I finished Captain Benjamin Tupper's book, "Greetings from Afghanistan: Send More Ammo," today. The book was a series of blogs about his life as part of a ETT (Embedded Training Team) with the Afghan National Army during his year long deployment in southern Afghanistan. The war took a toil on Tupper. He lost about 40 pounds, wound up divorced, and suffered from Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder when he got back to New York City, his hometown. But Tupper said it helped him to write down all things that happened as a kind of therapy. I believe that was the reason he wrote his book.
Aside from the combat patrols, dealing with insurgents, target practicing, and occasional R&R, much of it was dealt with the daily toil of combat operations in Afghanistan. The terrain is unforgiving and climate hostile. Tupper commented on something I already knew but few people actually talk about. The lack of winning hearts and minds with the local population in the face of a more militarist response to the Taliban insurgency. And no one is the current political administration or Congress will publicly talk about why we should still be in Afghanistan. Though Captain Tupper generally supported US policy, his view was we couldn't militarily win in Afghanistan without winning the goodwill and support of the local population.
This is what happened in Vietnam. It is now playing out in Kabul and Kandahar. But I still don't see any public discourse about why America is still involved in Afghanistan. Tupper commented on the fact that deployments were often extended three months by the Pentagon to cover manpower shortages. Some soldiers who were coming home to Fort Bragg were sent back to Afghanistan for another 90 days within hours of their "homecoming ceremonies". MP's had to hauled in to stop rioting Army wives who were throwing food at military officials.
These are the kind of things that aren't heard on TV or in the newspapers. And the Obama administration wants to continue deploying US and Nato forces in Afghanistan until 2014? I don't see the point in wasting anymore US lives in a futile war. My own opinion is we have outlasted our welcome and the local population wants us to leave. It would only be a matter of time before the Karzi regime collapsed without US support. Again, I see many shades of Vietnam in my mind.
But the Taliban weapon of choice that stood out was the RPG-7 and IED's. Tupper and his soldiers feared both. There were also mortar attacks on command posts and the daily possibility of sniper ambushes. IED's were feared by US service personnel the worst. There would be no warning when they might hit. And the effects could be devastating. Loss of limbs is a real fear. That combined with an enemy that believes in suicide bombings sickens most troops.
Though I enjoyed reading "Greetings from Afghanistan" by Captain Tupper, I find the lack of suitable reading material about combat operations in Afghanistan disheartening. The current campaign is being fought similar to a 19th century war of empire. One of the lessons to be taken away from all this is Afghanistan has traditionally been the graveyard of empires from Alexander the Great to the British East India Company and the Soviet Union. We would be foolish to think that we are any better with our modern technology and high-tech weaponary.