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...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Other Karzai

Elders meet with Ahmed Wali Karzai in Kandahar, 2009
(photo via the New York Times)

Despite the relative lick of attention it received in the United States, the assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai in Kandahar yesterday was an extremely significant development in Afghanistan.  By all accounts, Karzai was essentially the uncrowned King of Kandahar, head of the provincial council and known as "Mr. Fix It."  He seemed to have his hands in everything that took place in southern Afghanistan -- much of the crucial 'Pashtun belt' -- and was alleged by many to be profiting handsomely from the drug trade as well as other lucrative illegal enterprises.  Technically a staunch ally of the NATO-led Coalition, his forces nonetheless served his best interests, it was often said.  Most importantly, he delivered whatever his brother (President Karzai) needed in Kandahar, and the head of state reciprocated by allegedly protecting him and his businesses.

The problem, of course, is "What now?"  As I wrote in a quick note when posting the link to Facebook, it is often said that nature abhors a vacuum.  Those who seek to reach their goals through fomenting instability and violence, however, love one.  And this killing will almost certainly create a power struggle or struggles as various families, tribes, gangs and consortiums fight for the pieces of AWK's empire.  It's not going to be pretty.  I remember hearing what a problem it presented to have the president's own brother profiting from all he did and essentially running the south with impunity...but I don't recall hearing any realistic alternative solutions, unfortunately.

NYT: Half Brother of Afghan President Is Killed in Kandahar


"Sure, you would like to shake the hand of the Navy SEAL who capped Osama bin Laden. But you have a lot more riding on whether Lt. Gen. William Caldwell’s mission is successful."

A well-written piece in the Marine Corps Times last week focused on my most recent command, NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, and its commanding general.  The article highlights the immense challenges facing the command, the differing political views (here in the States and among allies) on its viability, and most gratifying to those of us who've served it, the tremendous importance of the mission -- given our nation's stated goal of leaving behind a "good enough" government backed by a capable Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.  Although troops all over the country can find themselves in mentoring roles, it is on this relatively small training command (only 2-3% of ISAF as of last year) that the 'main effort' really hinges...transition is the name of the game, and NTM-A has the ball on it.

Lt. Gen. Caldwell takes command of NTM-A, Nov. '09

MC Times: Caldwell aims to build up Afghan forces

Finally, I wrote of my younger brother Steve in my last post, currently deployed as a 2LT in the Army.  This is a fitting time to mention my older brother, former LCDR Patrick (aka Slappy), US Navy.  He celebrates 40 years of livin' today, and set the example for me to try to emulate as an officer and a leader.  I would say gentleman too, but I don't want him to suffer flashbacks of Lou Gossett Jr. terrorizing him as he tried out for the Navy.  Happy birthday, brother!

As a sobering reminder of how long four decades can actually be, this is a photo titled "Kabul, 1970" which I've seen on a few internet archives.  It's unfathomable for anyone who knows the city now...


Blogger Joneser said...

I really hope that the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan is able to continue its mission, which I'm sure is going to get even more challenging as 1/1/12 approaches. They're doing amazing work, that's for sure.

On a lighter note, the shout-out to Pat was great! I keep thinking of the SCTV version of Officer and a Gentlemen. "Did you drove or did you flew?"

July 13, 2011 at 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Jeffatha said...

Nice take. Concur completely; this will have strat impact on the south and probably cause some significant behavior changes in the remaining Karzai. Standing by for off the wall pronouncements/accusations. To add to the Joint flava, happy B-day to Huge from the other Army bubba in the family (extra type, 1 ea)

July 13, 2011 at 2:36 PM  
Anonymous SLAPPY said...

Taaanks, bro. I am most humbled & honored by your words. And as always, your Afghani-take on things is appreciated and under-reported in the mainstream media.

July 13, 2011 at 8:09 PM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Taaanks for the comments, guys! Joneser - that's one of the greatest Eugene Levy skits when he talks about "San Franciskey". Jeffatha - you are spot on...but when does HK not make off the wall accusations these days? Slappy - your words are most kind in return. GRAVITAS.

July 22, 2011 at 12:09 AM  

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