Murphy's Law: The Clue Shortage In Afghanistan

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October 8, 2013: As Western troops depart Afghanistan they are finding that just leaving their bases and equipment to Afghan forces is not going to work. For one thing, Afghan troops don’t have the skills to run bases the way Western troops did and lower tech equipment has to be installed before the Afghans can take possession. High-tech kitchen gear has to be replaced with lower-tech stoves and utensils that most Afghans would be familiar with. Same with toilets and plumbing in general. An Afghan base gets by with a lot less electrical gear because Afghans don't have the skills, equipment, or fuel to generate electricity as regularly or abundantly as Westerners.

You give lots of high-tech weapons and equipment to Afghans but only as much of that stuff as they can maintain and operate will actually be useful. The Afghans are aware of that and will often endeavor to (legally or otherwise) sell off stuff they know they cannot maintain and will simply sit and rot (and lose value). Training more Afghans to maintain military gear doesn’t work because they are always better paying and less dangerous jobs for technically adept Afghans in the civilian sector. Hiring some of these guys as civilian contractors (at competitive pay) doesn’t work because the military payroll (in contrast to the payroll for a commercial firm) is much more vulnerable to corruption (a lot of troop pay disappears, as in it is stolen, before it reaches the troops). Thus, too many commanders prefer to keep spending where they can tightly control (the better to plunder) it.

All this is nothing new, it’s been happening in other countries for over half a century, ever since the flood of higher tech military gear first came on the market for countries without enough trained and educated people to keep the stuff going or, in some cases, even maintain or operate it. In that time a lot of even more high-tech stuff has appeared, but the corrupt and backward nations have not made as much progress and the gap between potential and actual has widened. So while Afghans admire the spiffy new gear Western troops are surrounded by, too many Afghans do not have a clue about how to use or maintain it.

 


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