American Elephants


Getting to Know the People of Afghanistan. by The Elephant's Child
January 12, 2010, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Heartwarming, Military, National Security, News | Tags: , ,

The American military in Afghanistan is intent on protecting the Afghan people. To win the confidence of the people and get their cooperation, the people must feel safe.

According to a new BBC poll, Afghans are much more likely than Americans to think that their country is on the right track (70% approval).  They think more highly of their President Karzai ( 72% approval) than Americans do of President Obama.  And they really don’t like the Taliban, 90% prefer their present government over the Taliban.  And 68% say they support the presence of American troops.

Afghanistan has many tiny villages in hard to get-to places, so it’s hard to know how representative such a poll is, but the results are better than one might expect.

The Weekly Standard has a most interesting article on the military’s move to engage the people of Afghanistan.  An important innovation are the Human Terrain Teams (HTTs).  These teams consist of five to nine civilians with military, intelligence, or social-science expertise, analytical skill, and cross-cultural training.  The teams are embedded with units in the field, and ideally, each team includes at least one Afghan-American, one or more women, and a PhD-level social scientist.

Their mission is to “fill the socio-cultural knowledge gap” in ways that are valuable to the soldiers they advise.  They are specially charged with helping devise non-lethal approaches to improving security in a given place.  These are not civil affairs units, off building schools and digging wells, but eyes and ears for the military officers who plan and lead operations.

HTTs are to learn all they can about the people among whom their units operate — their tribal background and power structures and livelihood, their recent experiences with local government and with Kabul, their contacts with the Taliban and warlords and coalition forces, and any matters of special concern to the commander.  They do this by developing personal relationships in the surrounding communities and systematically interviewing Afghans.  As they go, they are to analyze their findings and then package them in forms digestible by soldiers.

The article explains the rationale for the innovation, and the training the teams receive before they deploy.  It’s very encouraging, and will give you a much better understanding of the military’s mission in Afghanistan.

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