Currently advising an Afghan Army unit before we completely pull out of the country. We will probably be the last Americans they interact with.

AMAA about Afghan/US Perceptions, military advising, how an Afghan Battalion lives on a day to day basis, life in general, etc.. I have photos too of day to day stuff.

Edit: I apologize for any delay. Internet sucks out here.

Comments: 188 • Responses: 77  • Date: 

JeremyNJ198415 karma

How do you realistically feel the ANA will function once US military like yourself leave the country? Do you feel negative pressure from neighboring countries like Pakistan?

US_Advisor18 karma

Good question. I think each Battalion is different. There are talks that the battalions will devolve into warlord clans once we depart. I'm not sure that will happen, as tribally it wouldn't make sense.

They are competent and willing to accomplish their missions, but Pakistan's involvement in border disputes, trafficking, and COIN operations makes their job difficult. That, and the Pashtun majority still warily hold off from embracing afghan forces.

DestroDub9 karma

What's some truth you can share about your people related to politics? Do they know, and understand the enemies they face abroad? Besides the generic Western civilization answer, what make's Eastern Civilization hate ours so much? Is it truly religion? Or common misunderstanding about how both parties live? What's your opinion about the constant conflict between both regions? Is there a simple answer to the cause besides resource hoarding? Is there any chance for us to reach a common understanding? Or is it truly my government causing the problem? (Be nice, i'm generally just curious and want to hear an outside opinion besides the propaganda i'm fed from media/family/friends).

US_Advisor21 karma

It's a challenging question. Here you have the East/West religious split, you have tribal majorities (pashtun, tajik, uzbek, etc) and then multiple sub tribe groups (sitgai, ahmadzai, utmanzai, kharoti, etc) that all contribute to the composition of Afghanistan.

Majority of what drives those to attack us here is the need for money, and the need to feel relevant. It seems petty, but we aren't facing hordes of philosopher warriors; they do it because its easy to set the fuze on a rocket, or dig a hole and place an IED. And the concept of what is and isn't dangerous to many afghans has been skewed after so many years of war.

There isn't a simple answer. But I truly believe there's a way to find common ground. The army we advise, when you take away all the language/cultural differences, are full of guys who laugh at funny jokes, are proud of what they do, and have loving families at home. It's a matter of pulling the right thread of the social/military/religious/cultural fabric where we can see how it all connects and find a way to work with it.

hangerbaby8 karma

A friend of mine did two deployments in Afghanistan. Supposedly while they were on patrol with the afghan army tailing in the rear, one of the afghans defected, executing a few soldiers from behind before running away. I was told that this is one way that someone could swear allegiance to a terrorist group/org... is this right? Is it common? Is it normal?

US_Advisor15 karma

There were a rash of Green on Blue in the past (Afghan Military attacking US Military). A lot of times the reasons were inconclusive due to the Afghan/s being killed before investigation, but the consensus was a majority of it was cultural related, ie American offended his honor and they decided to kill to regain their honor (it sounds irrational when you say it outloud, but their culture is like that).

There are instances of monetary reward for ANSF defectors. But its become so rampant that the Afghan leadership helps us identify problem soldiers before it happens.

Just recently we had an afghan soldier who went crazy, he was hitting himself in the head, burning himself with cigarettes, and got really angry when he saw coalition uniforms. Luckily the afghan commander realized it, had him sedated, and he was sent off to a medical facility before anything dangerous could happen.

billdietrich16 karma

What lessons should USA learn from our whole experience in Afghanistan ? I mean in terms of big policy issues: should we ever try nation-building again, does fighting terrorism with a hundred thousand troops work, is doing counter-insurgency with the neighboring countries actively trying to undermine us just futile, is using troops to prop up a corrupt govt ever going to work, would we have been better off just pursuing Al Qaeda with airstrikes and drones and CIA rather than sending troops ?

US_Advisor14 karma

I think Afghanistan represents what can happen when you attempt to nation build without the necessary components required to win a COIN. We sent too few troops in too early, and sent in too many troops too late, and then announced a withdrawal plan that made actually leaving more difficult than it could have been.

I think counterinsurgency is viable (look at Malay with the Brits, to some extent of success) but it involved being very very very uncomfortable in terms of how you treat people. The brits withheld food, cordoned off villages, and chased the commies ruthlessly; it worked, but is the cost worth the benefit.

I think there is merit to chasing AQ with drones and SF, but again, you lose accountability with drone strikes, and you can't explain to people what just happened when a house in your village blows up randomly at night. I think having a "shock and awe" campaign that immediately turns into an AFPAK type organization where we immediately attempt to enable government would have been more beneficial, than trepsing around afghanistan to hunt AQ for 11 years.

JeremyNJ19845 karma

But you also know the Malay example doesn't fit in perfectly either with this particular insurgency because the Malay insurgency didn't have a foreign power ( like China since the insurgency was a chinese ethnic communist revolt) supporting it, like Pakistan has clandestinely done with certain Taliban groups ( not all of them obviously) for their own geopolitical purposes. I find the Afghan insurgency to be somewhere in the middle of Vietnam and the Malay Emergency.

US_Advisor9 karma

Exactly. I use Malay only because I'm comfortable discussing it, but you're absolutely right. Nation building isn't as clean cut as it sounds, and you not only have to contend with the inhabitants, but all the external forces.

JeremyNJ19846 karma

Thanks for the replies. I do appreciate how hard it is what your doing in that mess of a " country". I studied history in college and I read foreign policy books all the time, including where you work. So I stay on top of this. I know this is kind of a difficult question to answer but we repeatedly hear from Pakistan that they support certain networks of Taliban as a countermeasure to Indian involvement in Afghanistans internal politics. How real is this involvement by India in Afghanistan and do you see it on the ground?

US_Advisor5 karma

India? Have not seen that at all. At least not in east afg. Would make sense if they were working in kabul or kandahar on stuff. The pakistan threat and interaction is VERY real and active. Thanks for your questions, as a fellow student of history, i appreciate the conversation.

dahfuzzz3 karma


US_Advisor6 karma

All. If they can keep it away from Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, etc, then better for them. They left the "unregulated" tribal areas there for a reason, because these tribal groups that breed organizations like the Taliban, or Haqqani, are unmanageable from a government standpoint.

dahfuzzz1 karma


US_Advisor4 karma

They set up deals with them back in 1996. Musharaf in 98 actually asked Clinton for help with the FATA as they couldn't guarantee the deals would last (they didn't if you remember the lahore bombings, among many other). But they told the groups if they stayed out of central and west pakistan, they could live without military or police intervention in east pakistan (more or less). It lasted until the US told Musharaf to go after them.

JeremyNJ19842 karma

I hear ya. Its very similar in an ironic way with how Iran was behind the training and equipping of Shiia terror networks in Baghdad and southern Iraq like Aqaib Al-Huq and Dawa/Sadr trend movements. Do you feel sometimes thats a losing cause because these very same terror netwiorks you are currently fighting might one day be part of the political process of the country you are in?

US_Advisor5 karma

I'd actually prefer if they joined the political process immediately. It would force them to lay down their arms, the people would get to weigh in on the merits of such organizations, and instead of trading bullets and mortar rounds, we could trade snide political comments to one another. It would make my walk to the chow tent safer.

Joltie2 karma

One quick question: Have you studied the Portuguese COIN efforts and massive successes during its Portuguese Colonial War? In all cases, guerilla insurgents were funded and equipped by world powers and neighbouring countries (Managing to defeat guerilla movements in both Angola and Mozambique), and had logistical support bases in neighbouring countries, against a small European country which understandably had far lesser means with which to carry out COIN.

If you did, I'd be glad to hear about the lessons that the Portuguese COIN taught to you guys.

US_Advisor1 karma

I didnt, but you just gave me a new case study that i've honestly never heard of before. Thanks so much!!

down_with_whomever2 karma

Hey there. This is a really interesting AMA, thanks for doing it. But, I just have to say, do you think that civilians are fluent in all military lingo and acronyms for every branch of service? Sure, we know FUBAR and SNAFU, IED, RPG, even FNG. But I notice that most times military guys speak about their experiences, they use so much jargon that their message becomes totally unintelligible. COIN, AQ, SF, AFPAK, I have no idea what any of this means and I'm not an uninformed person. I shouldn't have to google every other word you're using.

Or else I might have to BRK the ZRD, then MBQT all over the ASDF. Then you'd really think to yourself, "XQ."

US_Advisor7 karma

Haha, I am so sorry. The internet keeps cutting in and out, and I didn't want to be one of those floosies who doesn't respond, so I type in haste. Please excuse the military jargon.

billdietrich1-1 karma

I thought we learned in Vietnam that you just can't use force to win a COIN in a country where a LARGE part of the population is against you, and the locals on your side are corrupt and inefficient. We couldn't carpet-bomb our way to victory in Vietnam; I don't think it would have worked in Afghanistan either. Your attitude echoes that I hear from Vietnam veterans: we could have won that war if we'd just used more force. I don't buy that. I think we're failing to learn a lesson, time and time again.

US_Advisor5 karma

negative, i don't think more force was necessary. I think a smarter COIN strategy was necessary. But you can't implement initial stages of counterinsurgency until the security situation is contained. Hence the initial heavy force. If you read what the marines were doing in Vietnam, they had a great concept, but it didn't have the backing of the rest of the military. Same situation with a lot of organizations both in military and in civilian sector for afghanistan.

billdietrich11 karma

Haven't we gone through several stages of COIN or security strategy in both Iraq and Afghanistan ? I seem to remember several times in each war when the SecDef and commanding general said something like "the previous strategy failed, but this new strategy will work". And then ditto a couple of years later, with yet another new strategy. When do we stop and admit we don't know how to "win" this ?

US_Advisor3 karma

because we as a society, both military and civilian, are too risk adverse to carry out COIN and the extremes it entails to fully succeed. Here is a fantastic article about what happened to richard holbrooke and why his strategies were blocked at every stage:

billdietrich11 karma

Yeah, I've read that Holbrooke article before, and just skimmed it again. I think it's a bit unfair to Obama, in that Obama was operating after 8 years of FUBAR in Iraq and Afghanistan, after several cycles of "new strategy" had come and gone, after the American people were sick of both wars, and when Obama had been handed TWO wars and a crashed economy and gridlocked Congress by his predecessor. Obama made mistakes, but, tough situation.

I as an American citizen will stand up and say, YES, I have no willingness to carry out massive COIN wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not so much because of the "risk" (of losing troops and money) but because I think they're futile, doomed to failure, probably counterproductive, not in our national interest.

And, YES, if "extremes" such as torture or massive civilian casualties are needed, I have no willingness to do those things. I think those things undermine basic American values, and damage us at home and abroad, not just in the war zones.

But, heck, the Russians certainly weren't "risk averse" or unwilling to go to extremes, and how well did that work for them in Afghanistan ?

US_Advisor2 karma

I agree but how much COIN were the russians doing, vs a full "heavy" war against the muj. We both know that doesn't work. Then again maybe this is possibly the worst place in the world to test a COIN strategy as the culture of the pashtuns just won't allow for COIN to work. There are rumors here that when we leave, the battalions will devolve into warlord groups, same as it did post soviets.

Sure, as an American you can stand up and say no to COIN in these countries; you can also go against torture or civilian casualties, but from the founding of our country up until post civil war reconstruction, we were facing the same situations and problems. While that was self imposed vs foreign directed, it still brings up a good point: in order to reach where we are now and what we have accomplished, we had to assume an uncomfortable amount of violence and pain. If our intentions were earnest, and the outcome is a stable republic in another land, would we, as a country, be willing to allow that to happen to other people? Probably not. Which means either COIN doesn't work as a strategy, or its just not an acceptable option for us in our culture. Just my thoughts.

darkmean5 karma

How to most Afghans feel about Americans?

US_Advisor16 karma

It's very tribal. Many pashtun tribes want to be left alone. Understandably, they have faced foreign intervention for many years. The Tajiks like us, there are many Tajiks in the Afghan Military. It seems to be an exposure thing, IMO: We are exposed to them on a daily basis, interacting, sharing jokes, tea, culture, etc. Many tribes just don't experience anything except when the US military comes rolling into their towns, knocking on doors, and asking where the terrorists are.

The soldiers we work with are really trying their hardest to be good soldiers. And it's pretty cool to watch them transform into a good army. People will be people, and it isn't every single soldier loves us or hates us.

Lasting impressions? We (US) are one of many in a line of cultures that has walked through afghanistan. We probably won't be the last either.

hk9085 karma

Have you been around Afghan Special Operations troops? What's their level of competency?

I saw this video on them and have been interested in if they've made progress.

Best of luck and stay safe out there.

US_Advisor13 karma

They are good, but the biggest issue, again, is tribal. A lot of the SF groups (Afghan) are targeting warring tribes as a means to conduct retribution attacks, essentially creating a very mobile and trained warlord group. You might have seen in the news recently about American SF being banned from certain provinces, that was in actuality, a direct consequence of the Afghan SF conducting inappropriate night time raids.

comqter1 karma

Sorry my question is so late, but, you said the Afghan SF are conducting inappropriate nighttime raids, what is their mission and who is in command?

US_Advisor2 karma

They have their own commander, their mission is to find insurgent groups and detain them. Very little oversight, although Karzai is working to regulate that.

kentuckyhicks4 karma

How do the Afghan soldiers view Karzai's recent comments accusing the US and Taliban of being in cahoots?

US_Advisor8 karma

Good question. We're waiting for that news to trickle down. As I commented before, not much news service out here, but usually afghan news makes its way down in reporting.

US_Advisor5 karma

Good question. We're waiting for that news to trickle down. As I commented before, not much news service out here, but usually afghan news makes its way down in reporting.

gsloane4 karma

Yet another "insider" attack/betrayal reported today and more allied forces killed, how paranoid are you when around supposed local friends whi can raise their gun in any moment against you and how do you alter your routine to prevent such violence?

US_Advisor12 karma

We discuss it daily before we go over to the afghan side.

I informed the guys I work with that I am under Pashtunwali, which to many of them is a very important code of honor. Part of Pashtunwali compels anyone to provide safety to visitors and guests. They respect that I know that much and am willing to use it as a means of protection.

We alter routines based on threats, and try our hardest to remain close to leadership and low ranking soldier alike. We've been warned a few times by some soldiers that "today" isn't a safe day to go over, etc. They try to look out for us.

gsloane5 karma

Thanks. That's just like "guest right" in A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones). In the book if a house feeds a guest then the visitor is "assured" a safe stay. The book has a lot of parallels with real tribal societies, and you are living it. You make reddit and Mer'ca proud.

US_Advisor7 karma

Very true. one of the reasons those books rocked. Any word on when the next book comes out?

gsloane1 karma

Not soon enough, but I am being optimistic and hope in spring 2014, so hopefully a year away, but the show is back in three weeks, so we got that going for us. Get HBO Go to watch.

US_Advisor2 karma

doesn't work in Afghanistan. I'll have to wait. :/

gsloane2 karma

One more question I just thought of: I just saw a BBC news segment about some afghan police HQs facilitating sexual abuse of boys who serve tea. Is that a big problem?

US_Advisor5 karma

Yes and no. It is a problem, but it grows from some of the older more conservative tribes. The line of thought is that it is improper to touch a woman before marriage, and homosexuality is illegal, but boys who have not reached puberty are fair game. This is NOT rampant across afghanistan, but it does happen sometimes.

I recommend The Bookseller of Kabul, which gives a very good insight into afghan life, and touches briefly about afghanistans bouts of sexual abuse.

dmankl3 karma


US_Advisor2 karma

Thanks man, glad you made it back.

YouthInRevolt3 karma

What are some lasting positive changes that you believe the war & occupation have brought (or will bring) to Afghanistan?

US_Advisor6 karma

Well, they have a very well trained military which will hopefully benefit them; they have experienced some form of democracy, and whether it will remain in their future or not is their decision, but hopefully it will influence some to rebel against religious oppression they experienced under Taliban rule. I think they got to work with more countries, outsiders, foreigners, etc during this last bout of war, which although it wasn't the best experience for them, only emboldens them to possibly prevent another "invasion".

The lasting effects will be challenging. I don't even know if this battalion we're advising will be able to last after we leave. There's so much that depends on it. I know that Kabul and Kandahar, as cities, have improved tremendously. Women are driving, people are going to school, life is piecing back together. I hope that they find a way to continue and build on that success.

billdietrich10 karma

Isn't democracy essentially against their religion ? Both Islam and Judaism specify civic rules and structures or authorities, don't they ?

US_Advisor2 karma

They do. But I'd argue that most Afghans are moderates, they don't seek extreme interpretation of the Koran. In that sense, they don't believe that democracy or elected offices are against the koran, but instead try to find a median between electing a representative who respects and follows the teachings of Islam

Nw4391a2 karma

Have you ever witnessed an American soldier clearly cross the line when dealing with the public?

US_Advisor7 karma

Yes, to an extent. I have watched officers and soldiers get frustrated, I have watched them get angry, and walk away from situations. I've been frustrated myself. I don't think our reactions had any detremental effect, because the Afghans will get just as angry and walk out as well if things aren't going smoothly.

As an advisor, I don't really deal with the populace too much, I solely just advise their military at a small COP.

billdietrich11 karma

I would guess Nw4391a meant more like "smash a civilian with a rifle butt" or "shoot everything in sight" rather than "walk away in frustration".

US_Advisor3 karma

Yeah, I figured. No, I haven't seen that in person. usually if something like that happens, it hits the news pretty quickly.

youtalkintome72 karma

Are you involved with any opium field defense? Or anything opium/poppy field related?

US_Advisor2 karma

No. The major crops in our area are pine trees for wood, and pine nuts, as well as import export to pakistan, which brings in a lot of money (and weapons :/)

Oehlenschlager1 karma

How common is the use of marijuana and other drugs between soldiers in the Afghan Army? I remember watching a video on youtube showing ANA troops getting pretty high during missions. Is this a real problem, or is this an isolated incident?

US_Advisor5 karma

Rampant. Typically, drinking is relegated to those who got into the habit during the soviet invasion. Marijuana is pretty common, as soldiers use it to "ease" their fear of the enemy and IEDs. It also makes them pretty zoned out (don't ask me what number they would be in r/trees). They use it to the extent where they can function with it. I'm not saying its everyone, but there are many who do use drugs.

Rick0r1 karma

Do you think that the public needs to have more visibility over what's going on in Afghanistan? Any particular areas that should be more visible?

Either to let them see that it's far more grey than just a black & white "American = good, Arab = bad" which seems to be an unfortunately common view of a lot of Americans for the last decade or so.. Or maybe to let them see the evidence behind the idea that a military presence is having a positive/negative effect on the region. (I only include positive and negative because the general public is only really fed what they're allowed to be fed via softball media. Very different to say, the media showing the Vietnam war realities on TV as the family sits down to dinner, and making an informed decision about how they feel about the actions being taken)

US_Advisor5 karma

The part of Afghanistan that the public should be more aware about is the part of any war that the public tends to ignore.

I don't think anyone would care that I just watched the Afghan Battalion plan its own offensive operation into a village. Its a fantastic accomplishment for them, but I don't think it really means anything to anyone back home.

Its not black and white, there are positives and negatives, but I don't think the American public can get anywhere NEAR an informed opinion on what has or is going on in Afghanistan through the nightly news clips.

This is a very good question, and one that I've thought about a lot after my time in Iraq.

hydra8771 karma

How the locals behave around you/your unit?

US_Advisor1 karma

We don't interact too much with the locals, even on mission. We try to remain invisible. That being said, its usually the same: kids want candy, old men tend to wave us off, but if their goat was killed or property was damaged several years ago they still try to bring it up to us like we were there and are able to repay them. Women and young men are virtually non existant when we go out. They either leave town or hide.

thenation71 karma

I don't know if you are still answering questions, but as an Afghan-American I just wanted to thank you for all the help you're doing.

Also, to us Afghans here in the US, the ANA is pretty much considered a joke and unable to do anything worth while once America pulls out. Is this still necessarily the case, or has things gotten bettern?

US_Advisor2 karma

Things have gotten much better. The Battalion we work with, in my opinion, is more competent than the iraqi army battalion I worked with, who were comprised of veteran Iraqi Army officers and soldiers.

The leadership and soldiers are very good at what they do, they just lack the support to keep doing it. Which is what we hope to solve before we go.

Where in AFG are you from?

Nomatophobic1 karma

My husband is also currently deployed in Eastern Afghanistan, as well as a bunch of friends. From what I hear, things have calmed down a bit for the last couple rotations (aside from one of my buddy's guys shooting himself in the leg). Does this appear to be the trend now that we're slotted to pull out by Feb.?

Hope you're keeping busy, staying safe, and still getting at least two hot meals a day wherever you are.

US_Advisor1 karma

Right of the line. Tell him to stay safe. It's calmed down, and everyone in our unit is working hard at keeping it safe for everyone. Luckily we get 3 hot meals thanks to the afghans :)

bluepilled1 karma

Do you see progress from when you started? In what way?

US_Advisor3 karma

Yes. We work daily with our counterparts. Each staff section (personnel, operations, intelligence, logistics, medical, etc) works with the Afghan version of that position to make those areas better, and in culmination, making the battalion better. We've been struggling in some areas, like getting them to drop AWOL soldiers from the rolls, but other areas we've been seeing them improve on an every day basis.

One of the big successes has been getting the Afghan Artillery set up and firing in support of their missions. It's been a fantastic thing to watch develop, and knowing they will call their own fire missions in soon is pretty cool.

shermanmccoy1 karma


US_Advisor4 karma

Our team consists of 8-15 Army personnel from different fields (medical, logistics, intelligence, operations, fires, etc) and we train one on one with an afghan unit and help them develop so they can fight, defend, feed themselves, and secure their area of operations.

Day to day stuff consists of going over to identify any issues, set up meetings, go out on missions with them, try to contact other teams to coordinate if there are large issues they can't take care of themselves (an example is if a fuel supply drop gets delayed and they have no more fuel for vehicles or generators). We play sports with them, try to teach them military principles such as taking care of your soldiers, etc.

US_Advisor3 karma

Our team consists of 8-15 Army personnel from different fields (medical, logistics, intelligence, operations, fires, etc) and we train one on one with an afghan unit and help them develop so they can fight, defend, feed themselves, and secure their area of operations.

Day to day stuff consists of going over to identify any issues, set up meetings, go out on missions with them, try to contact other teams to coordinate if there are large issues they can't take care of themselves (an example is if a fuel supply drop gets delayed and they have no more fuel for vehicles or generators). We play sports with them, try to teach them military principles such as taking care of your soldiers, etc.

beinghonest121 karma

What do you do during your "off" time in Afghanistan? Any good Afghan beers?

US_Advisor5 karma

Haha. No drinking. Off time is spent playing soccer with the afghans, reading (currently Ender's Game), and bouts of Black Ops or Risk (board game). We smoke cigars sometimes.

It's hard to claim "time off" because at any point of the day, there might be issues we have to deal with. I've been woken up several times by an afghan Major or Sergeant asking for assistance with something.

At the same time, all work stops when the rockets come in, so luckily if we don't get hurt, that gives us some down time.

curiouslywtf1 karma

How is the combat in Afghanistan? Is it mostly guerilla? Sniper see's someone every once in awhile? I really don't know what goes on in a modern conflict like this. You mentioned that you just got done receiving mortar fire, so how many people did it take the other side to make that happen? How organized is the other side etc...

US_Advisor3 karma

Depends on where you are and who you are fighting. Many groups are just local kids paid to dig ied holes or launch mortar/rockets. Some groups consist of foreign fighters and are trained in specialties such as sniping, VBIEDs, accurate rocket or mortar fire, etc. Then there are those larger groups such as haqqani, taliban, etc that have the funding and reach to recruit hundreds of fighters for one battle or one major attack. We've seen less of the later due to the fact that they know they won't win those with us around, but we're concerned about what happens once we leave.

They aren't too organized. Their comms are terrible, they use illegal taxes to fund a lot of it, and they are getting a hard time from the govt and are losing local district support across the country. We'll see how it goes though, they still have Waziristan to operate out of.

curiouslywtf1 karma

Once we leave to you believe that the country will erupt into a civil war of sorts?

US_Advisor2 karma

Yes. There will be conflict. I'm a firm believer that a nation cannot find its true identity unless it struggles itself to find it. IE: all of western civilization, middle east as of late, asia, etc. We can play government all we want, but afghanistan has to find its own way forward. And it will only do that after they are done doing what they do best: warfare.

billdietrich11 karma

I agree with you.

So perhaps the fact that when we try to nation-build, we POUR weapons into a country, is not good in light of their inevitable coming struggle after we leave. Perhaps they would have been better off if we hadn't been there at all.

US_Advisor1 karma

Perhaps. But I'd rather build on where we did fail or succeed, and try to establish a viable way forward if we are faced with something similar in the future. North Korea seems to be a little snippy with their phone lines right now, and I'd hate to watch Vietirafghanistan part IV all over again.

billdietrich12 karma

Yes, I have no problem with sending a couple hundred trainers or liaison or CIA to a country to help build institutions and keep an eye on terrorists. It's when we start pouring in tens of thousands of troops that things always seem to go wrong. And they never go right after that point, no matter how long we stay or what strategies we try.

US_Advisor1 karma


jakebake681 karma

What realistic threat do the Pakistani Taliban have on Afghanistan after the withdraw? Or have they mostly been eliminated by drones/black op missions?

US_Advisor5 karma

Ha. Alot. The border is porous, and the ISI/PakMIl uses that opportunity to keep the "talib" (Haqqani, taliban, commander nazir, terek-e-taliban) out of Pakistan and focused on Waziristan. It's a fight for the safe zone, and due to the advancement of Pakistans army, the fight is mostly on the afghan side of the border.

jakebake681 karma

Thanks for responding. As of the recent talk of drones and what not, I wasn't making a jest at it, only recognizing that they really have been lighting militants up on the border. I wrote a research paper two years ago on the pending significance of these fighters, and its somewhat frightening to see it come true. Stay safe!

US_Advisor2 karma

Yeah. Unfortunately the funding still makes it into the hands of those on the AFG side, which ends up paying for the rounds and ieds fired at Afghans and US. It's sort of like Whack A Mole.

jakebake681 karma

To be blatant, that's fucked. Do you think that access to funding can be stopped? Or is it a lost cause at this point?

US_Advisor3 karma

It's challenging because the funding happens in public places, or even worse in government offices. For example, imagine you are a district governor. You manage the local government for 1000 people. You love your family and want to do good. Mr. Taliban, who is probably your cousin, comes by to say hi, and says by the way, give us 10% of your paycheck or we will kill your family and then remove you from office. Of course you don't have any recourse because you can't kill your own family members, so you oblige, giving your cousin the money. He then distributes to some local kids telling them they can get double that if they kill an afghan police officer or an american.

Rinse. Repeat.

give2asia1 karma

Do you have any insight into the role of NGOs in Afghanistan or how that will change following Allied troop removal?

US_Advisor3 karma

NGOs are still actively working, and I would assume they will continue, just as they still work in Iraq. NGOs are our primary means of getting non lethal support, IE, teachers for literacy, book funding, women issue awareness, etc.. It HELPS alot because inbetween hearing about the needs of the Afghan Army and getting mortared, the last thing I want to be doing is reviewing contract bids for school supplies.

daerana1 karma

Is the M16A2 issued to the ANA? What is their common opinion on the M16/M4 and Kalashnikov platforms?

Thank you for doing a very difficult job.

US_Advisor5 karma

The M16A2 is issued now. The biggest problem with that is a) they can't get cleaning solvents delivered regularly, so they complain that the weapons don't work right because they jam easily b) the sight has to be adjusted. we spent numerous hours on the range tryingt o get them to understand the concept of zero/qualify. Instead of adjusting the sights, they would change sight picture to match where the bullet fired.

daerana2 karma

Never thought about zeroing and sight adjustment, sounds like nothing but frustration.

US_Advisor2 karma

It is, especially when you deal with people who are used to the ease and fireability of the AK47

daerana1 karma

I think I recall reading that the ANP is issued Hungarian AMD-65's, do you know why the ANA isn't issued the same platform? My first guess would be to rid the US DOD of a lot of unwanted m16a2's.

US_Advisor2 karma

Your guess is correct. We had M16A2s on hand and the afghan government purchased them. with the money we lent them. I am not a math whiz but not sure how that works out.

torridzone1 karma

Are there any ethnic or tribal divisions that existed prior to the war that have carried over to the Government?

I've heard that the Afghan government is largely held together by Hamid Karzai's personal web of connections and people that largely work through a network of back channels, that being said do you think that the current Afghan government will remain the same after Karzai leaves office?

US_Advisor5 karma

Ha, are there ever. Hamid Karzai is despised among other Pashtuns for allowing mostly other minority tribes to control the government and military. Most of the official language of Afghanistan is Dari, although pretty much 75% of the country speaks Pashto. You add in sympathizers to Dr. Najibullah (during the soviet era), supporters of the multiple warlords vying for control after the soviets left, the rift caused by Karzai and the minority tribes being thrust into power post 2001, and day to day tribal differences not only between the larger tribes but the small sub tribes, some conflicts dating back hundreds of years, I would say with certainty that yes, there are some tribal divisions that have carried over.

The afghan government is a "know somebody" "pay somebody" network; while there are people working for the betterment of afghanistan, the opportunity to skim off the top exists and its widely acknowledged that most government employees will seek to funnel money to their tribes or their families if they have the opportunity.

That being said, I am not sure what will happen to Karzai. They have an election next year, so we will see how that affects him and his cabinet, or whether they will even make it that far.

Dayanx1 karma

Can you talk about some of the wild Rube Goldberg 'make do' equipment and resource comprimises you've seen in the Afghan troops that you laughed at the sillyness, ingenuity or maybe even adopted yourselves?

US_Advisor3 karma

lmao. They can't figure out how contracting works (all our bases are contracted, even the smaller COPs, so we have running water, toilets, and heat/AC from civilian contracts that we hire from the area). So instead of attempting to learn, they use PVC pipe to run into the ground and call that a "piss tube" that they just pee in. I can't tell you how bad it smells.

I've seen trucks pieced together with sheetmetal to the point where I had flashbacks of Mad Max;, I've seen them try to sew togetehr some of their uniforms to make it look like the stuff Special Forces wears; they have attached special compartments on their heaters so when they burn wood for fire, it cooks water at the same time for tea; they've created an entire tunnel system under one part of the base using just leftover shipping containers, that one is actually pretty cool.

Some of their jokes are pretty funny; they recorded the air siren that playes when mortar fire hits, and they will go around and play it to scare other soldiers; they are constantly trying to pour salt or soy sauce in other soldiers' ice cream, and they get in food fights a lot.

I've watched some of them do modified karate which they teach to eachother on a daily basis after having watched a few bollywood movies.

Our living conditions are pretty spartan. Our coolest contraption is this damn satellite for internet that we all pitched in to get. unfortunately, having 8 combat arms guys try to figure out how to put together an internet satellite wasn't the brightest thing in the world. We sort of got it working though.

Dayanx1 karma

Find a Fobbit. They usually know how to rig gaming systems lol. You might want to tell the shipping container tunnel rats to shore them up. There have been a few survivalist types here in the states bury them as storm shelters and secure storage an some have collapsed. I'm not sure if they were 53 foot standard dry box or those reinforced intramodal ones you probably see there.

US_Advisor2 karma

we gave em small shipping containers, definitely not 53 feet. The tunnel is pretty solid, they even have a little seating area down there.

Wish we had some nasty fobbitses around here for that kind of stuff, unfortunately our base is small and consists mostly of infantry types.

phir2751 karma

If you don't mind, are you SF, big Army, contracted? Your response detailing team make-up rings SF, so I was curious. My brother (18b) recently returned from a deployment. Stay safe out there.

US_Advisor2 karma

Not SF. Big Army. The teams they put together like this have to advise like SF, but without all the cool guy shit and ridiculous missions. Glad your bro made it back safe.

phir2751 karma

Rog, and thanks for the reply.

Have you found that certain management or advisory strategies work better than others? Been told that they value, or tend to be motivated a bit more by, reputation or respect rather than something like money or new uniforms.

Have you experienced any resistance to adopting a more "Westernized" or centralized command type of military culture?

Does your mission differ much from VSO in scale or duration?

US_Advisor1 karma

Sort of. They respect rank a lot, and will seek out the highest ranking individual if working with isn't getting them anywhere. The withdrawal announcement made our jobs difficult in the sense that it no longer became about only advising them, but also about what we were leaving behind and what they could have. They respect you if you prove yourself in combat, and laugh at you if you don't leave the wire.

Our team went into this knowing they don't want a westernized military. They are VERY command centric and view their commander as sort of a defacto tribal leader, giving him a lot of respect. We know that what they have isn't comparable with what we have in terms of structure and intent, but in the end, it works for them. They know how to use it, and how to flex combat power if they need it.

VSO is different because it involves building a militia from the ground up. We walked in on an already recruited and trained military. I have tons of respect for the guys who do VSO's. The job isn't easy, and they sure as hell drank a lot more tea than I could have the patience to do.

meesta_masa1 karma

Is there any chance of the older Pashtun culture making a comeback, instead of continuing to fracture into smaller tribal and trivial problems? Also, have you seen any Jezzails while there from the Colonial era?

US_Advisor3 karma

I don't think so. The tribes are so imbittered with eachother over the past 50 years, that it takes months just to reach a cease fire at a shura. We had a shura the other week that involved hundreds of elders, who walked for miles to show up, just to agree that next month, they would discuss the blood debt.

US_Advisor2 karma

I've seen a few replicas, but most of the stuff along the border is cheap crap.

cursedapple1 karma

How's the local food?

US_Advisor1 karma

Absolutely delicious. I just got back from lunch actually. Baked chicken, rice, tomatoes, green onions, radishes, oranges, and bread. Can't really complain about that.

Orbithal1 karma

Karrenbauer?? I know all the advisors working in this area personally...way to church things up, haha.

US_Advisor1 karma

Nope. Must be a different unit.

exceptionalmind1 karma

How can you tell the difference between threats and civilians?

US_Advisor1 karma

That's very challenging, and it takes some of the guys with experience in this type of environment to coach some of the newer guys. A guy walking down the street with a heavy bag at sunset could be carrying rice, or could be carrying rockets. It takes a lot of gut instinct to ensure you don't over react to something like that, but also treat it with due dilligence.

One of the greatest tools we have in that is education. Learning the afghan culture, interacting with the locals in the area, and recognizing what normal looks like.

If you saw some guy perched on his roof in your neighborhood with an AK47, you might get alarmed and call 911, but here in afghanistan it's normal.

NinjaDiscoJesus1 karma

you should pm the mods first

US_Advisor2 karma

I have. Just sent them verification

Polyintrinsic1 karma

Do you think the DHS needs 1.6B rounds of ammo?

US_Advisor2 karma

No. Absolutely retarded. And people wonder why we have a spending problem.

pizzabyjake0 karma

We have a spending problem because of YOU

The DHS actually "protects America" (even though you can argue their tactics are wrong many times) while the military has not done so since 1945.

What a horrible public relations shill you are.

US_Advisor3 karma

haha. I am not in army acquisitions, contracting, or budgeting, nor do i work with any generals. I have been opposed to military budget increases personally. Frankly you are as much to blame as I am for not reducing military spending over the past 10 years. Share some cake with me buddy.

ZMild1 karma

Man, I always miss the good AMAs. If you're still around:

  • How's your Dari? Any Pashto, Tajik, Uzbek?
  • Do you think the isolation measures taken since the Green-on-Blue attacks became prominent mean too wide a gap between you and ANA?
  • How is YOUR ANA battalion at operating? Do you think they'll continue to do so once you've left?
  • ANA batts (in RC-E anyway) seem to be mainly staffed by Hazaras. Do you see that tribal/racial element in the day-to-day operations?
  • Finally, how's the local government? Would you consider them reliable or -un?

US_Advisor1 karma

Dari man besyar khob ast. Pashto, kam kam. Mostly dari with our battalion, very little pashto, even though ALL of the populace around here speak pashto. No Tajik or Uzbek.

Nah, they were temporary, and I forgot about them until you mentioned it. We review and talk about issues daily as a team, and if it seems unsafe to go over, we don't go, but for the most part we all have a really good relationship with everyone there. I think the most contentious is our SGM/1SG relationship, but only because they butt heads together.

They are at a high level 1 right now, they can operate autonomously without advising quite well, but don't have the external (BDE) support to be completely independent. Things like logistics, money, and intel are still difficult processes to get absolutely right, and they tend to take advantage of us while we are still here to get assistance with that.

Nah not really, the baker here is a hazara, as well as the s-3. They are well liked by everyone else, who is mainly tajik.

Local government is absolutely corrupt. I sympathize as he is in a precarious situation, having to deal daily with insurgents and with afghan forces, coalition, and other government officials, so yeah, trying to balance all that can be difficult, but he is just ineffective corrupt. He actually is on leave right now, wrote a letter against me and my team and took it to the provincial governor because we are forcing him to hold shuras.

chainsmoking1 karma

I hope I didn't miss your AMA :|

I recently saw some footage of very large suicide bombs detonating in supposed ANA and US bases in Afghanistan (

Did these particular attacks get any news coverage in Afghanistan? I can't seem to find anything on them on Western media. Is this an average payload for Afghan jihadists? One of them seems to have taken out half a town.

Thank you for your sacrifice/dedication, and be safe out there.

US_Advisor1 karma

Yeah I think I know which ones you are talking about, the large truck that exploded outside the gate? It happened a year or two back. They were talked about widely here, and many security measures were adopted due to those instances.

bobbrah1 karma

We will probably be the last Americans they interact with.

Not every American is leaving...

US_Advisor1 karma

The ones in the area I'm at are. We are shutting this base down, and these afghan army guys probably won't interact with the americans in Kabul, BAF, or Kandahar.

bobbrah1 karma

How much of a suicide mission would it be If I, A white Canadian, went to Kabul for a day or 2 via the airport?

US_Advisor1 karma

Youd make it back with pictures, some new friends, and a stomach full of amazing food.

Mr_Zero1 karma

What is the most recommended drop weapon to carry?

US_Advisor1 karma


PolitBro1 karma

Not sure if your still answering questions, but I thought I'd ask

How do you feel about the government in Kabul? When I read international watch dog groups the elections seem pretty undemocratic despite what Obama says, thus the ANA is the army of an authoritarian, corrupt, regime, have you ever heard of parts of the ANA hurting the population in any way?

US_Advisor1 karma

Elections seem to go smoothly at the district and provincial level, but I'm not sure the vote tallying is accurate for presidential level. I don't have much involvement, so I've only read news reports about it. I know that the ANA have very little interest in voting involvement, and would rather focus on combat operations.

PolitBro1 karma

Tanks for the answer! 1 other question

I hear the AMA is using women in special forces, something the U.S doesn't even do, have you trained any women? Do you have anything of interest to say about the whole women-in-combat debate?

US_Advisor1 karma

Oh the ANA and the AUP both use women, and we have our women trainers here working one on one with them. It's pretty cool to watch them at the range. They don't have daycare here, so they bring their kids with if they can't find relatives to watch them.

tanksforpeace1 karma

So I was wondering how different are living conditions at base for you in comparison to combat troops? Also thank you for what your doing over there.

US_Advisor1 karma

It's a little more spartan. We live out of our bags for the most part, knowing that we will move around a lot. It's not terrible, ie camping every night, but I've had cushier assignments before.

Big_Li0 karma

Are you a member of the U.S. military or are you a contractor?

US_Advisor2 karma


OriginalHoneyBadger0 karma

Thank you for what you do. You may not be fighting on the front lines but what you do still makes a world of difference. How many times have you been to Afghanistan and during your time there have you ever been in any potentially dangerous situations?

US_Advisor4 karma

1st time in afghanistan, not first time deployed. I was route clearance in Iraq, looking for IEDs, as well as an army advisor there as well. We just got done receiving mortar rounds here, so I'd say yes to your second question

billdietrich11 karma

How exactly does our fighting in Afghanistan "make a world of difference" ? We were right to attack in 2001 or whenever to try to get Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. When we failed at that, we should have left. I fail to see how the next 11 or so years of war in Afghanistan made any difference to USA's security. Terrorism hasn't stopped, they're still strong in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Lebanon, etc. We didn't stop the drug trade, give Afghanistan a stable govt or a viable economy, create a stable democracy. When we leave, no matter exactly when it is, I think Afghanistan will have a civil war.

US_Advisor4 karma

Unfortunately you are right. I just hope that the effort we are making with the army pays off somehow down the road. I tend to be overly optimistic sometimes.

billdietrich1-3 karma

Yes, judging by history I'd say you're being overly optimistic. For example, what was the "pay off" of our efforts to arm and train the South Vietnamese forces ? What was the "pay off" of our efforts to arm the forces fighting the Russians in Afghanistan ?

US_Advisor1 karma

I totally agree with you. Something in me though won't let me at least try. At least I can say I've made a few friends out here. :/

stpbtrue0 karma

How did you respond to the Bengazi attacks?

US_Advisor3 karma

It wasn't really talked about out here. TV is limited to some of the higher ranking individuals, but the radio tower was broken a few years ago. No news service or anything. It's sort of frustrating as most of these guys seem cut off from the outside world in that sense.

d-nj-1 karma

Why are the Afghans such fuckups?

US_Advisor3 karma

I wouldn't call them fuck ups. They earnestly try, and make the most of what they have available to them.

philotimon-1 karma

You failed? when are they going to officially say that the US and Russia couldn't beat the Afghans? When are they going to officially admit, that you lost?

US_Advisor4 karma

You know it's funny, we found a copy of the Afghan "retrograde" campaign plan that they drafted to leave afghanistan. It is eerily familiar, even after so many years, the same concepts, ideas, and plans were used.