Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ghost Riders

Take a few minutes and read this article from Canada's The Star about a group of expats doing difficult but vital work down in Kandahar.

As Tim Lynch at Free Range International has pointed out many times, the only way to truly influence the population is to be outside the wire of the big FOBs, interacting with them on a daily basis. These guys with "Team Canada" have been doing that for several years in one of the toughest operating environments in all of Afghanistan. ISAF, NATO and the Pentagon could all take a lesson from them.

If you roll into a village in Strykers and MRAPs, with wrap-around sunglasses and bristling with high-tech weaponry, it should be no surprise that the locals don't come running to have a chat. Too often, ISAF forces* look and act like Imperial Stormtroopers, fearsome, intimidating and alien. Not exactly the best way to get the locals to trust you.

*The U.S. Army is particularly guilty of this sort of behaviour. Note that this is entirely due to Big Army's restrictive force protection rules, and not necessarily the choice of soldiers on the ground. Those rules are the result of the fact that the American public in general has not yet grasped the concept that we can't have a war without casualties.

An important distinction to bear in mind is that "low profile" does not mean "low security." With the exception clients who require it, we never move in armored vehicles and always strive not to be "guns up." Knowing the environment and the people in it is a much more effective guarantee of security than all the armor and firepower in the world. I'd rather ghost through unnoticed with help of friends and allies than trust to armor and firepower. Better to avoid the confrontation in the first place than to count on winning it.

This country has a myriad of problems that need fixing, but it all starts with two simple concepts: jobs and security. Everything else can wait. Without sufficient employment to give Afghans the chance at a better life, and the security to enjoy that life, nothing else matters.

The Ghost Riders of Team Canada are doing both simultaneously.


Nika Dixon said...

I read that story the other day in the Star. It's the kind of thing that makes me doubly proud to call "Team Canada" my countrymen. Thanks for passing it on!

- Nika

Anonymous said...

1. The American public has never grasped the fact of war without casualties.
2. A life photograph, published in February 1943, showed three dead soldiers on a New Guinea beach. Very ungraphic.
3. The outcry was so severe that no photographs of dead American forces were allowed for the remainder of the war.
4. Keep in mind, we were still the good guys then.
5. The public wants huge antiseptic victories -and the politicians are not standing in anybody's way.
6. Force protection is an ugly, interfering reality that is not going away anytime soon.
V/R JWest

Adam said...

I have to agree with Nika Dixon. The story makes me proud to share my country's name with these guys.

Any ideas where I can find more stories about what Canadians are doing in Afghanistan? Outside of the occasional Scott Taylor or Gwynne Dyer piece, reporting on Canada's mission in Afghanistan seems to range from vague to non-existent.

Also, if you have the time and inclination, would you care sharing your perceptions on Canada's role in Afghanistan? Or thoughts on our withdrawal from the country next year?

PaladinSix said...

I'll post some more about ISAF's Canadian contingent later on (and hopefully more on Team Canada), but the short answer to your question on the impending withdrawl is: Don't Go.