their version of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The inscription
An empty tomb has been made for those, whose bodies were not found after battle.
The whole earth is the tomb of glorious men.

47 Alikozai,

Hasib Danish, Afghanistan's Other Security Threat: Brain Drain," Voice of America, 7 September 2015,
accessed 8 September 2015
Bezhan, Frud, Stay With Me: Afghan Government Begs Citizens Not to Flee," The Atlantic, 22 September 2015,
accessed 23 September 2015
Najafizada, Eltaf, "Afghanistan cant print passports fast enough as exodus worsens," The Maimi Herald, 22
September 2015, accessed 23 September 2015


I hope I am wrong. I hope that each of us has left an indelible mark on Afghanistan that will
somehow remain. But like the painted T-walls that will be stripped of their artwork when we
leave, our blood will fade into nothingness.
Verily, never will Allah change the condition of people unless they change it
themselves (013,011)48
The people of Afghanistan may have peace if God is willing, until that time, Afghanistan will go
on, awaiting its next war. Three campaign ribbons between Pakistan and Afghanistan is enough.
Let it have its next war. Without us.


GIRoA, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Afghanistan National Development Strategy 1387 1391 (2008 2013) A
Strategy for Security, Governance, Economic Growth & Poverty Reduction," http://
sites/default/files/publications/ Afghanistan_National_Development_Strategy_eng.pdf, i.


End of mission
And as quickly as it began about fifteen months ago it finally ended just as quickly. Having
always taken care of people and their needs over the years without asking for anything in return
proved to benefit me. My old sergeants, whom I had served with over the years, took care to
arrange access to the Department of State parking ramp. The State Department had a mission
going back through Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina redeploying some of their
helicopters. Just a few hours from the house. A direct flight home without all the madness and
stupidity of the military redeployment system. With its transit dorms and locations with people far
removed from the struggle, who could give a shit about your tour of duty. Instead of sleeping
outside of the Ramstien Air Base passenger terminal, a services clerk opened an aircrew room,
because the terminal closed so people do not live there. Selfish bastards, who should be
reaching out to help and support. Instead they usher you out of their precious facilities. On
approach to Charleston Air Force Base I completed my time in Afghanistan and my thoughts on
my time there.
Written by my hand, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Evans, 29 September 2015.