Situation report on Afghanistan
Q&A with Jess Johnson of Global Venture Partners, Special Forces Weapons Specialist
Situation report (SITREP) for Feb. 4th, 2011
Afghanistan is a nation about the size of Texas with a population of thirty million people and a life expectancy of 44 years. The illiteracy rate averages 29 percent of the population. The average income per individual is about $800 U.S. dollars per year.
Q: The United States learned a great deal from Russia’s military engagement in Afghanistan. What is being learned from the U.S. in its own battles in Afghanistan?
A: Any nation that depends upon helicopters loses (i.e. Vietnam, Russia and Nicaragua). Drug addiction is rampant among U.S. and coalition forces (i.e. Vietnam). Resupply from Russia or Pakistan can be stopped by a small enemy force involved in asymmetrical warfare because of the mountainous regions and sympathetic opposition forces from border nations. Enemy infiltration and resupply cannot be stopped because of the same reasons. Islamic religious beliefs and national history dictate loss by U.S. military forces. We cannot win the hearts and minds of the people unless the heads of the tribes, clans, families or drug lords agree to give their permission for our public affairs officers to spread those messages.
The Afghanistan farmers make $338 U.S. dollars per hectare of wheat paid to them by either the U.N. or USAID. The drug lords pay farmers $7,500 U.S. dollars per hectare.
Opium production has gone from (estimated) 1,400 m/t in 2001 to 14,000 m/t in 2010. The prices paid for harvested opium was up by 164 percent in 2010.
Having adopted a population-centric strategy means U.S. Commanders are struggling with an ability to convince many locals that the U.S. military is a force for good.
Q: Reports coming out of Afghanistan say that more drugs are flowing from there than before. Is that accurate?
A: Yes, as I outlined in the previous question but the actual processing of opium into hash or heroin has increased by 66 percent in the last three years in-country instead of processing opium in Pakistan, Russia, Iran or Turkey.
Q: Were the U.S. and NATO Command and Control damaged by recent leaks on the Internet?
A: Yes, but some of the information disclosed was already well-known. (i.e. President Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai is the country’s biggest heroin distributor). Those who are suspecious have had their suspicions confirmed.
Q: What is the most important point we should know about Afghanistan?
A: That clans, tribes, drugs and drug lords, not politics or politicians rule the nation of Afghanistan. The drug lords that run the country create the infrastructure. That industry “is” the economy (90% that comes from opium production).
Q: What other points should we know about Afghanistan?
A: 1. The country historically has been at war with itself between the warring clans and tribes. These blood wars are hundreds of years old. These tribes have unified put their differences aside then defeated the most powerful nations on earth, England, Russia and now the U.S.
2. Billions of U.S. dollars earmarked for construction are now unaccounted for and cannot be traced or found.
3. Afghanistan, its government, people and allies are corrupt.
4. Hate for foreign military personnel (seen as occupiers that unite tribes and clans that otherwise would be fighting each other over the nation’s drug trade). Our translators aren’t fluent in Dari or Pashto, which means the Afghan people don’t get our message in our attempt to “win the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people.
5. Success in Afghanistan for the United States is primarily based on recruiting, training, retaining and maintaining motivated and effective Afghan military and security forces. A high illiteracy rate among these forces limits their motivation and effectiveness.
6. Bringing a centralized government to Afghanistan, while historically it has been decentralized, is one of the primary flaws in our current political/military strategy.
7. Elections held under wartime conditions mean millions will not or cannot vote. Pashtuns in the south represent fifty percent of the nation’s population and are politically ignored. The Pashtuns tribes are now disenfranchised. Opposition forces recruit from these tribes because they cannot find their political voice in the current government.
8. The insurgency is concentrated in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. The Pashtuns tribes that populate these regions are where the Taliban is strongest.
Master Sgt. Johnson of Global Venture Partners served as a medic in Vietnam and then as a Green Beret for the rest of his 30-year career in the Army. Through the Rotary Club, he helps Vet to Vet USA raise funds for injured veterans. VettoVetUSA.com also serves an annual dinner and presents Christmas gifts to injured troops away from home for the holidays at the VA hospitals in Bonham, Texas, Dallas and across Texas. To hear podcast interviews with Charley Jones on KRLD/CBS Radio: http://dfw.cbslocal.com/tag/jess-johnson/ Contact Johnson by email at firstname.lastname@example.org