I thought I would take a moment to comment on the recent events surrounding the burning of Korans by American troops in Afghanistan. The events of this week have reinforced the part of my previous post that mentioned the danger posed to those in an “advise and assist” role from the soldiers or police officers the American soldier is supposed to be advising or assisting. Like many former trainers, I have been extremely distressed by these events because it is easy to remember the time when I was worrying about Afghans turning their weapons on me.
I would guess that I am not the only person who has gone to war that still reads everything they can find about what is happening in the areas where they served. I pay special attention to the areas where I served and to any story involving trainers or advisers in Afghanistan. The two instances of Afghan personnel turning their weapons on Americans have struck really close to home because I was often the only American in a large group of Afghan Army soldiers. I often walked with only my Afghan interpreter to the Afghan Army base that was adjacent to ours. I was always armed with a pistol, but I was greatly outnumbered. As we walked, we were always approached by Afghan soldiers who wanted to chat about life in America or ask questions about my family or where I was from. These Afghan soldiers were armed the majority of the time. Luckily, none of them turned their weapons on me. I am thankful that my interpreter (an Afghan who I eventually sponsored to move to the United States and who lived with me for two years) had a keen ability to distinguish a potential threat from just a curious Afghan who had never spoken to an American.
I am hoping that the military leadership in Afghanistan is taking precautions to protect the trainers/advisers who must interact with Afghans on a daily basis. The safety of the trainers must trump any political considerations that aim to show that we still trust our Afghan “allies.” I am also hoping that the current administration considers the most recent incidents of Afghans turning their weapons on those in the “advise and assist” role when plotting their next move in Afghanistan.