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BC: second cousin productions

1: Doug Shontz in Afghanistan (A series of dispatches sent back to the home front with no intention that they would ever appear in book form.) Table of Contents Well, I guess it's too late to change my mind...............................................................2 FYI use another abbrev. ASAP.................................................................................4 And you thought your commute was tough..................................................................6 The rainmaker....................................................................................................7 Strange coincidence............................................................................................10 It's all 'good'.....................................................................................................14 I admire your creativity.......................................................................................16 I want a DAMN MAP!............................................................................................19 Boom, boom, boom...boom..................................................................................22 And now for the rest of the story............................................................................25 An Ode to Texas Pete..........................................................................................27 And now for the rest of that story...........................................................................29 Lucy you got some 'splainin' to do...........................................................................30 The gods must be laughing at me............................................................................32 The gods really are laughing at me..........................................................................34 The graveyard of...everything? ..............................................................................35 The real April Fools............................................................................................37 The race to...the middle?.....................................................................................39 Heeeeeere's Johnny!...........................................................................................42

2: From: D.S. AFG Date: Sat, Jan 22, 2011 at 6:47 AM Subject: Well, I guess it's too late to change my mind To: I made it to Kabul, despite the best efforts of the bureaucracy to keep me from completing the necessary paperwork to even get to my flight. If you don't believe me, look at the first picture. I couldn't quite figure out how to pose in front of it with today's newspaper, so you'll just have to take my word for it. It is a bit surreal to go from the Dulles Business Class lounge (attached) to my bunk (attached) in the span of about 24 hours. I wasn't sure what to expect, which is probably a good thing. It's very interesting to see our military engaged in the business of war up close and personal. For those who have previously been in combat zones, you would probably find the differences and similarities also interesting. When my friends Doug, Herman, and Janice have been deployed, I don't think they had wi-fi, and my understanding is that the food is now better. At the same time, the challenges of day-to-day operations are probably much the same, and I think the tents (attached) and sand bags are about the same. Kabul is about 6000 feet above sea level, and away from any large bodies of water, so the temperature is a lot like DC, meaning around freezing right now. The flight into Kabul does provide some breathtaking views. My flight left Dubai at 3:30 a.m. local time, so we were approaching Kabul as the horizon just started to glow. The pre-dawn gray made the mountain ranges below look like a ghostly, frozen ocean. | 2

3: Speaking of things that move in terms of geologic eras, to say that the immigration line at the Kabul airport is slow, is a total distortion of the meaning of the word slow. I was actually able to measure how long it took me to clear immigration in terms of how much a glacier had receded--a process undoubtedly accelerated by the burning jet fuel required to bring me here, and the burning car tires the Afghans use for heating. My colleague Roger will be interested to know that the Dubai-Kabul flight path took us over Bandar-e-Abbas. No sign of the S-300. I've managed to shower and shave and not do anything dumb yet. I met the officers I'll be working with, and they all seem like decent guys (no offense intended, gals, but they are all men). And during my brief time in the office I got to see an overly intense Navy Captain raging over the whereabouts of a PowerPoint presentation, so I feel right at home. I think the biggest disappointment is that I won't be able to fight through jet lag using my tried and true remedy of salsa dancing. Maybe the USO tent has salsa for the Wii. Take care all. | 3

4: From: D.S. AFG Date: Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 12:47 AM Subject: FYI use another abbrev. ASAP To: I've managed to survive almost a full week. And had my first experience with the Afghan laundry service. Not bad I guess all things considered. As many of you know, the Government, and the military in particular, is notorious for abbreviating everything. Not long after I arrived, one of the RAND guys who has been here for 3 months said to me, "Just FYSA..." I know what FYI means, so I told him that I assumed FYSA meant "for your sorry ass." Turns out it actually is intended to be a substitute for FYI that means "for your situational awareness." I like my interpretation better. The guys I'm working with are great and also an amusing collection of military stereotypes. We have the experienced, grizzled Sergeant Major who is a big bear of a dude with a raspy voice. He thinks civilians are cute. We have the seasoned, steady, and affable mid-level officer (actually a chief warrant officer for those who understand the difference). We have the junior level Marine officer who is the picture of intensity. He can't seem to understand why anyone would not want to go to lunch at 11 and dinner at 5 everyday on the dot. I now have a much better understanding of what this unit is, and how it fits into the grand scheme of the Afghanistan war/nation building/. I'm working for the general in charge of Special Operations Command. For the uninitiated (which was me a few weeks ago), Special Operations Forces (SOF) are more than just the guys who kick down doors in the middle of the night and make people disappear. There are those guys, and they're called Army Rangers and Navy SEALs. A subset of SOF is Special Forces (SF). The common parlance in the news and Hollywood is that SF are the Rangers and SEALs. On the contrary, they're more like CIA with bigger guns. Their job is to work with local people to train them how to fight and defend themselves, i.e., "build capacity." They're sort of the thinking man's part of SOF. They speak multiple languages and look for ways other than shooting to achieve their objectives. The upshot is that all of SOF has been given the task of Village Stability Operations (or VSO), with the newest objective being to establish and build up the Afghan Local Police (or ALP). I would encourage you to do a Google News search on these terms for more information. The ALP is essentially an attempt to create local police-type forces in small, rural villages to defend | 4

5: against the Taliban. At this point, you may be asking, "Weren't they doing that already?" The answer is, "No." The reason is that the history in Afghanistan is a tale of warring tribes, with the more recent history being tribal (read village) militias. Hamid Karzai is deathly afraid that any attempt to establish local police would essentially mean the return of militias that would undercut the central government's authority (such as it is). Thus, to this point it has been all about the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army. The ALP program was a grudging acknowledgement of the need to help the small villages in the rural parts of the country. | That's probably enough for now, so I leave with my first attempts to take night shots on the base (attached). I need to play with the shutter speed a bit because I was hoping to bring out the ever-present haze. Kabul smells bad. I mean unholy, god-awful, nose-burning bad. They burn anything and everything for heat and electricity, especially old tires. Here on the base they burn lots of diesel. The toxic mix creates a whitish-gray haze in the air. You can't escape it. | Inside is no better than outside. But in an odd twist it creates these interesting and almost pretty effects with the light at night. If it were just fog, it would actually be pleasant. Thank you all for the notes you've been sending. I'm sorry I don't have time to reply to all of them, but they are greatly appreciated as a nice break. Time to go to work. | 5

6: From: D.S. AFG Date: Sat, Jan 29, 2011 at 1:42 PM Subject: and you thought your commute was tough To: I had my first experience with life in a combat zone yesterday. I took what we thought was going to be a 2-hour trip "across the street" to where my man Dave Patraeus lives. The Green Zone in Kabul encompasses the U.S. Embassy, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) HQ, and another U.S. military base. My place is literally across the street, but you have to request a ride the day before, suit up in body armor and helmet, and ride in an armored Chevy Suburban the 200 meters from our gate to the Green Zone gate. After my meeting, I waited at the pick up spot and got in the armored truck for the return ride. As we started to move, the radio crackled and announced a security event that required every to stay put. We pulled into the parking lot and waited...and waited...and waited. After 2.5 hours, they told us that no movement between bases was allowed for the rest of the night, and we were stuck. I walked back to the office where I had the meeting and asked about finding a place to crash for the night. They told me to get my stuff and they would show me where I might be able to find an empty bunk. When I returned to the truck, the driving team was running around, putting on their armor and exclaimed that we had been given a small window of time to return to our home base. I jumped in the back (the way back, not even the back seat), and we started moving. As we left the parking lot, our driver spotted 4 other guys who had been stranded. They squeezed into the Suburban (now holding 9 full grown men in body armor, with 4 of us in the back end), and we made it back in time for Friday surf and turf dinner at our DFAC (dining facility or cafeteria for the rest of us). After dinner, I read the news about the suicide bomb attack at a market just outside the Green Zone. If you're thinking, "Hey, it's Saturday. I wonder how his day off was?" Think again. We work 0830 to 2230, 5 days a week. On Fridays and Sundays we get to sleep in an extra couple of hours, and then go to work. For tomorrow, I have meetings already scheduled at 1130 and 1 p.m. As one of my friends pointed out, I didn't come here expecting Club Med. Of course, in this white collar prison, I'm not sure what I would do with myself for an entire day. More on that in the next dispatch. Good night all. | 6 | 5

7: picture) (again, apologies to the older set; I’ll throw you a bone in the next message). The water coming out of the tap is non-potable, so we drink all of our water from bottles. Brushing one’s teeth this way can offer some interesting challenges. | From: D.S. AFG Subject: the rainmaker To: Date: Wednesday, February 2, 2011, 10:35 PM Yes, I am the rainmaker. I make it rain like Jay-Z in a gentlemen’s club (apologies to the older folks for the pop culture reference; consult your children under age 35 for an explanation). Many of you have heard me opine that when I travel, it rains. And not just a little rain. Europe 2002: 9 out of the first 10 days across 4 countries. New Zealand 2004: rainiest summer on record according to a long-time livestock rancher. Costa Rica 2009: it rained so damn hard we could not see a giant volcano that was a quarter of a mile away. And now 2011. On my way here, it rained during my 7-hour layover in Dubai. DUBAI! A desert city-state on the Arabian Peninsula. A place where they have so much sand they scoop it up by the truckload to build artificial islands that hold million dollar homes for Saudi sultans and Russian nouveau-riche. But what could top that? In less than 2 weeks in Kabul, it has now rained twice. If you do a quick search in the news, you’ll see that they are so concerned about drought here that they’ve started stockpiling wheat. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about drought on the base. In fact, like Jay-Z, we drink nothing but Cristal all day (see | Speaking of water, I recently found the one green, living thing in Kabul. A lovely patch of algae (?) (see picture) growing on the corner of the foundation of a bathroom....excuse me....latrine, where water is slowly leaking out. | 7

8: Of course, there’s plenty of other green to be seen on the base, but it’s mostly the green fabric screen to protect us from snipers (see picture). Seriously. If I were a sniper I would definitely be up on a hillside overlooking the base (see picture). I referred to the base (aka New Kabul Compound aka NKC) as a white collar prison. I didn’t come up with that description on my own, but it works. The perimeter of the base is 1 kilometer. Half of the base is under construction. I have my cramped space in a pitch black tent (where I’m typing right now) and the 30-foot by 30-foot open office space where I spend my days. And that’s pretty much it. There’s nowhere to go. The office isn’t even a refuge. It houses 60 or so people with hip-high cubicle barriers. There is no quiet time as the 6 flat screens on the wall are either blaring David Patraeus’s morning briefing or the Polish version of MTV is showing a Shakira video for the fifth time in a day. Plus, the rowdy special forces guys are as loud and brash as one’s stereotype might imagine. It’s a new feeling for me, and I now understand why they have so many suicide prevention seminars (don’t be concerned, I’m talking about the military folks who have to be here 9 to 12 months). There’s really no such thing as a quiet space. At best, you can lie in your bunk and imagine you are someplace warm and green. But even that can be broken by the chanting/singing call to prayer--the first one starts around 5:45 a.m. I imagine that someone who is truly good at it can sound sort of beautiful and haunting, but the guy who does it at the closest mosque to NKC mostly sounds like he’s strangling a goat. Outside the walls of NKC, the 'war' goes on. A few days ago the Deputy Provincial Governor of Kandahar was assassinated. Afghan provinces are sort of the equivalent of states back home. Someone in the office quipped, "Hazards of the job..." It certainly would be easy to be extremely jaded, and for many of these guys this is not their first time in country. So I don't blame him for his comment because he likely has seen a lot of murders. But just try to imagine from the perspective of an Afghan if someone like the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, or even the Deputy Mayor of Baltimore, were murdered. And the threats and intimidation go all the way down to individuals in small, rural villages. That's the current reality for Afghans. That’s all for now. I hope to get outside the walls for a couple meetings in the coming days. Keep your fingers crossed. | 8

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10: From: D.S. AFG Subject: strange coincidence To: Date: Saturday, February 5, 2011, 3:38 PM You just never know where life is going to take you. As a law student at Indiana, I was introduced to the world of conflict resolution, i.e., skills and techniques to resolve disputes between people without using the courts. During summer 2001, I worked in Washington, DC, with a PhD student named Tina. We worked with people at the Department of Justice on some research into how the U.S. Government mediates different types of disputes... ...fast forward 10 years... When I arrived in Kabul, the guys I'm working with mentioned an interest in getting some conflict resolution training for Afghan leaders. I raised my hand and said, "Um, I have some expertise in that field." I have since been cold calling professional organizations that do this kind of work. I also e-mailed Tina, now a professor of conflict resolution at Syracuse. Tina responded excitedly that she had taught a few students who are from Afghanistan and offered to connect us. One of her former students e-mailed me right away and invited me to meet with him. He explained that his office is in the Presidential Palace compound. Yes, I learned, that Presidential Palace...as in Hamid Karzai's and Mohammed Zahir Shah's house. I would not be deterred in getting the hell off the base for this opportunity, so I scheduled 3 other meetings in the same day and finally got permission to go outside the walls. The main road in the Green Zone is a bit hard to describe, and I'll fill in the mental gaps with some pictures at some. But suffice it to say that "third world country" pretty much captures it. 6 lanes worth of sometimes broken concrete. Semi-continuous walls on both sides that are a mishmash of concrete, cinder blocks, and corrugated steel, all topped with razor wire. My instructions were to walk south from the U.S. Embassy and eventually enter at Gate 13 or 15. I walked along the dilapidated street, occasionally being approached by young children asking for money and telling me that they would be my "bodyguard." I eventually got to a vehicle checkpoint, and the guard pointed me to a steel door built into a 9-foot high wall. I showed my DoD ID card and was allowed to enter. I continued walking, now with fewer people and no begging children. On the right was tall fence through which I could see an abandoned basketball court and some | 10

11: guys playing a game of pick up soccer on a patch of dirt. Perhaps this was once the grounds of a nice school? I reached a fork in the road with no idea which way to head. I saw some American soldiers walking off to the left, so I headed their way. I walked along a better maintained sidewalk and a relatively nice looking fieldstone wall to a vehicle gate. I asked the soldiers if this was the Presidential Palace. They said, "No, this is MOD," meaning the Afghan Ministry of Defense headquarters. I thanked them and headed back to take the right (literally) fork in the road, which is blocked my a large vehicle checkpoint manned by several guards. I showed my ID card, they checked a list, and sent me on my way. I was now walking on probably the nicest road in Kabul--and perhaps all of Afghanistan--and I am all by myself. It's still probably the equivalent of 5 or 6 lanes wide, but now the walls on both sides are reasonably well-maintained fieldstone, topped by decorative wrought iron fencing. The street is lined on both sides by large mature trees with recently manicured boxwood-type hedges between the trees and the wide sidewalk. I reached another vehicle checkpoint and showed my ID again. Still more walking. At this point, I could see the tops of some of the buildings behind the walls to the right, which I assumed to be Presidential Palace compound. I reached what appeared to be checkpoint at which I might finally enter the grounds. There is a barrier across the road and some razor wire on the sidewalk that would prevent someone from running at the entrance...and would also prevent a hasty retreat by me. The attractive sidewalk and has an alternating red and white stripe painted on both sides that seems out of place among the intended stately appearance of the entire exterior. The guard asked me--in fairly good English--for my ID and asked why I was there. I gave him the name of the guy I was there to meet. They checked their list, and made a call over their radio. The guard explained that my escort would be arriving soon. After a few minutes, the guard waved me through a pedestrian gate in the fieldstone wall. I walked up the stairs into a small outbuilding. Inside it reminded me of the immigration checkpoint of small Eastern European countries. A man waved me into a room to the left that houses the ubiquitous metal detector and x-ray machine. I began | 11

12: emptying all of my pockets. I stepped through the metal detector and one of the five men in the room gestured for me to raise my arms for a pat down. He thoroughly checked me out, including finding my small, plastic contact lens case still in my pocket and removing the pen from shirt pocket and clicking it open a couple of times to verify it was actually a pen. One of the other guards had been going through my jacket pocket at a side table and pulled out the chocolate bar. I had read that Afghan custom is to bring a small gift when invited to someone's house, so I had grabbed a bar of dark chocolate with the intent of giving it to my host. A third guard handed me some of my things--wallet, passport, ID card, sunglasses, and jacket--and swept together the rest--contact lens case, chocolate bar, and cell phone--and disappeared. He came back promptly with a well-worn laminated card that was clearly my claim check for my things. I tried to explain that the chocolate bar was a gift, but the guard simply said in broken English, "This is not allowed." I turned and followed the man who appeared to be my escort out the door. Even now, only a few hours later, I'm having trouble recalling exactly what it all looked like at this point. There were a few more semi-modern (by Afghan standards) outbuildings that appeared to be for administrative, security, and perhaps maintenance functions. My escort walked a few paces in front of me in total silence. At one point we turned left. At that intersection was a large round building that formed that corner of another walled off section of the property. On the other side of the intersection was the ruins of a very old brick structure that was about12 feet high, 25 to 30 feet on each side, with 4 or 5 turret-looking columns spaced evenly on each side--the kind of columnar parts of a building that you would normally only see on the corners of a castle. At this point it struck me that the entire compound had the look and feel of a medieval keep, except with some Middle Eastern architectural flourishes. My escort and I continued walking past some rundown gardens and eventually arrived at a large building that was clearly the grand entrance to the old part of the palace. It is multiple stories high and rectangular. We walked into the archway and entered a door to the left that contained yet another Eastern European immigration checkpoint. I again emptied my pockets and walked through a metal detector for a pat down. The guard even squeezed my...necktie (I know what you people were thinking, and you should be ashamed) to ensure I wasn't hiding something inside it. | 12

13: My escort and I exited this building and emerged from the castle entrance archway. My immediate impression was a mix of the Hofburg and Schonbrunn palaces in Vienna. Big formal gardens and grand buildings, but unlike the sites in Vienna, these are all in some state of disrepair. If you don't look too hard you can imagine the majesty this place used to embody, with people working tirelessly around the clock to please the King of Afghanistan. Now it's a shell of its former self. The place is deserted except for me, my escort, and a couple of workmen repairing a concrete wall in one of the gardens. We passed by a building that has beautiful green and white marble stairs leading up to a massive wooden door. My escort finally leads me into a more modern looking building with standard metal and glass doors. However, despite it being a more modern exterior, it has some of the same grand design inside, with a large curved staircase running up both sides of a large foyer and a brass and crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. My escort handed me off to the guy behind the desk who walked me up to an office door and ushered me into my destination to meet my host. He works for the Afghan National Security Council. I somehow traveled half-way around the world to a combat zone, ended up literally in the halls of power of the Government of Afghanistan, and got to have tea and talk about conflict resolution with a guy who has the equivalent of my current dream job. (To my friend Roger: That's right, I've now met NSC staffers on 2 continents.) My host's name is Hekmat, and we talked for about an hour and a half on everything from Afghan politics to Midwest geography. Hekmat's father was a high-ranking general in the Afghan Army before the Soviet invasion, which is why Hekmat has been able to attend school in the U.S. and reach the professional position he's in. I find it hard to believe that weeks 3 through 12 of my stay here will somehow be more interesting, but as I said at the beginning, you just never know where life is going to take you. I felt the need to capture this experience in writing while it was still fresh for both you and for me. Sadly, I had to leave my camera in my office because pictures are banned beyond that first checkpoint way back at the end of the decrepit Green Zone road. | 13

14: From: D.S. AFG Subject: it's all 'good' To: Date: Thursday, February 10, 2011, 2:18 PM To listen to Dave Patraeus's morning video teleconferences (VTCs) (or more accurately the briefs being given to Dave over VTC) everything is 'good.' Each briefing includes a reference to a 'good meeting' with so-and-so. And the fact that someone is making 'good progress' on something-or-other. These briefings invariably elicit the response from Dave of 'good brief.' If everything is so good, why is everything so fucked up? The avalanche of 'good' is not just intended to impress the boss. Our colleagues similarly expound on the 'good' this-and-that. It's almost a verbal tic. Perhaps it's partly the culture of the military: emphasize the positive. The military drills it into people that success (however defined or undefined) is the only option. This makes 'good' sense. You want people to believe in themselves and their colleagues. The downside is that it creates a bit of a surreal environment of positive evaluations. It's also a product of how military officers are evaluated and promoted. A single blemish in the form of an evaluation that is not above average is practically a death sentence. A performance evaluation that is actually below average...you might as well resign now. I'm a numbers guy. Numbers go up and down. But in the military, they always go up. People put a lot of credence in the opinions of military commanders when those commanders request more troops, more equipment, more money. Well, guess what? They will always ask for more. The next commander who says he has enough (or actually needs less) will be the first one to do so. The surge in Iraq? Great idea. Send more troops. The current surge in Afghanistan? Surprise! They all said yes to more troops. But as we all know, throwing more of everything at a problem doesn't always solve it. Speaking of performance evaluations, I've recently been subjected to a Navy Captain who wants to show everybody that he's the alpha dog. He keeps coming around to piss on our work ideas to mark them as his territory. If I want to meet with pretty much anyone, I need to go through him. So goes the backstory to my meeting with the very nice guy on the Afghan NSC staffer. Had I followed the Captain's edicts and usual government protocol, that meeting never would've happened. A senior official in the Afghan Government? The NSC staff no less? To arms! To arms! Break out the memos! | 14

15: I would have been stuck in bureaucratic hell. I would've been expected to write a memo, brief a colonel, write another memo, brief a general, let the general brief someone at the Embassy, etc., etc. Around the opening ceremony of the next Olympics, I might have been able to go to the meeting with an entourage of big egos like the Captain. Instead, I took a long walk down a wide boulevard and had tea with a guy to talk about dispute resolution. I got up at 4 a.m. Monday to watch the Super Bowl live. Because we are connected through the American Forces Network (AFN), we didn't get the commercials that you saw. It was a bunch of homemade commercials, mostly from American middle school kids at military bases in Europe. The next day I got up early and took a flight to Masar-e-Sharif, one of the largest cities other than Kabul. We flew on a plane that was straight out of Air America (this was the name given to CIA supply drops to guerrillas in Southeast Asia in the 50s, 60s, and 70s; and was even made into a movie with Mel Gibson). It had "two-person" bench seats that looked like they had been yanked out of a '81 Buick. And I say "two person" because they were really only about the width of one-and-a-half persons. The entire back half of the fuselage was cargo space with metal rollers in the floor for loading and unloading cargo. It even had the large cargo bay door that could be lowered mid-flight for air drops. The pilot was wearing a University of Cincinnati hat before the flight and donned a bright red motorcycle helmet during the flight. If it hadn't been so damn cold and uncomfortable, it might have been a pleasant ride over the mountains with National Geographic type vistas of the mountains. Finally, lest anyone doubt my previous message about rainfall, Kabul received 100% of its average rainfall for the month of February by February 5th. That's right, less than a week in. Only a couple pictures to share this time. A couple shots of said precipitation in the form of snow. A picture of some guy standing next to a Lt. Col. who worked at RAND for a year. She's over at one of the other bases. And a dog trying to get some rest among the sheet metal, concrete walls, and barbed wire in the Green Zone. The first person who writes back can send me a box of dog biscuits to hand out to these poor creatures. They're very timid around people, likely because they get kicked and abused by the kids and adults. Has it really been almost 3 weeks already? Take care, all. | 15

16: From: D.S. AFG Subject: I admire your creativity To: Date: Thursday, February 17, 2011, 2:42 PM This base is truly a marvel of modern engineering. And who says engineers aren't creative? Hah! Who else but an engineer could shoehorn into the humble shipping container a bathroom with a urinal, 3 stalls, 2 sinks, and showers? Need more than one? Bam! Mass produced (bathrooms picture). You want a two story 'building'? No problem, and we'll even throw in a pitched roof (twostory picture). Not enough? Fine! Offset them a few feet and make yourself a balcony (balcony picture). Even our post office is a Tetris-like, L-shaped marriage of 2 shipping containers (or conex, which is short for container express, or something like that). | It's the picture of fast and efficient construction, which coincides with the other parts of the operation. I marvel at the quantity of food prepared and served every day here. 4 meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight rations (or mid-rats) for the graveyard shifters. Each meal generally has two main hot dishes and two sides...and then you can proceed to the fried food counter. Burgers and fries are available most lunches and dinners (plus made-to-order | omelets for breakfast). Alongside those grayish delights, a rotating array of egg rolls, chicken wings, onion rings, etc., etc. ... then on to the salad bar, with the usual iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, and, well, you get the idea...And not to be left out (especially for me) is dessert. A passable spread of coffee-type cakes, pies, and cookies, plus 6 different flavors of ice cream served by the scoop (no soft serve shit for these men) and dressed up as you like with toppings. There's an army of people just to feed the army of Army people, and it generally goes off without a noticeable hitch. What could possibly go wrong? | 16

17: Trash. Everything goes in the trash. Utensils? Plastic. Meal trays? Cardboard. Want to dry your hands after washing them? Paper towels. Hey, you drop off your laundry in reusable mesh bag, right? It comes back in a plastic bag inside the mesh bag. Something to drink, sir? Single serving containers of milk, soymilk, and juice. The only things being recycled are plastic water bottles and aluminum cans. When I first arrived, it was as though you were practically tripping over all the blue recycling bins and had to struggle to find a trash can. But the apparent nod to conservation is just that. We're in a war after all. The surprising part to me is the paper. This is still the government, and we produce an avalanche of paper. And just outside these concrete blast walls we would seem to have a large number of recipients eager for something to burn. I've seen the workers inside the base burning everything they can get their hands on in a 55-gallon drum to keep warm. Why not design a combination paper shredder/Duraflame log maker and process all the paper on the base into some usable form for the locals? There's gotta be way to fit that into no more than 3 shipping containers. And we certainly have enough space on site (morecontainers picture). But what's just as sad is that the base itself is practically disposable. They can bring a crane, line up the trucks, and tear apart our little container city in no time, which is what's likely to happen when we leave. The soldiers who've been in other parts of the country have told me about how the shoulder of the "ring road" (main highway that makes a big circle around the whole country) and other secondary roads are littered with shipping containers that have since been occupied as makeshift houses or shops (as I was typing, I accidentally typed makeshit, which is probably more appropriate). | Our base is somewhat different than the facilities in the Green Zone. We actually have a couple real buildings (building picture). | 17

18: But ISAF HQ and Camp Eggers are rabbit warrens of shipping containers stacked 1 or 2 high, with the structures forming archways, balconies, etc. Even the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) were subjected to the expediency of the conex. A veritable city-within-a-city that can be pulled apart like Legos, packed up, and sent back home when the "war" is "over." All I know is that I should have bought stock in Maersk. But never fear. I've put my own engineering creativity on display with my sandbag recliner (recliner picture), complete with footrest. Coming to a combat zone near you... | 18

19: From: D.S. AFG Subject: I want a DAMN MAP! To: Date: Thursday, February 24, 2011, 2:16 PM I had trouble coming up with theme for this week's message, so you're getting more pictures (mountain1) and a basic recount of the week, which includes yet another walking misadventure. They can't all be winners, folks. | First, thanks again to Doug (no, I'm not thanking myself) for sending the dog treats in record time. I got a chance to pass some out to some grateful pooches (dogs and dogs2). I would have gotten better pictures, but as soon as your hands come out of your pockets the Afghan Green Zone children swarm you. Actually, they swarm you anyway, but if there's a chance you'll give them candy, or if there's a chance they can pick your now-unoccupied pockets, they will try to take advantage. | I scheduled a meeting at the British Embassy. How hard could that be to find? Apparently, as hard as the United Nations office. You know, obscure organizations that no one has heard of. I can't recall if I described my attempt to find the UN a couple weeks ago. I got dropped off at my usual spot--ISAF HQ--left my body armor in our office and headed off down this road (Greenzone). My UN contact told me to walk past Camp Eggers, a well known location and one of the few that is | 19

20: I turned around and called my UN contact. I told her where I was. She was unable to tell me how to get to her. I found someone near the entrance to Camp Eggers who directed me to walk through the camp to the "back entrance." I found the back entrance, which was a loud, stinking area primarily for large trucks bringing in food and taking out trash (see previous e-mail). I'm now officially late for my meeting. I walked out that gate onto a concrete coffin of a road. 15-foot high concrete walls on both sides, topped by concertina wire. At this point, I briefly feared that I had accidentally exited the Green Zone again. Luckily, a white guy with no body armor walked by at that moment. I noticed that he had a U.S. EMBASSY badge on. I asked him where the UN building was. He pointed me down along the road and said I was nowhere near the right place. He basically directed me back towards somewhere in the direction of ISAF HQ. I started walking again, backtracking once more. I got back out on the main road headed in this direction (Greenzone2). I called my contact at the UN, desperately trying to figure out where her office was. I spotted a UN SUV approaching and flagged it down. I asked the guy where the UN is. | He said it was a long walk from where I was. My contact called me back and told me just to meet her at Camp Eggers' coffee shop. I was now really late for our meeting, but such is life here. We drank coffee, and had our meeting. I asked her to show me where her office is for future meetings. We walked out the aforementioned back entrance, and she pointed out to me a guard station 30 meters from where we were standing...and where I had been standing an hour or so earlier. You might be asking yourself, "How did a U.S. Embassy employee standing 30 meters from the entrance to UN not know where the UN was?" Excellent question. In my mind it was more like, "HOW THE HELL CAN A FUCKING U.S. EMBASSY EMPLOYEE NOT KNOW WHERE THE LARGEST INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION HAS ITS KABUL OFFICE?!" Then this week I scheduled a meeting at the British Embassy. Once again, I was instructed to walk past Camp Eggers. Are we seeing a pattern? I walked all over the place: past the Germany Embassy (again), past the UN building (now that I know where and what it is), etc., etc. I asked people inside and outside Eggers where the British Embassy is. And, surprise, | 20 | actually on the map. I walked along the road past Eggers, past the German Embassy, and reached a vehicle gate. I walked past it and suddenly realized I was no longer in the Green Zone...without body armor...or large, armed men... oops. Never fear, I was only out by about 3 feet and only for a few seconds. I just got a few strange looks from the guards.

21: NOBODY FUCKING KNEW! How is it possible that so few people know where anything is in a place where they have been living far longer than yours truly? Even more amazing is that the people I was trying to meet up with couldn't tell me where they were. Part of it is that the Green Zone is a series of: imposing walls, topped by concertina wire; unmarked entrances guarded by dudes with AK-47s; and roadways broken up by the occasional vehicle gate. I did eventually get to the British Embassy (british), but I missed lunch because I had been wandering around for an hour, never more than a half-mile from good old Camp Eggers. I did learn from my British colleague that they aren't allowed to walk off their compound. It then occurred to me that perhaps I'm technically not "allowed" to walk all the places I do, but what fun would that be? My frustrations aside, I try to go to sleep remembering how lucky we all are. Everyone knows the famous philosophical question, "If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" I have an Afghan twist to it, "If someone grows up in Afghanistan, with nothing to compare it to, should you feel sorry for him?" Make no mistake about it. Compared to the hometowns of everyone receiving this message, much of Kabul is a shithole, and I feel very lucky to reside where I normally do. But for Afghans, this is all they know. A capital city so choked by diesel exhaust that the mountains in the distance usually look like the backdrops for B-rated movies (except on really clear days like in mountain2). So is it our place to try to build (impose?) something around them that they aren't familiar with, can't maintain on their own, and maybe don't even want? And to what end? In case you missed it, there was a big earthquake that killed several people in Christchurch, New Zealand. A tragic event in a lovely city, so I'm including a tribute to my Kiwi cousins; a picture of the New Zealand and Australia HQ in ISAF (kiwi). I have to get up earlier than usual for a Friday, so it's off to bed. Take care, all. And if anyone can find a map of the Green Zone, please e-mail it to me (don't bother looking, it doesn't exist...yet). | 21

22: From: D.S. AFG Subject: Boom, boom, boom...boom To: Date: Thursday, March 3, 2011, 2:58 PM About a week ago, the whole unit was gathered in one of the tents for a 'hail/farewell' ceremony, welcoming the new people and saying good-bye to those leaving. As we were all getting seated, I heard a muffled noise in the distance. To me it sounded like a shipping container door or tractor trailer door slamming shut. But the combat vets all looked at each other and said, "That was an explosion," and went back to their conversations. A few days ago I was awakened by a 'boom.' I had been sound asleep, so again I initially thought it was a noise from the various construction activities going on here. But then it was followed shortly thereafter by another boom. And another boom. All off in the distance, but I was already thinking about the structural integrity (or lack thereof) of my tent and how far away it was to the office building. Then a fourth boom. Then it was silent again. Local news reports later in the day said four rockets had been fired at the presidential palace and Ministry of Defense compounds. No casualties. Thus, no report in U.S. or widely read international news services. Since the attack hit near the presidential palace, I sent a message to the guy I met a few weeks ago who works there, just to see if he was ok. Here is part of his reply, "I have lived most of my life under this, but it is always scary. I should tell you stories about USSR invasion, civil war, life under Taliban and the US invasion of 2001." When he and I met previously he had briefly mentioned how living under the current conditions of intermittent, random attacks was in some ways worse than open conflict. As he put it, you never know when it's going to come, so you are always a little bit afraid. But there isn't anything you can do about it. If there is constant fighting, you know to hide. This is why I have to be carried around in an armored SUV (truck1 and truck2)--that has electronic jammers to try to prevent some IED attacks--and wear body armor and a helmet (my 'kevlar'), like the rest of the team (team1 and team 2). I got a chance to meet a couple new people this week and learned about a whole different world and experience that some people are having here. These guys work at ISAF but have apparently left the Green Zone on multiple occasions to go to restaurants. One guy also referenced going to NGO (non-governmental organizations for the uninitiated, like Oxfam) | 22

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24: parties, as in parties at the residences of the NGO employees. I've met a few NGO people, so I know that they live 'out there' in Kabul, but the notion of restaurants and house parties just seems a bit incomprehensible. But then I have to remind myself of a few things, like: 1) a lot of people live in Kabul; 2) almost all of them live outside the Green Zone; 3) they've been living here since the USSR invasion, civil war, life under the Taliban, and US invasion of 2001; and, most importantly 4) they will continue to live here long after we're gone. Before I met these guys, I got another chance to go out and feed 'my' dogs. I didn't have my camera with me, but there were 2 puppies who weren't quite sure what to do at first with Milk Bones. They eventually figured it out and proceeded to somehow extract all of them from my pocket. Amazing powers they have. Of course, to enjoy my time with the dogs I had to endure the usual begging/pickpocket-wanna-be children. I don't know if in my previous international travel I've experienced straightforward demands like theirs. "Give me candy." "Give me money." "Give me one dollar." "My father is good man. Your father is good man. Give me money." All the while trying to get close enough to get their hands in my jacket or pants pockets. It makes me long for some of the experiences other people in the military and NGOs are having, like passing out books and clothes at schools. What is truly startling is that I reached my half-way point today, 6 out of 12 weeks down. I don't think I've yet succeeded in either of my goals, and I, sadly, haven't felt like I'm making much progress. I go to meetings and read reports, all of which have led to me to my 'funnel' theory of Afghanistan. Afghanistan's government at all levels (national, provincial, district, and village) is like a funnel with billions of dollars being poured into the top and only a small stream coming out the bottom into the lives of ordinary Afghans. The money is pouring in so fast that it's spilling out over the top of the funnel because they simply can't put it into enough projects and places. The same guy who works at the palace told me how he recently attended an international conference. At that conference, the Russian representative said something to the effect that Russia looked at Afghanistan in 1979 and just didn't like it, so they invaded. This bright Afghan guy approached the microphone and informed the Russian that he had liked Afghanistan just fine until the Russians came in and destroyed everything. In some ways, we're now fighting...many years delayed...the rest of 'Charlie Wilson's War' (decent movie, go watch it). Trying to pick up where we ended our support in the 1980s, but with many more years of damage and neglect in between. Take care, all. | 24

25: From: D.S. AFG Subject: And now for the rest of the story... To: Date: Thursday, March 3, 2011, 3:20 PM Some information was left out of the last e-mail because I do not want it to get to RAND people and others. For you trusted insiders, here is the rest of the story. When I met up with these new folks, the Afghan guy (Hekmat) who works at the presidential palace had invited me to have dinner with him and friends. The friend was 2 white guys and an Afghan-American who all work at ISAF. As I understand it, the rules are that we: 1) are not to leave the Green Zone except when escorted by dudes with guns while wearing body armor; and 2) are not to drink alcohol. I followed these guys around ISAF and out the gate to a waiting car. I was thinking, "Ok, we're driving somewhere. Maybe Eggers or something like that." Nope, we left the Green Zone. But I didn't panic. I'm in a car with a member of the Afghan National Security Council and another guy who grew up here. We pull into a side street and make another turn to where there is a guard shack. One guy flashes an ID, the gate goes up, and we pull in. We negotiate some concrete vehicle barriers and emerge into a parking with a totally American looking restaurant, complete with landscaping. It was surreal. Inside, all white people...except for the staff of course. The menu was steaks, hamburgers, and 'fajitas.' You could even order an onion loaf. I quickly realized I was going to have a problem because I had a designated pick up time back at ISAF. So I called back to my office and asked them if I could postpone my pick up for a 1/2-hour. We ate dinner (mediocre food), listened to the people at the next table sing 'Happy Birthday' to someone in their group, and after the meal, the Afghan-American dude asks if | 25

26: we're ordering drinks from the well-stocked bar. One of the white guys immediately orders a Jack and Coke, and the Afghan-American dude and other white dude order beer. At this point, I'm in for a penny in for a pound, as in, I've already left the Green Zone without my armored SUV, body armor, and dudes with automatic weapons...I might as well have a beer. After a little while longer, I realized I would need to call a taxi and head back. Up to now, I was thinking, "No problem. I'm with 2 Afghans, they'll get me back," but everyone ordered double vodkas on the rocks and said they wanted to play darts (yes, there was a dart board). So now I'm thinking, "Holy shit, I have to ride in a cab by myself from God-knows-where downtown Kabul back to the Green Zone." The taxi showed up, I got in, and off we went. The ride was essentially uneventful. In my mind, however, I was tracking every turn, trying to get my bearings and figure out which way I would run if something bad happened (back to the restaurant? do I know which way the Green Zone is from here?) Most of you know about my various walking adventures in other countries, but this takes the cake so far. Not in terms of real danger to me, but in terms of the internal churn my brain was doing the whole time. I made it back only 1 minute late. Alive and well. And as I said in my last message, a lot of people live here. They drive, go to work, go to the store, etc. But it was a little disconcerting all the same. | 26

27: From: D.S. AFG Subject: An Ode to Texas Pete To: Date: Thursday, March 10, 2011, 3:40 PM What has 2 thumbs and never expected to turn 35 in a war zone? This guy!!! I concluded another year of my life by attending a 'short'' VTC that started at 11 pm and ended at 12:05 a.m. My team did honor me by singing happy birthday to me in 4 languages (they're SF, so they know these things). Sadly, not only could I not celebrate with real beer, the cooler in the cafeteria (aka | the dining facility, or DFAC in military speak) wasn't even stocked with Beck's non-alcoholic like it usually is. I had to go with not-so-near-beer (notsonearbeer picture). I did manage to check a few things off my list of things-I-wanted-to-accomplish-before-age-35 this week. First, I went to Bagram Airbase. Sorry, I blew it and didn't take my camera, but frankly it looks a lot like NKC, just with big airplanes and fighter jets taking off and landing constantly...and I mean constantly...all night... Second, I got stuck at Bagram Airbase an extra day without another change of clothes. Hey, don't judge me just because these thing aren't on your list. Third, I rode in a helicopter. A no kidding, Blackhawk military helicopter. And not only that, it happened to be my man Dave Petraeus's helicopter. How do I know that? As we were getting situated, the Sergeant Major on the team said, "Man! This is the nicest upholstery I've ever seen in a helicopter!" I said, "Really? Why's that?" He said, "Because this is the commander's chopper." The view as we flew over one mountain ridge and 2 population centers was something I had never experienced. And it gave me new perspective on Afghan living. Afghanistan is predominantly an agrarian society. About 60% of the population lives | 27

28: So the view from Dave's Chopper showed me this reality. What I saw was a near endless pattern of mud walls forming an irregular grid on the ground, like distorted graph paper. Much of it was probably wheat, and Afghans consume something like a pound of wheat a day, with very little meat in the diet. The flight ended with us landing on the soccer field at ISAF HQ. I almost felt like a VIP, except for the fact that I was wearing the same clothes I left in, and I had to carry my own bag. Speaking of food, I'd like to introduce you to my new best friend, Pete (pete picture). Pete and I usually hang out at least twice a day, and sometimes at breakfast if I get an omelet. Where would I be without capsaicin? That magic molecule that makes food spicy. | I can somehow make the food almost palatable with a few healthy splashes of my buddy Pete. And Pete is surprisingly healthy. Fat free and almost no calories. His only downside is that he's kind of high in salt. Which brings me to the disconnect between food education and food reality for our soldiers. The DFAC (dfac1) walls are covered in reminders about healthy eating. When you get your food, there are even little cards saying how many calories and mg of salt are in each dish. This is all great, but here's what I don't understand: Why do they have a grill running at EVERY MEAL? Seriously, if they're genuinely concerned about people's health (and you would think of any organization, | in rural areas. They really have no industry and no exports to speak of other than pomegranates and rugs. And they end up importing many of those pomegranates back from places that have cold storage. Sort of like the way Iran exports crude oil but has to import gasoline and other finished petroleum products. | the military would be), why can you exist as a soldier, marine, sailor, or airmen by eating nothing but burgers, fries, and other bad food? I know that in the time I've been here, I've taken in way more salt, sugar, and refined starch than probably that past 5 years combined. I can't even imagine what these guys are taking in over the span of a year...and multiple deployments. I'm off to bed. As luck would have it, I actually get to sleep in on my birthday. Take care, all. | 28

29: From: D.S. AFG Subject: and now for the rest of that story... To: Date: Thursday, March 10, 2011, 3:50 PM The following message is for the inner circle and not for the faint of heart. You've been warned. Things I am looking forward to upon my return, in no particular order: 1. alcohol in all drinkable forms 2. freedom of movement 3. silence 4. clean toilets Seriously, soldiers? Eat more fucking vegetables and fiber. I am almost to the point of fantasizing about walking into a bathroom and not seeing a Jackson Pollock painting staring at me from the canvas of a white porcelain toilet bowl. These guys are straight up punishing these toilets...and yours truly in the aftermath. I have literally gone through every stall on all 3 floors of our building looking for one damn toilet that I can use. And if you think this description is graphic, wait until we're face to face and I start talking about what happens on the days when we don't have the cleaning crew. Holy shit. Literally. Or perhaps more accurately unholy. Just had to get that out. | 29

30: From: D.S. AFG Subject: Lucy you got some 'splainin' to do To: Date: Thursday, March 17, 2011, 9:58 AM I continue to be simultaneously amused, amazed, and concerned about our military if for no other reason than their language. I mean, would Mick Jagger have been anywhere near as compelling if instead of saying, "I can't get no satisfaction..." he had said, "Unsat" (the military's abbreviated way of saying that a particular set of circumstances is unsatisfactory). More importantly, it will clearly take a generation (or more) to drag them kicking and screaming into the late 20th century. People who are homosexual have been permitted to serve in the military since the 1990s and the famous 'don't ask, don't tell' law. But to hear these guys talk, you'd think we were in Ahmadinejad's Iran (he famously claimed there are no homosexuals in Iran). Just ask yourself this, when was the last time you heard someone use the word 'faggety' during a staff meeting? Now ask yourself this question, when was the last time TWO people used the word 'faggety' during a staff meeting? The homophobic and anti-homosexual comments are nearly non-stop. I was in an office recently that had a homemade sign next to a desk that said 'GAYCON D' (in the military, CON is an abbreviation for indicating a certain 'condition'; most people who remember the Cold War are familiar with DEFCON, meaning Defense Condition). The law is changed, but I don't know what will change reality other than time and attrition. Beyond this discrete and well-publicized matter is the other choice of language. The theme of combat permeates even simple statements. You don't double check something or make extra sure, you 'double tap' it. In combat when you are shooting at an adversary, you shoot him twice in the head to make you've killed him. Thus, double tap. The schedule for our weekly meetings and reports is known as the 'battle rhythm,' in keeping with the terminology of the guys doing actual combat operations (which in case it hasn't been completely clear up to now, I am not doing). One of my friends opined that they appear to suffer from arrested development. In some ways, that may be accurate. They've spent most of their adult lives surrounded by each other, and in most cases surrounded only by other men. In some ways, they may be | 30

31: analogous to professional baseball players: trained and paid to be able to engage in highly taxing physical feats. In other news, I'm writing this week's message outside. We were abruptly moved from the tent to a new barracks a couple days ago. On the plus side, I only have to walk about 10 feet to get to the bathroom, and I don't have to get fully dressed and go outside. On the downside, I had to give up some privacy...oh yeah, and now I have to walk across the base to catch a wi-fi signal. Also on the downside, I wouldn't exactly say the 'new' building is what you would expect to associate with that word. Prime example is our metal lockers for storing clothes. Remember that old Samsonite luggage commercial with the gorilla destroying a pile of bags? It looks like our lockers got the gorilla treatment. Plus they were partially rusted and filthy. But they're 'new.' No new pictures because...well, see above statement about moving and typing outside. I realized today that I have only about 3 weeks left. That's not a lot of time to fix everything, so I need to get to work. In case you didn't notice, there was a large earthquake in Japan. I was saddened by a screen that appeared during the news broadcast that listed significant factors is this order: number of people without power, number of people dead and missing, estimated cost of the damage. Really? No power is somehow more important than the dead and missing? More to the point, you probably haven't heard much about the 10-year earthquake here in Afghanistan lately. We continue to pour in money, resources, and lives. And the political and military leaders keep talking about how were are making progress on our objectives. But remember, the stated objective is this: make sure Afghanistan is not a haven for terrorists anymore. That was accomplished in late 2001. There are lots of people suffering in lots of places, including in our own backyards. And sitting here one has to wonder whether the awesome power and resources that we as a country can wield wouldn't be better spent elsewhere. At least the weather has been nice enough to sit outside while eating lunch...and typing on the computer... Take care, all. | 31

32: From: D.S. AFG Subject: The gods must be laughing at me... To: Date: Saturday, March 19, 2011, 3:35 AM First, they assign the NCAA Tournament brackets so that Duke is matched up against Michigan in the 2nd round (I know, it's technically the '3rd round,' but let's get serious). In a year, when Duke won the ACC Tournament by beating UNC (no surprise, Herman), Michigan swept Michigan State in the regular season (big surprise, Keith), and Michigan State lost in the 1st round, AND Michigan thumped Tennessee (a team that is perennially overrated), they do this to me. Go Blue...Devils! | Second, I got an e-mail from the RAND media relations person asking if I could do an ON-CAMERA interview with someone from Bloomberg TV about biometrics. That's right, I was going to get to talk publicly about the first report I ever published. Gods, you owe me. We officially said good bye to good old Tent D (tentd and formertent) (surprisingly, not named just for me). As promised here are some pictures of the new building, room, and bathroom. Back to work I go. | 32

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34: From: D.S. AFG Subject: Update: The gods really are laughing at me... To: Date: Sunday, March 20, 2011, 3:48 AM I just need to clarify my last message. I was invited to be on Bloomberg TV, but because I'm in Afghanistan, I can't do the interview. It's my punishment for successfully dodging rocket attacks. Speaking of Duke and Michigan, you may have read about the 'Fab Five' segment coming out on ESPN in which Jalen Rose referred to black Duke players as Uncle Toms. For a truly enjoyable response, I suggest you read this essay from America's 2nd black president, Grant Hill (at this link): http://thequad.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/grant-hills-response-to-jalen-rose/?scp=1&sq=grant%20hill%27s%20response%20to%20jalen%20rose&st=cse More importantly, it also highlights what I was trying to get at (perhaps inarticulately) about the homophobic and anti-homosexual language in our office. There are people who are bigots in this world. (For the older set) As Tom Lehrer sang, "Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics, and the Catholics hate the Protestants..." In Afghanistan, the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Baluchs, and Hazaras all hate each other (except when they don't), and everyone hates the Pashtuns. And I could spend a week talking about the prejudice against and poor treatment of women here. Similarly, back home, there are lots of white people who hate all non-whites, and there are men (some of them in my office here) who look down upon women. But ask yourself whether in a staff meeting at your job, in front of everyone--including the boss--someone used a racial epithet or spoke a degrading word about women. People harbor hatred and bigotry, but it's unacceptable/unprofessional/un-whatever to express these thoughts at work. And there have been some high profile firings for even a hint of intolerance. What's troubling is that it is accepted in the military to express varying levels of dislike and intolerance for homosexuals (who, by the way, are already serving in the military, despite what some of the guys here think). It will take more than a generation to change, and I hope to live to see it. Take care, all. | 34

35: year-long deployments under difficult circumstances can truly boggle the mind. Someone once said, "I can do anything for a year." I challenge that person to go out to the rural villages where our Special Operations teams are living, and do that for a year. Good luck. But the long-term fatigue is almost palpable. Even the people who have not left our white collar prison for 9 months show it, and many of them are already carrying around previous experiences from Iraq and/or here. Simple requests from one staff member to another are viewed with suspicion as an attempt to increase the burden on someone else. These guys (and a few gals) have been playing Sisyphus for 10 years. A recently arrived lieutenant colonel mentioned that he last been in Afghanistan in 2002. | From: D.S. AFG Subject: The graveyard of...everything? To: Date: Thursday, March 24, 2011, 7:36 AM Afghanistan is sometimes referred to as the graveyard of empires because few have been able to rule this land...and never for very long. I'm starting to think it's the graveyard of everything. So far it's been the graveyard of 1 T-shirt, 3 socks, and a pair of athletic shorts...and I don't have much confidence that anything I brought with me will remain a part of my wardrobe when I return. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it's definitely the graveyard of a whole lot of U.S.-military purchased garbage...and arguably the graveyard of culinary skill and creativity. As I experience every day through inhalation--and as the New York Times recently reported--it's the graveyard of cars. People bring busted old Toyotas by the hundreds (thousands?) here, with poor emissions controls, and drive them into the ground. Literally, every car here is a Toyota (toyota pic), except for our 'low profile' up armored Chevy Suburbans with the giant-battering-ram-bumper option package and the occasional old Mercedes. It also is the graveyard of U.S. soldiers and bureaucrats. In case you had started to think that I have a low opinion of the members of our U.S. military, let me completely disabuse you of that notion. They are for the most part very good people. And their ability to shoulder the burden and strain of repeated | 35

36: And you could almost feel him wanting to say, "And the place hasn't changed much." A high ranking officer I've worked with here recently confided in me that he's retiring as soon as his tour is over. He's done. Exhausted. Can't take anymore. Plus there is the constant tug of war over how to operate. The SOF guys recognize that this a base in a combat zone. The other military unit on our base seems to want to act as though they are back home, trying to strictly enforce rules about personal grooming and attire and holding formal events in the cafeteria. The SOF guys refer to this as 'garrison mentality,' meaning the management style used on a US base to instill the military way of doing things (see e.g., the difference between the first and second halves of the movie 'Full Metal Jacket'). This sets up additional tension within the base itself. Forgot to mention, this is the graveyard of buildings as well. I'd be surprised if these facilities could survive 6 months without a dedicated US presence. The hot water suddenly disappeared on the 5th day living in the brand new barracks. What does it all mean for you, my loyal readers? Well, for one thing, the members of the US military, especially the enlisted ranks, are underpaid. Military contractors are overpaid. And we are definitely overpaying our tax money on the F-35, Apache helicopter, and many other whiz-bang weapon systems that play no role in Afghanistan or Iraq and really only serve to keep up the profits of Lockheed Martin and others. For another thing, the United States as a community has not been at war for 10 years. Only the members of the military and their families and friends have been at war. Even some of their family members get it wrong. Someone recently received a package with several boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese. Trust me when I say there is absolutely nothing remotely resembling a kitchen available for us to make macaroni and cheese (and did I mention that we're working 7 days a week, 16 hours a day). We will all (or your children and grandchildren, depending on your age) ultimately feel the effects of 10 years of war funded on deficit spending and debt held by foreign countries. Never in the history of this country, has our military gone to war in a serious way, and our taxes were cut...at least twice. I won't be sad to say good-bye to this graveyard in a few weeks, and rest assured it will still be here long after I'm gone. Take care, all. | 36

37: From: D.S. AFG Subject: The real April Fools To: Date: Saturday, April 2, 2011, 2:10 PM Even in the fog of being really busy and really tired, I briefly thought about sending a funny message in the spirit of April Fool's Day. Instead the joke was on some United Nations workers and their security guards (and a few others as reports have been coming in today). Some "pastor" at some "church" burned the Koran. This "caused outrage" leading to a bunch of protests and a couple of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) combined with suicide vests, grenades, and small arms. Methinks perhaps they weren't just angry about the Koran burning thing, but the sad reality is that a lot of people really were driven to violence because of this. But perhaps it's a fitting way to start my last 10 days here. Afghanistan has a lot of problems that merit the blood, sweat, and tears of many people. Just try a simple Internet search on Afghanistan plus any of the following terms: dancing boys, bacha bazi, female genital mutliation, girls' school bombing, honor killing, corruption, Hamid Karzai, corruption and Hamid Karzai. This is a place where the U.S.-supported government sentenced a man to death for converting to Christianity. And warlords trade dancing boys like baseball cards. Seems like a worthy cause... ...but then do an Internet search on any of these terms: civil war Congo, civil war Sudan, number of species rendered extinct in the last ten years, elephant poaching, Amazon deforestation, China imprisons rights activists, China contaminated milk, China sweat shops, China . Some serious problems are in our geographical backyard (search terms: Mexico failed state, BP oil spill, polar bears endangered). And some serious problems are in our literal backyards (search terms: childhood obesity, diabetes, mountaintop removal mining, Chinese snakehead fish, Chesapeake Bay crab and oyster populations, auto companies fight tougher emissions standards, power companies fight tougher emissions standards, Republicans propose gutting EPA budget for enforcement, Ohio State football most NCAA violations in last ten years). | 37

38: All of these are worthy causes that should command our attention, time, and resources, but there's just not enough to go around. So how do we decide what's worthy and what's not? This is what happens when I'm stuck in a windowless office for 16 hours trying to slay PowerPoint dragons. I'm forced to contemplate what it all means. Not in the existential sense, but in the sense of, "What the hell does it matter if the guys I'm working for 'fix' one village, one district in the rural parts of Afghanistan?" One of my colleagues wrote a paper a couple years ago documenting some of his experiences in rural Afghanistan. He noted that when he arrived in one village with U.S. soldiers, the villagers thought they were Soviets. Yes, you read that correctly. The Russians wrecked this place and left it for dead in 1992 (which then led to a bloody civil war, the Taliban, etc., etc.), but there are people who are so removed from a city center that they thought the Soviets were still around. Do we want to leave a similar legacy of wrecking this place, sort of, kind of starting to build it back up, and then leaving it for dead (or at least on life support)? And do we want to do that when it means at some level that another city besides Detroit has to close half its schools? Or that we can't really lend a hand to Haiti? So, dear readers, I ask you, "Should we stay or should we go?" If we stay, what should we be doing? If we leave, when should we go? And if we leave, where should we go next? Please submit your answers, and I'll give you the unofficial poll results when I return. That's about 2 weeks. Plenty of time for even the busiest among us (especially the ever-growing list of new parents) to tell me what you think. I may provide one more dispatch from the front if time allows and if I have the energy. Take care, all. | 38

39: From: D.S. AFG Subject: The race to...the middle? To: Date: Thursday, April 7, 2011, 3:39 PM Well, dear readers, I found the strength to bang out one more dispatch (I know what you're thinking, "Aren't you done yet?") I think this strength comes from the fact that I had 3 opportunities in the past week to feed my dogs, and it was great. The two puppies are still around and growing fast. And the adults now recognize my voice and/or whistle and now approach for their treats without fear...and they get a good ear scratch as well. The 3 trips to the Green Zone also meant more meetings. The big goings-on for black belt Ninja staff people like me this past week was an assessment conference for our man Dave. As many of you know, the venerable RAND Corporation is all about assessment and recommendations, so this effort was right in our wheelhouse (speaking of wheelhouses, Michigan is back where they belong in the Frozen Four). My colleagues in DC and I put together a bang-up summary of some data we've been collecting for the past 6 months on this whole Village Stability Operations (VSO) and Afghan Local Police (ALP) thing we do. Assessment is hard under Washington, DC, conditions. Assessment in Afghanistan? We'll just say it's really hard. Which brings me to the subject of this message. There's a well-known concept of the race to the bottom, which is a competition between two or more parties to lower their standards fastest, usually as a way to attract someone's favor. Environmental standards are frequently an easy case study in this race, with state's lowering regulatory standards to entice a company to build a new manufacturing plant. The military, on the other hand, engages in a race to the middle. Our hardworking men and women in uniform who have the unenviable task of providing "unvarnished" assessments to generals have two large crutches that prop them up: PowerPoint and the stoplight chart. PowerPoint, frankly, is the bane of the existence of most of us white collar types. A boss these days can hardly finish a sentence without saying, "And make me a slide..." The same is true--in fact, truer--for the military. Hard drives and servers all over the world are choked with iterations, edits, and distributions of PowerPoint files. | 39

40: And what, pray tell, goes into those slides? Frequently, one or more stoplight charts. If you're not familiar with the concept, it's easy to describe. Imagine you're trying to tell your significant other how much progress you're making on organizing the basement. Instead of saying, "It will be done soon, I promise," or, "Definitely next weekend," you create a PowerPoint slide with a red, yellow, or green box intended to convey that same message. It might show a completion date of next weekend with a green box, meaning you're on track to complete that task on time. But maybe right before you created your basement organization update slide, you fell and broke your ankle. Well then, clearly the completion date of next weekend would be red because your ass is going to be on the couch with that leg elevated. But maybe organizing the basement requires the assistance of a tall, future member of the City of Mount Rainier Maryland City Council (Vote Bolin!), and you're not sure if he'll be available next weekend because he might be out campaigning. In that case, you might make the basement organization update slide box yellow, indicating you think you might get it done on time, but there's some uncertainty. Now do that for Afghanistan... Based on my description, how would you rate the many parts of the U.S. and NATO effort to stabilize Afghanistan? Everything from the rate at which we're training and equipping new members of the Afghan National Army (or the aforementioned ALP) to decreasing poppy cultivation to reducing corruption. Now imagine you have to summarize your organization's progress toward these objectives to a high-ranking general. Here are your options: red, yellow, or green. Surprise! A lot of stuff is yellow. Meaning, "We're working really hard, General, but we just don't know if we'll get there...but we're working really, really hard." Contrast this with my previous message about everybody's updates being "good," and you can see how it might be a little difficult to answer the age-old question of how things are going here. Someone talks about all the "good" meetings, "good" progress, "good" enemas, and then when it's time for that all important assessment, well...we think we're making progress, but we don't know for sure, and it's really, really (did I say really?) hard. | 40

41: Watching the group grope that is the process of creating, revising, polishing, refining, further revising, blah, blah, blah, all these slides is a bit painful. That pain increases exponentially with each additional star on the general's chest. Our man Dave has all 4 stars. I can't even do the pain calculation because the numbers are too high. When a professional hockey game could end in a tie, each team received 1 point (vs. 2 points for a win or 0 points for a loss). Hockey pundits liked to refer to a tie as being like "kissing your sister." I don't have a sister, but I can honestly say that the concept of a smooch with my sister is FAR MORE ATTRACTIVE THAN SITTING THROUGH ONE MORE DAMN POWERPOINT EDITING SESSION! "Well, I think that should be yellow." "Well, I disagree because we're making progress." "But there's a chance you won't meet the objective's stated deadline." "Ok, how about half yellow and half green." (This wasn't quite verbatim, but it's pretty close.) And so, dear readers (I can say plural readers because I'm pretty sure that both my mom and dad are the only ones still reading at this point), I will leave this multi-billion dollar race to the middle with far more questions than answers. (Speaking of which, have you sent me yours? Hint: the answer is probably no) And I will leave it soon. And I frankly can't fucking wait. Except for the dogs. I want to take them with me. Take care, all. | 41

42: From: D.S. AFG Subject: Heeeeeere's Johnny! To: Date: Wednesday, April 13, 2011, 1:32 PM I'm back, safe and sound in our nation's capital--having left our other nation's capital behind. Thanks again for all your kind words to keep me from losing my mind over the last 3 months. I'm still tallying the results, but first it's off to Denver to talk to a bunch of lawyers about arbitration. Only slightly less scary than the Taliban. Take care, all. | 42

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