Steve Chao

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is a Canadian journalist and the senior Asia correspondent for Al Jazeera English.

Hosted AMAs

Highest Rated Comments

SteveChaoAJE79 karma

That is the million dollar question. The 2014 pullout is THE topic of discussion among Afghans. If there is a general feeling among people here, it is the feeling that 2014 is simply too early a date for the pullout and that the Afghan National Army or ANA, along with the Afghan police force are simply not at a place where they can independently defend the country against a fierce insurgency. There are many parts that are lacking - from inadequate airlift capabilities to get injured soldiers to hospitals, to a lack of military hospitals to tend to injured soliders, to a serious inability to supply troops on the frontlines. And then there are the issues of personnel, the green on blue killings, the fact that the ANA loses about 24% of its men every year.
Many are wondering that if the US and all the NATO countries with their sophisticated equipment couldn't put an end to the insurgency, then how is a fledgling security force expected to.

SteveChaoAJE55 karma

You're right that no one takes to having anything pushed upon them -especially a political system. Democracy, by its very nature of what it is, must be supported or willed into existence by the people. I think we'll get a true indication of whether democracy in Afgahnistan's form, can survive after the next upcoming elections - slated for April of 2014. The credibility of the last Presidential elections were damaged by what many say was widespread fraud and vote rigging. It is why many people see the current government as illegitimate.

SteveChaoAJE51 karma

It's never a bad idea to have pizza. No matter how many days in a row. :)

SteveChaoAJE48 karma

From 2006-2009 I spent the better of six months of the year embedded with NATO forces in Kandahar. Much of that time was spent west of Kandahar city in areas like Panjwai and Zhari; the birthplace of the Taliban. In many operations, we would be under intense small arms, and rpg fire. But the most scary threat was always the IED. i remember one operation that involved a 20 kilometre night march, and then a flurried rush into a village under fire - in that rush, a Canadian soldier in a platoon right behind us stepped on an IED. The explosion was huge, and sent us all to the ground. later, the recovery team could only find scattered parts along with his vest, and pieces of his machine gun. The rest of the day, all I could think of was the fact that I needed to go back down that road when the operation ended.

SteveChaoAJE44 karma

There is truth to what your father is saying. There is no question that many join the Afghan army because they need jobs. It's not much different elsewhere in the world. I would disagree that no one has any loyalty to the government. In fact many of the soldiers that we spent time with - expressed hopes that they could help in creating a better Afghanistan. they sounded just like American or NATO soldiers in-country. They believed - or at least wanted to believe - that their sacrifices are worth something. This wasnt idle talk or "propaganda" talk that they were forced to say to us journalists. But genuine desires. Would they choose another profession if it paid better - the majority I would say would. Do they believe the leadership in the government has serious problems - most definintely. Ask any Afghan and they will tell you such.
Will some defect to the Taliban for higher salaries. Certainly I know of cases where Afghan police officers have been phones by the Taliban, offered a better salary on the condition that they shoot fellow police officers beside them. They do. And they drive off with the police vehicle over to the Taliban side. It does happen. But I wouldn't say it's the norm.
As for drug addicts/criminals - that is again, more a problem with the Afghan police. The Afghan army are a far more discliplined force.

SteveChaoAJE44 karma

Wow! I remember! Thanks for always taking care of me!

SteveChaoAJE40 karma

The non-mlitary solution is to provide good clean governance - that makes a noticeable difference in the lives of people - especially in remote areas, where the Taliban have a great deal of sway. Education is also key. You have to remember that a lot of the areas where the insurgency is strongest, are also areas, where illiteracy is highest. The more people understand the greater world. And the more they understand their own history and the intentions of forces like the US and NATO, the more they will trust that outsiders are there to help.
But... saying that... in order to develop all this, you need to create the security bubble for the good stuff to come in - which means you do need an effective military to keep opposing forces at bay.

SteveChaoAJE33 karma

Thanks for your worries. Usually we always have our flack jacket and helmet on - esp. out in areas like Helmand. But at that instance, we were actually touring the combat outpost with a US Marine Colonel and his Afghan counterpart, and were supposed to be in a "safe" central part of the base... when gunmen opened fire from the valley down below. With so many bullets flying around, it wasn't safe for us to run the 300 metres back to the tent where our flak jackets were. So we hunkered down behind military constructed dirtwalls, called Hescos and shot what we could.

SteveChaoAJE33 karma

I think humanity is built to desire freedom - the freedom to think, to express opinions, the freedom to decide ones future, without it being imposed upon - the freedom to go to school without fearing for ones life, the freedom to raise a family without worrying if they will survive the next day. What form of government allows for that, is something that each person and each nation must decide for itself. Canadian democracy is somewhat different from American democracy, but it arguably still works. (Canadians would argue their system works better :) ). Again I go back to the systems that provide for a rule of law - independent courts, independent security forces, along with the proper checks and balances to keep all those who could potentially abuse power accountable. What that ultimately looks like, will be for each nation to shape.

SteveChaoAJE30 karma

For more than a decade I worked for CTV, Canadian television. Between stints, I have also filed for ABC America, CNN, along with other networks. The difference with Al Jazeera, is essentially the breadth of coverage. If you compare the various networks, you will see so many more stories from so many different countries on Al Jazeera in a single day, then on any other network. Why? It goes down to economics. Al Jazeera continues to spend on news coverage to get its teams out in the field in so many countries. Whereas in this day of shrinking advertising dollars around the world, many other networks are consolidating their spending, and closing down overseas bureaus. In terms of editorial judgements, Al Jazeera english has an incredibly international staff, with many of them having come from top networks like CNN, BBC, ITV, Channel 4, among many others. Al Jazeera also still holds to its philosophy of covering the areas that are uncovered... and that often means, again spending on getting to the hard to get to places. I've been near the North Pole for Al Jazeera, in a remote Kingdom in Nepal, which takes five days on horseback to get to...