A young man's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk...and apparently, back again.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

The details of my life are quite inconsequential, really. Summers in Rangoon...luge lessons...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Photos. Cops. And a Conference.

...and there was much rejoicing.

Have we cracked the code on getting photos loaded after a month without??  Apparently we have, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to an IT wizard who must have been sent from above.  However, the connection for now is even slower than the last time I had the expect about one-tenth as many as my photo-happy nature would have posted if speed permitted.

The Ministry of the Interior

There is so much to pontificate about, but as we're once again past the 0200 hours mark, not much time -- if I am to keep from passing out face-first into my chai as I advise my colleagues in the ministries tomorrow, I better catch a couple hours of sleep.  Still, some thoughts and some glimpses...mostly of a mass graduation of Afghan law enforcement officers a few weeks back.

The Ministry of the Interior and its components (Afghan National Police, ANCOP-gendarmarie, border police, customs, even traffic police) deserve some accolades tonight, as they were instrumental to the successful security cordon that kept the city safe during the high-profile Kabul Conference.  In the high-risk, high-stakes (yet somehow low-payoff) environment that is Kabul in midsummer 2010, the largest gathering of international foreign ministers in over 30 years in Afghanistan went off without a significant attack.  That has to be taken as a victory for this government, for now anyway.  Insurgents did manage to pull off a desperate suicide bombing of some innocent civilians two days ago in a crowded residential area, and lob a couple of rockets to no effect last night.  But the plotters and haters who can't seem to express opposition in ways that don't involve bloodshed failed on this big target they had marked for a long time.

"Why yes, some naan would be delicious...tashakur!"

Past the rose bushes of the ministry and under the benevolence of Karzai, officers and officials of the ANP go about their morning business.

While there is much to be encouraged about in the agreements signed today, it would be too simplistic and unrealistic to claim that a one-day conference will significantly impact the course of the nation-building effort here (because contrary to what the official line may be, it's nation-building alright).  More likely, in my warped imagination, it went down sort of like this...

Kabul Conference Shenanigans, Vol. 1

"So, you know that huge sum of money we lent you?  How's the national rebuilding coming along?"
"Hmmm...well, it's great, things are really getting better bit by bit...but it's being done all wrong."
"Oh, tell me about it!  You mean all the corruption and graft that's siphoning it out of the country?"
"No!  Well, yes...but it's the thieves you guys pay who do all that.  So we need oversight."
"Wait, YOU need oversight?"
"Yes.  Your aid agencies are all jacked up, and the people need to see their gov't providing help." 
"True...but isn't it really that you just want new villas?"
"That's not cool.  Now shake hands and smile, the reporters are filing in."

Weeks ago, over at the graduation to which I referred, newly-minted law enforcement officers stood for an eternity under a blazing sun.  Speakers from the Ministry of the Interior, from ISAF, and from NATO Training Mission lauded their achievements and tried to steel them for the challenges ahead, exhorting the new officers to be honest, fair and courageous.

I like the dude on the right..."Screw it, I'm busting out the camcorder!"

The table with helmets and weapons fortunately did not mean that live battlefield surgery was about to take place. In Afghan graduations, a select few are chosen to surround it, place their hands upon it, and recite an oath to the country they have sworn to protect and the laws they intend to uphold.

They even invited women! doesn't happen overnight.

After the 12th or so speech, the swearing in, the awarding of recognition to some top performers (who would each hold up his certificate and shout something like "I would give my life for Afghanistan!") was time to pass in review.  Off they goose-stepped, past the stand of VIPs and into their new careers.

So why is the Kabul Conference -- and its subsequent steps toward TRANSITION -- a big deal?  Why is the graduation of 1,400 new police officers a big deal?  What's all the blood, sweat and expended energy that goes into training this vital force or providing security for a bunch of diplomats all for?

It's for the smiling, happy girls who get to attend school for the first time in their lives...

...the shopkeepers, restaurant owners and bike repair guys who want to run their businesses...

...the generations who've known only war and destruction, and want security for their children...

...the people who live in dire poverty and stand to benefit from new roads and new housing...

...and of course, the watermelons.  The tens of thousands of watermelons seemingly sold daily during a Kabul Summer.  These stands are everywhere, and that makes me smile.

For more on the Kabul Conference, the intended transition of security, and a startling visual image of graft, see the below story...
Afghan Plan on Transfer of Security Gets Support


Anonymous Schlags said...

Nice to hear again from LT. Dan (well, kinda outta date, but i figured you'd understand). Hope all is well! Just saw sir-goo last night for the first time since he got back from his wild escapades. Who knows, maybe he will put out a blog just like you when he's gone??

Again, hope everything is well, cant wait to see you soon... possibly st.pattys fest at your parents house?

July 21, 2010 at 7:07 AM  
Blogger yomistast said...

and of course, the watermelons.

great read.

July 24, 2010 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Schlage, you're about ten years too late for that "Lt Dan" crap. Nice try, though. And thanks for commenting!

Yo Mista St, it's always a boost to have a cuz like you in my corner.

July 31, 2010 at 1:33 PM  
Anonymous WhyLisaofcourse said...

I sent you coffee and you wrote the nicest response I have ever gotten -- thanks for that.
This is the best blog I have yet read. I've learned so much from it, and your commitment and humor make it feel like I am there. The work you and others are doing over there moves me to the core. Good stuff!
I look forward to reading further posts and reflections! Thanks for doing this.
Lisa in CA

August 6, 2010 at 6:13 PM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Lisa, thank YOU for dropping by! The most gratifying part of keeping this blog going is hearing from those who enjoyed it. Am so glad you checked it out, and hope you keep doing so.
Salaam al Laikum,

August 11, 2010 at 4:28 PM  

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