To: General Stanley A. McChrystalNote: the subject, "Helpful hints to hopeful heroes", is taken from General George S. Patton's unpublished memoirs.
Subj: “Helpful Hints to Hopeful Heroes” : Training Afghan forces
To succeed in training Afghan forces you may want to consider three suggestions:
Suggestion #1: Don't focus solely on military training.
Drill, weapons training, strategy & tactics: all are necessary, but none is sufficient.
Rather, include a rather large dose of Afghan history.
My guess is that one objective of training Afghan forces is to provide a nucleus for an Afghan national identity. If this be true, then Afghan forces need to have some sense that the country they're being trained to defend is worth defending.
Feed them large doses of Afghan history, focusing on brave stands made by Afghan fighters against enemies, foreign and domestic. Give them at least a hint that Afghanistan has a proud history, and a proud military history - a tradition which they are fighting to preserve and extend.
Suggestion #2: Adapt the military training to their strengths. I suspect history suggests that Afghan military strength, both in the past and today, is in the area of guerilla warfare - not standard set-piece battles with complex battlefield evolution of forces.
I note that the U.S. military is NOT the best organization to train another in the effective use of non-standard tactics... BUT: if the training does not take into account this reality, I'm not hopeful for success.
How can non-standard guerilla tactics be employed by the state to defeat guerilla enemies? Elements of U.S. counter-insurgency doctrine certainly have a bearing on this question... but I'd bet we could also learn a LOT from our Afghan allies!
Suggestion #3: Engage Afghan officers in the design of ALL training. If we view ourselves as the sole 'experts', there only to impart our precious knowledge to the heathen, we will fail.
I note that in 1975 my Army Basic Training included at least a few days of classroom instruction on “The History of the U.S. Army.” I learned who Baron von Steuben was. I assume the intent was to instill in us – raw recruits – a sense that we were continuing a long-standing tradition of service to our country, and to convince us that our voluntary service was at heart patriotic.
This same goal ought be accommodated within whatever training the U.S. military delivers to our Afghan allies.
Finally, emphasize that the Taliban are, in fact, foreign enemies. During their rule of Afghanistan they were notably an instrument of the Saudis, even to the extent of adopting the particularly Saudi institution of “Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice”. The Taliban’s religious zeal and exclusivity are NOT based on any Afghan precedent, but have been imported by Saudi – Wahabbist – zealots.
I would be more than happy to provide an outline of the non-military curriculum outlined above.
My motivation? I would prefer to see my country succeed in Afghanistan.
Nothing more, nothing less.
To: General Stanley A. McChrystalCan pragmatism trump ideology? Probably not... but if we continue to adhere to the ideologically-driven eradication of the opium trade, we have no hope.
Subj: “Helpful Hints to Hopeful Heroes” : Afghanistan’s only cash crop
A previous note included three more-or-less non-controversial suggestions regarding the training of Afghan forces.
This note will be somewhat more controversial.
Afghanistan has exactly ONE (1) cash crop: opium.
Promote it! Tax it!!!
The status quo – in which we criminalize opium production – only serves our enemies. Both the Taliban and non-governmental warlords profit from the opium trade, at our expense.
It is a no-win situation.
Encourage opium production, and co-opt the warlords who now control the trade into the central government. Make it a condition of their trade that they actively support the Karzai government.
Appoint them as provincial leaders.
Effectively legalize the opium trade.
Again: opium is Afghanistan’s ONLY cash crop.
This could change in the future, but today we are dealing with today’s here-and-now.
Yes – this policy change could well kill your military career… BUT: it just might rescue Afghanistan from a descent into lawlessness that dwarfs that of the early 1990s.
As it stands, the opium trade benefits only our enemies.
Can you argue that pragmatism in this case trumps ideology?