Taliban Polka



Col. Sheena Johnson, U.S. Army

Forever, no matter what, with valor

Slips the yellow polka-dot burqa over her head

The silk toboggans down her She curves & rides!


Krshna tells a another wild tale


Oh oh, Taliban Bullah’s eyes are oat meal

His captured hand sloshes red syrup up & down her arrow

Remember, his hand is pinned to the ruin of the village mosque

Col. Sheena stands there & let’s it happen




Eyeball to eyeball, their eyeballs explode heaven

Sheena misses walkin’ down the block to the 7-ll

Sheena becoming Pluckame on the high Nuristan ridge

A dew drop plummets from a cloud passing by




Outta the yellow burqa comes Sheena’s knife sharper than invisibility

Slices off the feathered end of the protruding stick

Habibullah’s hand slips off, he’s free

Musical notes glide outta his eyes singing “Marry Me”




Suddenly Taliban surround the broken building

brandishing gun & rocket & stoic hypocrisy

Their holy war now gots only hate within

Gonna punish Habibullah real good for his handsome sin...




from Rawclyde!

The Afghaneeland Adventure Series | Old Timer Chronicle II









Copyright Clyde Collins 2014


Obama Peers Into The Great Beyond

obama art


by Mark Landler & Helene Cooper

New York Times

February 25, 2014


WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama, apparently resigned to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign a long-term security agreement, told Karzai in a phone call on Tuesday that he had instructed the Pentagon to begin planning for a complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.

But in a message aimed less at Mr. Karzai than at whoever will replace him in the Afghan elections come April, Mr. Obama said that the United States was still open to leaving a limited military force behind in Afghanistan to conduct training and counterterrorism operations.

Noting that Mr. Karzai had “demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign” the agreement, Mr. Obama told him, in effect, that the United States would deal with the next Afghan leader. He warned Mr. Karzai that the longer it took for Afghanistan to sign the pact, known as a bilateral security agreement, or B.S.A., the smaller the residual force was likely to be.

It was the first time the leaders had spoken since last June, and for all intents and purposes, it marked the end of a relationship that had long since broken down in acrimony.

While Mr. Obama’s message was not a surprise — administration officials had concluded weeks ago that any agreement would probably come only after elections in April — the White House’s blunt description of his call with Mr. Karzai underscored the depth of the president’s frustration and the erosion of trust in the Afghan leader.

But the call also confirmed that the White House has retreated from its earlier insistence that the Afghan government sign the agreement before the elections or face the threat of a total pullout.

“Clearly, the president is putting pressure on Karzai without closing the door on B.S.A. just as he is preparing the ground for the possibility that B.S.A. may not happen,” said Vali Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Indeed, in the call with Mr. Karzai, Mr. Obama made clear that he views a residual force as a way to prevent Afghanistan from becoming once again a haven for terrorist groups.

“Should we have a B.S.A. and a willing and committed partner in the Afghan government, a limited post-2014 mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and going after the remnants of core Al Qaeda could be in the interests of the United States and Afghanistan,” the White House said in a statement issued after the call.

The White House had hoped to seal the security pact before a meeting this week of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, where Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to discuss the logistics of the American troop reduction in Afghanistan and the shape of a potential postwar force with other alliance partners.

Military planners have faced deep uncertainty in preparing for a mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces after combat operations officially end this year. The governments of nations that contribute troops must approve any sustained deployments months in advance.

The major candidates for president in Afghanistan have all signaled they would sign the security agreement. But if history is any guide, the April election might necessitate a runoff, which could lead to months of political uncertainty, further delaying the security deal.

A senior administration official said Mr. Obama was sending a message to Mr. Karzai that there would be a cost to further delays, both in the rising chance that the United States might go down to zero troops and in the more limited size and scope of a residual force.

Mr. Obama’s decision to look beyond Mr. Karzai, the official said, was driven by Mr. Karzai himself, who has told the administration that he believes his successor should sign the agreement because the future government will have to live with its consequences.

Appearing before troops at Fort Eustis and Langley Air Force Base near Newport News, Va., Mr. Hagel said the military would now engage seriously in contingency planning for a complete troop withdrawal, known as the “zero option.” While he held open the option of a continued troop presence after 2014, he told reporters that as long as the agreement goes unsigned, “our options narrow and narrow.”

But he declined to give another deadline for when the United States must decide that it will go down to zero. Some Afghanistan experts have criticized Mr. Obama for imposing deadlines, given the mercurial nature of the relationship between him and Mr. Karzai.

For all the tough talk, few people in the Obama administration are willing to say publicly that they believe leaving no residual force behind is a good idea, in large part because of the fear that without any American or NATO troops, Afghanistan could revert to its status as a staging ground for terrorist plots against the West.

“The preponderance of opinion across the government is that some reasonable post-2014 presence in Afghanistan is necessary to lock in our very hard-fought gains,” Michelle Flournoy, a former top Pentagon official, said in an interview.

Faced with continued uncertainty, American and NATO commanders have drawn up plans to deploy a force this summer that is tailored to assume a training mission in 2015 but also small enough to withdraw, if no deal for an enduring presence is reached. The plan would give Mr. Obama and other political leaders maximum flexibility…


Mark Landler reported from Washington, and Helene Cooper from Newport News, Va. Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.


Martial Integrity



by Rawclyde!


With the Republicans led by the nose by the Taliban Tea Party & the Democrats on a homosexual promotion binge, the United States has one last hope of assembling a little martial integrity.  This hope lay in Afghanistan.  Sell the A-10 Warthog Fleet to the Afghan National Army (ANA).

My hunch is that’s what the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has in mind.  I hope he’s not too timid to pull it off.  Lately Hagel has been talking about downsizing the military and in doing so, eliminating the Warthog aeroplane fleet.  If this comes to be, we can sell the fleet for one dollar or so to the Afghan National Army who, with us leaving the premises, is in dire need of air support against the Taliban enemy out of Pakistan.  It could make the difference in the war.

Instead, it looks like Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, and Barack Obama, the U.S. president, are abandoning the ANA, which is a pity, a shame, and very possibly a mortal sin.  It looks like this is why MSNBC, the Democrat channel on American TV, has only been blathering about queers & a tub of lard in New Jersey & ignoring the Afghanistan War.

Maybe its too late for martial integrity.  Maybe it’s all in Pakistan.  Sometimes my personal paranoia taints my perspective.  Sometimes I don’t see too straight.  But, also, I am occasionally right on target.


Words & War

destroyed village in afghanistan


Words can be like bullets.  And bullets can be like words.  You might miss.  You might hit your target.  But a word is not a bullet.  And a bullet is not a word.  Bullets are made for killing.  Words are not.  Words are made to nick the heart.

Some people are old.  Some are young.  About half the people on our planet are women.  And the other half men.  If an old man & a young woman can talk to each other without screwing it up they’re doing pretty good.  I, myself, am an old man enthralled with wordcraft, not real familiar with bullets ~ engaged, involved, certainly superficially, probably not too deeply, but maybe, with a war on the other side of the planet.  It’s an intriguing semi-intellectual pursuit that can tug at an emotion or two now & then.  Words must be dished out, on occasion, with a grain of salt.  An unfortunate application of words can make a writer feel oh so wise and the next day feel oh so stupid.  Oh well.  And these damn words can make other people steaming mad or ~ or nothing at all.

Then there’s swimming pools with their shallow and deep ends, high boards and low boards on the deep ends.  I’ve never seen a diving board break.  Have you?  However, when very young I did some floundering in the deep end & could have drowned if somebody hadn’t pulled me out.  With words, when I begin to flounder in the deep end of a topic like war, please feel free, gentle & wise reader, to reach right in here & pull me out with a strategically placed “comment.”

War, I believe, is not pretty.  Peace is prettier.  A good looking woman is much easier to look at than some down & dirty war.  Wars are for avoiding & good for nothing.  Probably about 80-percent of the American people are in denial when it comes to the warring in Afghanistan in this year of 2014.  That’s most of the American people ~ yet our government by & for the people has been waging war way over there for 12 years.  Are the American people properly engaged in this often times ugly & tragic pursuit?  No.  Of course not.  We hate it.  Most Americans, I find, don’t like even talking about it.  When they do talk about it they’re likely to get extremely stupid.  Chances are they’ve never been to Afghanistan & sure as heaven & hell don’t understand that little war-torn nation about the size of ~ Texas?

Well.  Afghanistan and the United States have been mixing it up in one smoky relationship ~ hell-bent, fool-hardy, and full of crazed Taliban, brave villagers & urbanites, children, dubious elections, more Taliban & their rude friends, Al Qaeda leftovers, soldiers, courage, death, other nations, aid workers, a few more jobs, stolen money, endless debt, waste, and, I’ve read, the return of peace-loving Sufis back into the sunlight since the bully Taliban lost their job pretending to govern back in 2001.  And hopefully, we’re leaving.  Thirteen years is enough.  We’re getting a divorce.

Good bye, Afghanistan!

~ from Rawclyde!




Pentagon Plans


by Thom Shanker & Helene Cooper

New York Times

February 23, 2014


WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to shrink the United States Army to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets in a new spending proposal that officials describe as the first Pentagon budget to aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001.

The proposal, released on Monday, takes into account the fiscal reality of government austerity and the political reality of a president who pledged to end two costly and exhausting land wars. A result, the officials argue, will be a military capable of defeating any adversary, but too small for protracted foreign occupations.

Officials who saw an early draft of the announcement acknowledge that budget cuts will impose greater risk on the armed forces if they are again ordered to carry out two large-scale military actions at the same time: Success would take longer, they say, and there would be a larger number of casualties. Officials also say that a smaller military could invite adventurism by adversaries.

A spending plan that will be released Monday will be the first sweeping initiative set forth by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Credit Susan Walsh/Associated Press

“You have to always keep your institution prepared, but you can’t carry a large land-war Defense Department when there is no large land war,” a senior Pentagon official said.

Outlines of some of the budget initiatives, which are subject to congressional approval, have surfaced, an indication that even in advance of its release the budget is certain to come under political attack.

For example, some members of Congress, given advance notice of plans to retire air wings, have vowed legislative action to block the move, and the National Guard Association, an advocacy group for those part-time military personnel, is circulating talking points urging Congress to reject anticipated cuts. State governors are certain to weigh in, as well. And defense-industry officials and members of Congress in those port communities can be expected to oppose any initiatives to slow Navy shipbuilding.

Even so, officials said that despite budget reductions, the military would have the money to remain the most capable in the world and that Mr. Hagel’s proposals have the endorsement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Money saved by reducing the number of personnel, they said, would assure that those remaining in uniform would be well trained and supplied with the best weaponry.

The new American way of war will be underscored in Mr. Hagel’s budget, which protects money for Special Operations forces and cyberwarfare. And in an indication of the priority given to overseas military presence that does not require a land force, the proposal will — at least for one year — maintain the current number of aircraft carriers at 11.

Over all, Mr. Hagel’s proposal, the officials said, is designed to allow the American military to fulfill President Obama’s national security directives: to defend American territory and the nation’s interests overseas and to deter aggression — and to win decisively if again ordered to war.

“We’re still going to have a very significant-sized Army,” the official said. “But it’s going to be agile. It will be capable. It will be modern. It will be trained.”

Mr. Hagel’s plan would most significantly reshape America’s land forces — active-duty soldiers as well as those in the National Guard and Reserve.

The Army, which took on the brunt of the fighting and the casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, already was scheduled to drop to 490,000 troops from a post-9/11 peak of 570,000. Under Mr. Hagel’s proposals, the Army would drop over the coming years to between 440,000 and 450,000.

That would be the smallest United States Army since 1940. For years, and especially during the Cold War, the Pentagon argued that it needed a military large enough to fight two wars simultaneously — say, in Europe and Asia. In more recent budget and strategy documents, the military has been ordered to be prepared to decisively win one conflict while holding off an adversary’s aspirations in a second until sufficient forces could be mobilized and redeployed to win there.

The Guard and Reserves, which proved capable in their wartime deployments although costly to train to meet the standards of their full-time counterparts, would face smaller reductions. But the Guard would see its arsenal reshaped.

The Guard’s Apache attack helicopters would be transferred to the active-duty Army, which would transfer its Black Hawk helicopters to the Guard. The rationale is that Guard units have less peacetime need for the bristling array of weapons on the Apache and would put the Black Hawk — a workhorse transport helicopter — to use in domestic disaster relief.

The cuts proposed by Mr. Hagel fit the Bipartisan Budget Act reached by Mr. Obama and Congress in December to impose a military spending cap of about $496 billion for fiscal year 2015. If steeper spending reductions kick in again in 2016 under the sequestration law, however, then even more significant cuts would be required in later years.

The budget is the first sweeping initiative that bears Mr. Hagel’s full imprint. Although Mr. Hagel has been in office one year, most of his efforts in that time have focused on initiatives and problems that he inherited. In many ways his budget provides an opportunity for him to begin anew.

The proposals are certain to face resistance from interest groups like veterans’ organizations, which oppose efforts to rein in personnel costs; arms manufacturers that want to reverse weapons cuts; and some members of Congress who will seek to block base closings in their districts.

Mr. Hagel will take some first steps to deal with the controversial issue of pay and compensation, as the proposed budget would impose a one-year salary freeze for general and flag officers; basic pay for military personnel would rise by 1 percent. After the 2015 fiscal year, raises in pay will be similarly restrained, Pentagon officials say.

The fiscal 2015 budget also calls for slowing the growth of tax-free housing allowances for military personnel and would reduce the $1.4 billion direct subsidy provided to military commissaries, which would most likely make goods purchased at those commissaries more expensive for soldiers.

The budget also proposes an increase in health insurance deductibles and some co-pays for some military retirees and for some family members of active servicemen. But Mr. Hagel’s proposals do not include any changes to retirement benefits for those currently serving.

Under Mr. Hagel’s proposals, the entire fleet of Air Force A-10 attack aircraft would be eliminated. The aircraft was designed to destroy Soviet tanks in case of an invasion of Western Europe, and the capabilities are deemed less relevant today. The budget plan does sustain money for the controversial F-35 warplane, which has been extremely expensive and has run into costly delays.

In addition, the budget proposal calls for retiring the famed U-2 spy plane in favor of the remotely piloted Global Hawk.

The Navy would be allowed to purchase two destroyers and two attack submarines every year. But 11 cruisers will be ordered into reduced operating status during modernization.

Although consideration was given to retiring an aircraft carrier, the Navy will keep its fleet of 11 — for now. The George Washington would be brought in for overhaul and nuclear refueling — a lengthy process that could be terminated in future years under tighter budgets.


“Hundreds Of Enemy” Attack Outpost


The Hindu (India)

February 23, 2014


The Taliban have attacked an army checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan, leaving 19 soldiers dead and seven missing, officials said.

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, who is spokesman for the Defence Ministry, said the attack happened in the Ghazi Abad district of Kunar Province early Sunday morning. He confirmed that 19 soldiers were dead and two injured.

Abdul Ghani Musamem, spokesman for the governor of Kunar Province, said seven soldiers were missing following the attack. It was not immediately clear if the soldiers had been kidnapped or had fled during the assault.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in an emailed statement, saying that one of their insurgents was killed and two were wounded.

Karzai puts off Sri Lanka visit

Afghan President Hamid Karzai delayed Sunday his official visit to Sri Lanka as Taliban militants launched a deadly assault on an army outpost, killing 20 soldiers.

Scores of militants, including foreign nationals, attacked a military corps outpost in Ghaziabad district early Sunday morning, security officials said.

Ghaziabad is in the eastern province of Kunar, bordering with Pakistani tribal areas.

“Hundreds of enemy attacked the outpost from four directions. The soldiers stationed there bravely resisted for one and an half hours,” said Noman Atefi, an army spokesman in the eastern region.

“Unfortunately, 20 soldiers were killed and two wounded in the attack,” Atefi told DPA, adding that seven soldiers went missing.

Earlier, a police official had said that seven soldiers were captured by the Taliban fighters, of which four managed to escape.

“Nobody has been taken by the insurgents,” Atefi said. They had probably retreated to save their lives and guns, he added.

This was the largest attack on Afghan security forces in five months after the militants killed 18 troops in an ambush in September in the north-eastern province of Badakhshan.

He said the attack was “organised by foreign intelligence agencies,” and added that tens attackers were also killed.

Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The mujahideen (freedom fighters) occupied an important army base and killed scores of soldiers,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

He said they left the post after destroying it.

The army spokesman denied Taliban’s allegation, saying 14 soldiers who were unhurt, resisted and held the outpost.

“The enemies escaped the area, leaving the bodies of their colleagues behind.” Afghan Defence Ministry Spokesman Zahir Azimi said that reinforcements were sent to the area, but came under fire en route.

“A militant who was likely waiting for the additional troops blew himself up near them,” Azimi said in a statement, adding that no troops were hurt.

President Karzai postponed his visit to Sri Lanka after the news of the killing of soldiers broke.

“The Afghan president is saddened by the tragic incident, and postponed his official trip to Sri Lanka,” his office said in a statement.

Taliban suspends talks on US soldier

In an another development, Afghanistan’s Taliban says it has suspended “mediation” with the United States to exchange captive U.S. soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five senior Taliban prisoners held in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay, halting at least temporarily what was considered the best chance yet of securing the 27-year-old’s freedom since his capture in 2009.

In a terse Pashto language statement emailed to the Associated Press on Sunday, Zabihullah Mujahed blamed the “current complex political situation in the country” for the suspension.

Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was last seen in a video released in December, footage seen as “proof of life” demanded by the United States. Bergdahl is believed to be held in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mujahed said the indirect talks with the United States had been mediated by the Middle Eastern state of Qatar, where the Taliban established a political office last June. The video of Bergdahl was part of the negotiations which were to lead to the eventual transfer of five senior Taliban leaders held since 2002 in Guantanamo Bay.

“The leadership of the Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend the process for some time due to the current complex political situation in the country,” according to the statement. “The process will remain suspended without the exchange of the prisoners until our decision to resume.”

The Taliban spokesman did not elaborate on what “political situation” in Afghanistan led to the suspension of talks or say when they might resume. Afghanistan is in the middle of a presidential election campaign. President Hamid Karzai cannot seek another term in office under the Afghan constitution which allows only two terms as president. The election is scheduled for April 5.

The U.S. State Department has refused to acknowledge the negotiations, but a U.S. official familiar with the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press that indirect talks were underway. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

In response to the Taliban statement, U.S. Embassy Spokesman in Kabul Robert Hilton said- “Sgt. Bergdahl has been gone far too long, however we can’t discuss the efforts we’re taking to obtain his return.”

Efforts at a swap are also seen as a concession to Karzai. Washington would like to see him back away from his refusal to sign a security pact that is necessary for the United States to leave a residual force behind in Afghanistan

Karzai he wants Washington to push reconciliation between the warring factions forward, without offering specifics.

The five Taliban detainees at the heart of the proposal are the most senior Afghans still held at the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba. Each has been held since 2002.

They include:

Mohammad Fazl, whom Human Rights Watch says could be prosecuted for war crimes for presiding over the mass killing of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001 as the Taliban sought to consolidate its control over the country.

Abdul Haq Wasiq, who served as the Taliban deputy minister of intelligence and was in direct contact with supreme leader Mullah Omar as well as other senior Taliban figures, according to military documents. Under Wasiq, there were widespread accounts of killings, torture and mistreatment.

Mullah Norullah Nori, who was a senior Taliban commander in the northern city of Mazar—e—Sharif when the Taliban fought U.S. forces in late 2001. He previously served as a Taliban governor in two northern provinces, where he has been accused of ordering the massacre of thousands of Shiites.

Khairullah Khairkhwa, who served in various Taliban positions including interior minister and a military commander and had direct ties to Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, according to U.S. military documents. His U.S. lawyers have argued in court papers that his affiliation with the Taliban was a matter of circumstance, rather than ideology, and that he had backed away from them by the time of his capture. His lawyers also have argued that he was merely a civil servant and had no military role, though a judge found otherwise and said there was enough evidence to justify holding him at Guantanamo. His lawyers have appealed.

Mohammed Nabi, who served as chief of security for the Taliban in Qalat, Afghanistan and later worked as a radio operator for the Taliban’s communications office in Kabul and as an office manager in the border department, according to U.S. military documents. In the spring of 2002, he told interrogators that he received about $500 from a CIA operative as part of the unsuccessful effort to track down Mullah Omar. When that didn’t pan out, he says he ended up helping the agency locate al-Qaida members.




Dervish Whirl

00829_01, Afghanistan, 1980, AFGHN-13342


by Rawclyde!


Ollie spin spin spin

All around the ruin of the village mosque

Bump into walls, out hole in a wall

Up the path, thru the gate, into the house


Spinning like a top, spinning ’til he drop

A grinning little lass burning lots of gas

A midget dust-devil whirling room to room

‘Til finally he bump Mom & say:


“Burqa burqa burqa!”


“Burqa burqa burqa!”

She hand him a yellow polka-dot burqa & he spin away


continue below




Meanwhile back in the ruins big brother Habibullah

Twist his hand around n’ around Col. Sheena Johnson’s arrow

That so long ago zzzzzzzip thru that hand &

Pin him to the wall


He twist his hand around & around

The pain shoot up n’ down his arm

In n’ out his heart

Col. Johnson see Taliban eyes full of hate go gooey


Here come little dusty Afghanistani whirlwind

spinning spinning & grinning

Ollie puts Momma’s burqa in Habibullah’s other hand

Bulla hands the holy garment to my denudated U.S. Army colonel…




 guest artists:

Steve McCurry



Robert Longo




Copyright Clyde Collins 2014

The Afghaneeland Adventure Series | Old Timer Chronicle II


A Legacy Under Construction

Canada has spent $50 million on Dahla Dam in Afghanistan…


By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen (Canada)

February 18, 2014


SHAH WALI KOT, Afghanistan — It is one of Canada’s main legacies in Afghanistan, meant to bring prosperity and jobs and win the hearts and minds of the Afghans in Kandahar province. And it still isn’t fully functioning.

Situated around 35 kilometres north of Kandahar City, the massive Dahla Dam has been visited by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who highlighted it as one of his government’s “signature projects” in this destitute South Asian country. Bev Oda, then the international co-operation minister, called it “one of Canada’s most significant contributions to the Afghan people.”

When Canada’s diplomats, development specialists and soldiers left Kandahar in 2011, our involvement with the dam ended and the government declared the $50-million project a success. But even now, water doesn’t reach 30 per cent of the 500 kilometres of canals that Canada paid to refurbish, according to the U.S. army Corps of Engineers. That’s because the dam itself is not expected to be fully functional until at least 2017.

Afghan farmers told Canadian government officials 13 years ago that for the silt-clogged dam to work, it would have to be raised so more water could be trapped in the reservoir. Better yet, they said, build a new dam.

The job of raising the dam, which will cost between $150 million to $250 million, now falls to the U.S. government.

Some Afghans in the area blame the Canadians for not doing it, although that was never the publicly stated goal of the project. Others say much of the Canadian funding was wasted since it went to pay for security or high-priced foreign contractors and not Afghan labourers.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada won’t detail how the money was spent, saying it cannot divulge a breakdown of the figures because it has to protect the commercial privacy of the firms involved. SNC-Lavalin, the main contractor, also won’t release a breakdown.

Accounting and accountability aside, Canadian diplomats and military officers say the work on the dam has been a resounding success. They say it provides water for farmers to irrigate large tracts of land, allowing them to grow various crops such as pomegranates. If people can make a living, Canadian officials say, support for the insurgents is undercut.

The Citizen recently visited the dam but at the insistence of the Kandahar governor’s office travelled with seven heavily armed bodyguards for protection against the Taliban as well as rogue police officers who might take the opportunity to harass foreign journalists for bribes. Contractors paid for by the U.S. government were working on fixing equipment at the site’s intake tower. Water at the base of the dam’s earthen wall was thick with brown sludge from the buildup of silt.

Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare, whose command oversees domestic and military missions, was in Kabul in November and received a briefing from Canadian diplomats.

“The update I got was the investment made has had a huge positive impact already, agriculturally, water management, the whole nine yards,” he said. “Notwithstanding that it may not be at a particular end state or end date, the investment has paid out and it continues to pay out.”

Foreign Affairs says the project created 5,000 seasonal jobs, although some Kandahar residents doubt that actually happened. They suggest much of the money instead went to well-connected Afghans and high-priced foreign contractors, and they may have a point.

An estimated $10 million of the $50 million was spent on security, with an undisclosed amount paid to Watan Risk Management, a controversial firm providing for-hire gunmen and run by two Afghan men, Rashid and Rateb Popal.

Both have been convicted of drug-related crimes and Rateb has also been accused by a U.S. congressman of once being an interpreter for the Taliban.

Numerous reports state the men are related to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, but a lawyer for the two denies that is the case. The U.S. military tried to blacklist Watan after allegations surfaced that bribes may have been paid to the Taliban. The firm has denied any wrongdoing…


…U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan, however, did raise concerns in 2009 about the Dahla Dam project, alleging that it was being used by the Karzai family to consolidate its power in the region and to reward friends. They also noted the Watan connection to the project.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul was so concerned that it sent a confidential cable to Washington, later obtained by WikiLeaks, that highlighted the involvement of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s younger brother. The cable also highlighted the role of Watan’s Rashid Popal, who the diplomats stated was a cousin of Ahmed Wali Karzai.

The Americans described Ahmed Wali Karzai, also known as AWK, as the “kingpin of Kandahar” who headed a network of political clans that used state institutions to “protect and enable licit and illicit enterprises.”

The U.S. diplomats also warned that the Karzai family was trying to increase its political dominance over two of the most valuable resources in Kandahar — fertile land and water.

“Production and land values there will increase greatly as a result of Canada’s “signature” rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam and irrigation works,” the U.S. diplomats warned. “Karzai businesses are also set to acquire multiple patronage benefits from Dahla Dam construction and security contracts but the main prize will be political control over long-term allocation of water flows.”

AWK, described by the Americans as “widely unpopular” in Kandahar for the way he wielded his power, successfully lobbied Canada on behalf of the Watan security company, the cable added.

Another 2009 report from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul noted that the Canadians were worried about Ahmed Wali Karzai and his suspected ties to the illegal drug trade.

AWK was assassinated in 2011 by his bodyguard and while the Taliban took credit, some suggest the killing may have been linked to his criminal activities.

Romel Punsalan, who oversees work on the Dahla Dam for the U.S. army Corps of Engineers, is aware of some of the controversy surrounding the project.

But he is more focused these days on trying to get the dam up to full capacity. Workers are fixing valves and the intake tower and are expected to be done by early 2015.

After that the Americans plan to raise the height of the dam by five metres. That should improve the volume of available water and deal with the silt that has built up over the last 60 years. It should also allow the irrigation ditches cleaned under the Canadian program to be fully utilized.

Punsalan hopes work on that phase will start this summer and be completed by 2017.

But he doesn’t know how it might be affected by the U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan.

“I’m not sure what will happen,” Punsalan said from Kabul. “All I’m directed to do is continue planning and moving forward.”

The Dahla Dam is not the only such project to run into problems. About 95 kilometres northwest of Kandahar City is the Kajaki Dam, the main source of electricity for Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

Like Dahla, it was built in the 1950s by an American company and deteriorated because of a lack of maintenance. Kajaki’s turbines still operate, albeit inefficiently.

The Taliban in the area have constantly attacked coalition troops and prevented any significant repairs. Dozens of soldiers have been killed in the ongoing clashes, including Canadian Forces Master Corporal Darrell Jason Priede, a military photographer whose helicopter was shot down near Kajaki in 2007.

The ongoing problems were highlighted by Canadian Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier, who warned that the situation was hindering international efforts in the province. “The lack of access to electricity continues to be one of the top concerns of the people of Kandahar, a problem which has been exacerbated by a turbine failure at Kajaki Dam,” Gauthier wrote in a February 2008 report obtained by the Citizen.

“The people of Kandahar continue to see an imbalance between (reconstruction and development) efforts conducted versus their stated needs. Specifically, they state that unemployment and lack of electricity are their greatest concerns but do not see corresponding (reconstruction and development) effort in those specific efforts.”

To improve the availability of electricity, NATO mounted one of its largest military operations in 2008: An estimated 4,000 soldiers, most of them British, were involved in transporting a new turbine from Kandahar Airfield to the Kajaki Dam.

The mission was heralded as one of the British army’s biggest success stories from Afghanistan.

Ultimately though, the effort was a failure. It was too difficult to truck in the cement needed to build a pad for the new turbine because of insurgent attacks. The Chinese company hired to install the machinery abandoned the project because it was too dangerous. The turbine sits, rusting, in a dirt lot near the dam, according to reports.

The U.S. government is now paying an American firm to install the turbine and other work will be done to refurbish the hydroelectric power system. The work on the $500-million project is ongoing and it’s unclear when the turbine will be installed, if ever.

In July 2013, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told Congress his office remains “concerned about the prospects of success at Kajaki.”

In the meantime, with the Kajaki Dam still not functioning properly, the U.S. military has tried to solve Kandahar’s energy shortage a different way. In 2011 it paid for the installation of large, gas-powered generators in the city, capable of producing 20 megawatts of power.

The Americans will cover the $106-million cost of the generators and fuel until 2015.

After that, Kandahar City may be back to square one without a reliable source of electrical power; the Afghans can’t afford the fuel needed to keep the generators running.


On Their Own

After more than a decade of war, Canadian soldiers — and the rest of the West — are about to pull out of Afghanistan for good. Are Afghans ready to go it alone?



KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan — A cigarette butt and a half-eaten plate of rice lie on the polished stone of what used to be known as the Camp Nathan Smith Memorial Square. The square, named after one of the first Canadians to die in this volatile country, was once a place of honour, where photos of some of the Canadian soldiers killed were displayed and Remembrance Day ceremonies were held. Today, weeds dominate the former base for Canada’s provincial reconstruction team.

At the height of the war, the camp was home to 300 Canadian soldiers and 80 civilians, including development workers, diplomats and police, and was the cornerstone of Canada’s reconstruction and aid efforts in Kandahar province.

The installation now houses a small number of Afghan security forces, but even they don’t want to stay. Afghans want to turn it into a women’s centre, though they don’t have the money to do that and international donors aren’t interested.

So the base sits and slowly falls apart.

Thirteen years after the West went into Afghanistan to take out al-Qaida and the Taliban and then build up the country so they could not return, there is a war-weary desire to cut and run that wasn’t here before.

Although it is expected that some training personnel and advisers from the United States and other nations will remain, the pullout is in full swing.

In the north of the country, the Norwegians have closed down their provincial reconstruction team. In the southeast, the Australians have yanked their combat troops.

And in mid-March, a small group of Canadian soldiers will haul down the Maple Leaf flag at their base in Kabul and walk onto a transport aircraft for the flight home, the last to serve in Canada’s largest military deployment since the Second World War.

In the haste to get out, much is being left behind. U.S. soldiers are chopping up armoured vehicles, which cost $1 million each, and selling them to Afghan scrap-dealers for a couple of hundred dollars. Sea containers full of equipment are stacked on the outskirts of Kandahar, the contents ready to be auctioned off to local bidders.

What can’t be moved or sold is simply abandoned. In Helmand province, a $34-million state-of-the-art military command centre built by the U.S. army sits empty. Around Kandahar, bases that once housed international troops are deserted.

But there’s a gulf between walking away from some buildings and walking away from a mission that didn’t turn out exactly as planned. So as the remaining soldiers snap up T-shirts that say “Whoever leaves last, please turn out the lights,” the question on many people’s minds is simple: Can the Afghans, alone, find their way in the dark?

The first Canadian troops — a few dozen commandos — arrived in late 2001 in support of the U.S. bid to eliminate al-Qaida. Early the next year, 750 regular forces joined them. After those initial efforts in the Kandahar region, the military settled into what was essentially a peace support operation focused on Kabul. Security was provided for the 2004 Afghan elections, soldiers patrolled parts of the city, while some development work, such as digging wells and making repairs to buildings, was also done.

The mission ramped up in 2005 when the Liberal government supported the recommendation by the Canadian military leadership to send combat troops to Kandahar province. The following year the Conservative government extended what was supposed to have been a limited mission, setting in motion a period of intense warfare the likes of which Canadians had not seen since the Korean conflict.

That same year, Canada signed on to the Afghanistan Compact, an agreement between the government of Afghanistan and the international community to support the process of reconstruction in Afghanistan. This included a pledge to take measures to increase security, strengthen human rights and the rule of law, and promote economic and social development. Those goals were amplified by the 2008 Manley report, which advised the government to extend the military mission past 2009, while refocusing the civilian side of the mission on aid that would directly benefit the Afghan people. It recommended the creation of “signature” projects that could be used to showcase Canada’s efforts on behalf of Afghans.

The government accepted many of the report’s recommendations, and adopted three signature projects: the rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam and its irrigation system, the construction of 50 schools in Kandahar, and the eradication of polio throughout the country.

For Canada’s senior diplomats and military leadership, the Kandahar mission unfolded in an atmosphere of optimism.

Col. Steve Bowes, who headed the first provincial reconstruction team in 2005, predicted the insurgents would be defeated within two years. Two years after that, retired Gen. Paul Manson, once Canada’s top military officer, wrote that the Taliban could lay no claim to any military successes and that they were in trouble. Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier went further, suggesting the insurgents were on the verge of defeat, teetering on their “back foot” as he liked to say.

With the insight that comes with hindsight, Canadian Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare, who has commanded a number of times in Afghanistan, today acknowledges the gulf between the optimistic statements and how events unfolded.

“The list of how much we didn’t know was quite substantial, vis-a-vis the nature of the challenge that had been allowed to emerge,” said Beare, the commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command. “So our understanding of what we were getting into versus the reality had to be discovered by doing.”

The Canadian Forces, he added, learned and adapted quickly.

Though not all targets were met, Canadian government and military officials look back on the 12-year Afghan mission with pride. Officers point out that coalition military efforts pushed al-Qaida out of Afghanistan, denying the terrorist organization a training base.

The final government report on the Kandahar mission, released in March 2012, found that Canada had achieved 33 of its 44 development targets, including one of its signature projects of building 52 schools and the training of more than 3,000 teachers.

There is no doubt development efforts have had some success…

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Tinkerbell Back From Afghanistan


Don’t know who I am any mo’



Under the table

Barely able


Barely got outta there

Been around

Too much

Casual killing

Fathomless hate














Too many explosions

ringing like bells


in my head



VA Domiciliary Prescott AZ