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...

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I debated this one all day and all night...and now that it's well past the witching hour (and actually 9/12 here), I figured...what the hell.  September 11 in Afghanistan has come and gone, and as I expected, it was not particularly striking to be here on that date.  More significant than the attacks of nine years ago was the fact that it was the 2nd day of Eid al Fitr, so our Afghan colleagues were in the midst of their holiday time...making work as usual, fittingly, not an option. 

So what of it?  While I always will remember and commemorate the heroes and the victims of that day, and remain cognizant of the fact that I am here in Afghanistan right now -- for my second stay -- because of a terrorist attack almost a full decade's a world and multiple eras ago.  The people of this land were largely unaware of the United States at all in 2001, apart from those who knew of and appreciated the assistance provided the Mujahiddin in the 1980's as they waged an effective counterinsurgency against Russian invaders.  A horrific civil war which followed the withdrawal of the Soviet Union left Afghans desperate for something, anything, which provided a semblance of law & order.  They got it, and more than most bargained for, with the Taliban.  The ultra-religious movement, mainly led and staffed by foreigners, profited from a connection with Al Qaeda and hosted the burgeoning international terrorist movement here...bringing Afghanistan squarely into the crosshairs (literally) of U.S. and allied Coalition might in the days following the 9/11 attacks.

You may forgive the ordinary Afghan for wondering how the hell a terrorist strike carried out by 19 Arabs on places they've never heard of could result in a few new chapters of topsy-turvy war for their "hearts and minds".  By multiple eras ago, I mean that a swift victory of late '01 led to the promises and commitments by the international community of '02 and '03, the troubling signs of the next few years as insurgencies (they were not and are not one collective movement) stubbornly stuck around and even made gains in some spots, the reversal of tenuous stability in entire regions and the effects of a still-porous border in the next few, the deadly campaigns for Eastern mountains and Southern deserts which continue, and the current state of which a nation is asked to be built, and by yesterday.

The biggest problem with that nation-building, out of all of them?  It could be the training of Afghan security forces, for many feel that such a feat may take years longer to properly do than currently discussed timelines permit.  It could be the construction and stabilization of institutions which will permit the nation to provide for its own needs without massive annual international assistance -- again, something that will take much longer than a couple of years if it is possible at all.  Looming larger than any of these, however, is the matter of who the Afghan people would rather see in charge...their current government or Taliban 2.0, my name for the loose grouping of insurgent forces who claim a lineage from the 90's crew, and may very well answer to the same Mullah Omar (I, for one, am not of the belief that Osama bin Laden is alive, or that he's relevant if he is).  For many, particularly in the rural areas which dominate most of the country, the same choice faces them now as in 1995...

Do you support an utterly corrupt and ineffective government, from the district level through the provincial to the national, with its bribes upon bribes...yet the legal and administrative systems simply never go anywhere?  Do you give it time to work, when the brave people who step up to try and improve it immediately become targets for doing so?  Or do you, out of even a touch of ideology or just amassed frustration, decide to cast your lot with the swift sytems of the shadow government of your area, because they seem to be strictly observant Muslims and they get results?  That is the crisis facing the Coalition and our Afghan partners.  And it's a long, long way from that blue-sky day nine years ago when four passenger jets were turned into missiles of world-altering destruction.

You see, it's getting so that I see little correlation these days between the wreckage which burned for months where a pair of impossibly tall buildings had just stood, right across the river from my eyes, and the state of affairs over here in 2010.  Countless young Americans and loyal allies -- many of whom were teens or even pre-teens when those attacks took place -- are waking up in a few hours to do what they do every day, and try to convince those aforementioned ordinary Afghans that their official officials are worth supporting.  I don't have the answers. More than likely, you don't have the answers. I fervently hope that a young generation of Afghans who've had enough of this cycle have the answers, and can break the pattern in time.

My boss shared his thoughts today too, and in my opinion it's certainly worth a read to see what the Commanding General of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan thinks about where we are and why it is important. 

Why We Are Here: Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, IV

"The Taliban will not give up their tyranny over the Afghan people without a fight. We see this every day when they murder innocent civilians and assassinate government officials, to include our brothers in the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, and recent poisonings of innocent school children across the country. Our best weapon against their oppression and the division they sow is our unity."


Blogger yomistast said...

Great read, as usual, Cuz. Keep safe over there. I got you an awesome birthday present. It's not what I originally wanted, but they aren't selling the set of "Kiner's Korner" on eBay.

September 11, 2010 at 5:51 PM  
Anonymous TheotherDeuce said...

An impressive job of putting handles on an insanely complicated history and current situation. I was running through some of the same myself on a day that hasn't lost it's significance for me and probably never will.
I came home from your current neighborhood with some strong feelings on the impact of religion, hypocracy, and doing the right thing when no one is looking...which I will keep a lid on until we can discuss in person.
Looking forward to solving all of the problems of A-stan when you return!

September 11, 2010 at 10:56 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Hi Dan, Great writing! I am glad to keep up with you on here. It makes me smile to know you...

BTW - the "comment moderation" requires that I type in the codeword they provide. Mine was wetbra - no joke. Some things you simply cannot make up.

September 12, 2010 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger John Cocktoasten said...

Very nicely done. Since you mention the ordinary Afghan, I feel compelled to ask, what is your take on said Afghan's feelings on the events of 9/11/01 through today? Is there a sense of resentment towards the Taliban for facilitating Al-Qaeda given that the 9/11 attacks lead to the US presence in Afghanistan for the past nine years? Are people thankful that the Taliban is no longer the governing body? A little of both? Something else? There has been a bee hive of activity there, and I'm curious as to what the natives' thoughts are on it (by-in large).

And if you can't go into it too much, no worries--you can fill me in over a beer when you get back.

September 16, 2010 at 12:00 AM  
Anonymous Slappy said...

There's another Deuce?!

Anyway, excellent stuff, bro. To say that the situation over there is "complex" would be the understatement of the year. Keep on keepin' on ...

September 16, 2010 at 12:48 AM  

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