Violent, erratic, meretricious, grasping, oily -- these are some of the adjectives that Americans who have lived in Afghanistan may reach for in attempting to describe the locals. But they can't quite convey, for those who have not been, just how awful so many of those locals turned out to be, nor can they themselves always connect the attitudes and behavior of Afghans with the mental and emotional substrate of Islam.
Here's a good article on one more vain attempt to placate the locals, by strictly regulating, as if in a police-state, what the American soldiers say and do and may even at times allow themselves to think.
From The Wall Street Journal:
Draft Army Handbook Wades Into Divisive Afghan Issue
WASHINGTON—American soldiers should brace for a "social-cultural shock" when meeting Afghan soldiers and avoid potentially fatal confrontations by steering clear of subjects including women's rights, religion and Taliban misdeeds, according to a controversial draft of a military handbook being prepared for troops heading to the region.
The proposed Army handbook suggests that Western ignorance of Afghan culture, not Taliban infiltration, has helped drive the recent spike in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against the coalition forces.
Excerpts: 'Do Not Discuss Religion'
Below, read excerpts from "Insider Threats – Afghanistan: Observations, Insights, and Lessons," a draft handbook prepared for U.S. and coalition forces serving in Afghanistan:
Green-on-blue incidents provoke a crisis of confidence and trust among [coalition forces] working with [Afghan troops]. As a means of illuminating this insider threat, those [coalition] personnel working on Security Force Assistance Teams during 2012 that live alongside and mentor [Afghan security forces] have about 200 times the risk of being murdered by an [Afghan security force] member than a U.S. police officer has of being murdered in the line of duty by a perpetrator.
* * *
- Understand that they may have poor conflict resolution skills and that insults cause irrational escalation of force.
- Do not discuss religion
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Flashpoints/Grievances Some U.S. Troops Have Reported Regarding Afghanistan National Security Forces:
To better prepare [coalition forces] for the psychologically challenging conditions in Afghanistan, familiarize yourself with the following stressors some U.S. troops have reported concerning [Afghan security forces] behavior during previous deployments. Bear in mind that not all [coalition] troops have reported such experiences or beliefs.
- Some ANSF are profoundly dishonest and have no personal integrity
- ANSF do not buy-into war effort; far too many are gutless in combat
- Incompetent, ignorant and basically stupid
Bottom line: Troops may experience social-cultural shock and/or discomfort when interacting with [Afghan security forces]. Better situational awareness/understanding of Afghan culture will help better prepare [coalition forces] to more effectively partner and to avoid cultural conflict that can lead towards green-on-blue violence.
* * *
Etiquette Violations Best Avoided by [coalition forces] Taboo conversation topics include:
- Anything related to Islam
- Mention of any other religion and/or spirituality
- Debating the war
- Making derogatory comments about the Taliban
- Advocating women's rights and equality
- Directing any criticism towards Afghans
- Mentioning homosexuality and homosexual conduct
Bottom line: Try to avoid highly charged and emotional issues.
"Many of the confrontations occur because of [coalition] ignorance of, or lack of empathy for, Muslim and/or Afghan cultural norms, resulting in a violent reaction from the [Afghan security force] member," according to the draft handbook prepared by Army researchers.
The 75-page manual, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, is part of a continuing effort by the U.S. military to combat a rise in attacks by Afghan security forces aimed at coalition troops.
But it has drawn criticism from U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, the top military commander in Afghanistan, who aides said hasn't—and wouldn't—endorse the manual as written. Gen. Allen also rejected a proposed foreword that Army officials drafted in his name.
"Gen. Allen did not author, nor does he intend to provide, a foreword," said Col. Tom Collins, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. "He does not approve of its contents."
Gen. Allen hadn't seen the proposed foreword until a portion of the handbook was called to his attention by the Journal, Col. Collins said. Military officials wouldn't spell out his precise objections. But the handbook's conclusion that cultural insensitivity is driving insider attacks goes beyond the view most commonly expressed by U.S. officials.
The version reviewed by the Journal—marked "final coordinating draft" and sent out for review in November—was going through more revisions, said Lt. Gen. David Perkins, commander of the Army's Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., whose Center for Army Lessons Learned wrote the manual.
The proposed foreword was prepared by Army staff for Gen. Allen's eventual consideration, and the general's concerns will be taken into account as the military moves ahead with more revisions, he added.
The proposed handbook embraces a hotly debated theory that American cultural ignorance has sparked many so-called insider attacks—more than three dozen of which have claimed the lives of some 63 members of the U.S.-led coalition this year. The rise in insider attacks has created one of the biggest threats to American plans to end its major combat missions in Afghanistan next year and transfer full security control to Afghan forces in 2014.
Afghan leaders say Taliban infiltrators are responsible for most insider attacks. U.S. officials say the attacks are largely rooted in personal feuds between Afghan and coalition troops, though not necessarily the result of cultural insensitivity.
Last year, the U.S.-led coalition rejected an internal military study that concluded that cultural insensitivity was in part to blame for insider killings, which it called a growing threat that represented "a severe and rapidly metastasizing malignancy" for the coalition in Afghanistan.
The study was reported last year by The Wall Street Journal. The U.S. military at the time said the study was flawed by "unprofessional rhetoric and sensationalism."
The 2011 report—"A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility"—is now a centerpiece of the draft handbook's advice to soldiers heading to Afghanistan, and it is listed under the draft's references and recommended reading. The report's findings also informed the current manual for troops in Afghanistan, which was released in February, according to Gen. Perkins.
U.S. Army officials didn't make the current version of the manual available for review.
The Army officer who headed up the 2011 study, Maj. Jeffrey Bordin, now is serving as the Army center's liaison to Gen. Allen's coalition headquarters in Kabul.
Maj. Bordin's work was included in the manual as part of a broader assessment of the insider threat in Afghanistan, said Gen. Perkins.
"We are very serious in trying to solve this problem, so we are not discounting any insights that we think are useful," he said. "We are pulling out all the stops to do everything we can to gather lessons learned."
Maj. Bordin didn't respond to email requests to comment, and the military didn't make him available for an interview.
The study, based on interviews with 600 members of the Afghan security forces and 200 American soldiers, painted a grim portrait of opposing cultures with simmering disdain for their counterparts.
The draft handbook uses Maj. Bordin's conclusions to psychologically prepare troops for serving in Afghanistan. A summary includes views of some U.S. soldiers that Afghan forces engage in thievery, are "gutless in combat," are "basically stupid," "profoundly dishonest," and engage in "treasonous collusion and alliances with enemy forces."
The draft handbook offers a list of "taboo conversation topics" that soldiers should avoid, including "making derogatory comments about the Taliban," "advocating women's rights," "any criticism of pedophilia," "directing any criticism towards Afghans," "mentioning homosexuality and homosexual conduct" or "anything related to Islam."
"Bottom line: Troops may experience social-cultural shock and/or discomfort when interacting with" Afghan security forces, the handbook states. "Better situational awareness/understanding of Afghan culture will help better prepare [troops] to more effectively partner and to avoid cultural conflict that can lead toward green-on-blue violence."