This is an excerpt from a letter written by my friend's son, who is stationed in Afghanistan...
October 25, 2005
So now that the deployment is almost over, I can look back with pride and say we accomplished . . . Um . . . Uh-oh.
This is a strange war we’re fighting here. The stuffed-shirts at the Pentagon go on and on about how the Taliban are on the run and we’re winning the war on terror and bringing democracy to the Afghan people, and then the media jumps in and says no, the Taliban are gaining strength and importing Jihadist techniques and soon they’ll be unstoppable, and for the average soldier on the ground the only possible response to all of it is, “Huh?” Where is all this happening? Probably the only similarity between the typical GI and the typical Afghani is that neither of them knows what the f**k their leaders are talking about.
. . .
This is what most missions are like: a bunch of American soldiers come thundering into a stone-age village dressed like warrior mercenaries from outer space looking for a guy whose name they can’t pronounce because someone’s brother-in-law’s uncle’s cousin fingered him as a Taliban; The soldiers don’t find the guy because he’s moved to Pakistan, but they do find his brother. So they detain him and start asking questions. None of the answers they get make any sense because their interpreter speaks bad Dari and worse English, but it doesn’t really make any difference because the guy’s lying his head off anyway. Taliban? Who? Never heard of them. He’s just looking for the right words that will make the Americans go away. But you know what? When Taliban fighters pass through his village (and they do pass through his village) he tells them exactly what they want to hear, too. Because all the guy wants is to be left alone.
But in the end the soldiers decide to take him in for further questioning. So they load him up in a Humvee and start heading back to base. Maybe as they leave they chuck some soccer balls out the windows for the kids. Everyone in the village gets a big kick out of that, except for the two kids standing in a doorway crying because their dad is being taken away by foreign soldiers. But, oh well. And that’s it. No shots fired and the whole thing takes about three hours.
. . .
All my griping aside, I am actually hopeful for Afghanistan’s future as we prepare to head home. The elections went off without violence, the government seems committed to democracy, the Afghan Army is slowly improving, and most importantly, the people themselves seem sick to death of fighting. I think things will turn out all right here. If I ever run into the mother of one of the soldiers who died on this deployment, that’s probably what I would tell her – things will turn out all right, and somehow, in some way, your son helped to make that happen.