Thursday, January 21, 2010

A new word for Webster's

Elvis has left the country. Yes I am now in Kuwait. After a hectic 30 hours of flights, convoys, waiting, loading and unloading of baggage I am at Camp Arifjan awaiting the official start of my Warrior Transition Program class. During this time I will do my final out processing and turn in all of the vast amounts of gear the Army lent me for this deployment. In fact, last night after a gruelling sleepless day and night our section had final weapons cleaning and turn-in. I feel liberated this morning without having to haul around my weapon(s) and ammunition, but I also wonder how many times I will look for it, or will put on my holster automatically. Today is a slow day, then tomorrow we start to turn in the other gear, go to some counselling workshops and prepare to depart in the coming days.
I continue to reflect on my experiences in Afghanistan, and after talking to many others who worked primarily in Kabul I have decided a new word needs to be added to the lexicon:

Kabulcentric- Policy or instructions that eminate from the capital city with primary regard for how these policies work in the capital or the 10 miles outside of Kabul, but apply to all of Afghanistan.

We have in our own country from time to time, a similiar situation with our Capital of Washington, D.C. Thankfully in our democratic republic the voice of the people is heard regularly. This is not the case in Afghanistan. Policies or plans which may work well in the urban chaos of Kabul may not translate well to the rest of Afghanistan. In most cases it does not work at all. I have seen time and again edicts from Kabul which do not pass the common sense or sniff test of those of us who have spent more than one week outside of the confines of the capital.

Part of this is due to ignorance. Please do not confuse this with arrongance, but ignorance as in downright lack of understanding of the challenges of the country. Very few Afghan officials or senior leaders tour the country. If they do, they are only directly taken to show pieces of success (dog and pony shows). So out of lack of understanding, policies are made based on the information at hand, what can be seen within the capital. There are video or phone conferences of the Afghan systems, but I have seen very few Afghans who would be forthright or foolish enough to admit a problem to their superiors in this way. So the leaders in Kabul are led to believe all is well in the rest of the country and anything is possible.

So I think that Kabulcentrism can be overcome, but it will require the officials in the government of Afghanistan to take the time to get out and see not only the successes or what they want to see, but ask the hard questions and get information on the realities of this diversified country.

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