So like no shit, there we were…

Jan 31, 2011   //   by peretz   //   long, photos, terms  //  No Comments

Today we went on the PRT (provin­cial recon­struc­tion team) base in Jalal­abad. Lou had arranged the meet­ing. A New York­er was run­ning it. He spoke fast (refresh­ing­ly so, as one’s mind atro­phies from a pre­dom­i­nance of inter­ac­tion with non-native speakers.)

He was excit­ed about a par­tic­u­lar new fund­ing stream from USAID that was meant for off­beat projects that are not being addressed by oth­er large funds. Lou had con­nect­ed a few dots and sug­gest­ed crick­et fields and now the ball is rolling.

Dur­ing the meet­ing I was drown­ing in acronyms. At some point, I request­ed a time out to deacronymi­fy. I think it was around the point that we were told that the pro­pos­al should, of course, address COIN (counter insur­gency) objectives.

Here are some notes from that time-out:  Feel free not to read them!

  • PDC (Provin­cial Devel­op­ment Coun­cil) staffed by PC (Provin­cial Coun­cil) who are the vot­ing mem­bers, 19 of which 5 are female.
  • ASOP — Afghan Social Out­reach Pro­gram, sub­set of IDLG
  • DDA — Dis­trict Devel­op­ment Association
  • These are all Shu­ra’s of appoint­ed peo­ples. But the best guys are the rung bel­low them, the CDC — com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment coun­cils — “They are like the small town PTA (Par­ent Teacher Asso­ci­a­tions) in Amer­i­ca that know what the local issues are, and they are elected!”
  • TWG — tech­ni­cal work­ing group, usu­al­ly the TWG of some sub­ject under some oth­er acronym.
  • IDLG — Inde­pen­dent Direc­torate Local Gov­ern­ments (a USAID gov­ern­ment part­ner). They appoint local gov­er­nors, and DDBs (Dis­trict Devel­op­ment Boards)
  • ANDS — Afghan Nation­al Devel­op­ment Strategies
  • StI­KA — Sta­bil­i­ty in Key Areas. It’s the new LGCD (Local Gov­ern­ment Com­mer­cial Development).
  • NSP (Nation­al Sol­i­dar­i­ty Pro­gram) is under the NMRD? WTF?

They did not have a shop at the PRT, but we were able to get some hygien­ic prod­ucts at the MWR (Morale Wel­fare and Recre­ation) bunk.We had lunch at the DFAC. Over lunch, it was men­tioned that USAID is under­staffed in the region. I asked where the bot­tle­neck lies. It turns out that there are more USAID employ­ees hang­ing in Kabul/Bagram ~1200 than are active in the field. And the rea­son is quite an Amer­i­can one. In prac­tice, USAID employ­ees that are part of the PRT have to be phys­i­cal­ly fit to ride with full Army gear in MRAPS. (And that is the only way they are allowed to get around to get their work done.) It’s hot and heavy.

As an Amer­i­can com­pa­ny, USAID has to fol­low the Amer­i­can with Dis­abil­i­ties Act for Hir­ing, which means that they can­not exclude peo­ple based on their lev­el of fit­ness (some­times age or dis­abil­i­ty) for the task at hand. USAID has prob­lems recruit­ing peo­ple that are younger and can get clear­ance. So their pay­roll is full of old guys.

The net result is all the phys­i­cal­ly fit peo­ple (600 of them) are active in the field while Kab­ul is a “geri­atric ward” (1200).

This is your government.”


When you live “out­side the wire”, going the DFAC (Din­ing Facil­i­ty) at the base is kind of like raid­ing your par­en­t’s pantry when you are a poor stu­dent. You fill your pock­ets with gum, soda, cook­ies, cliff bars, etc. Here was our score today:


We focused on gum.  Thanks Uncle Ben!


Dave was telling me that when he hung out with the Spe­cial Force guys, all of their sto­ries start­ed with, “So like no shit, there we were…”

Basketball court in a pool FOB Finley-Shields

So like no shit, there we were on an Amer­i­can base play­ing bas­ket­ball and trash talk­ing in Russ­ian with our Afghan driver/translator Najib, inside an emp­ty swim­ming pool, which was ini­tial­ly built by the Rus­sians when this was their Army base and then used by the Tal­iban as an exe­cu­tion ground. You could see the bul­let scars on ground, and the US sol­diers would cir­cle around us, doing their busi­ness, occa­sion­al­ly recov­er­ing our balls which had bounced out of the pool.



And to round out today’s ram­ble is a good one, but you have to click some links. It’s a TAL (This Amer­i­can Life) episode. In the first act you will meet JD (Japan­ese Dude) — aka Mohammed Jawed. He’s the one that took the pho­to of the sheep and boy on the bike (ear­li­er post). Well any­ways, lis­ten to this act, which is like the first 5 min­utes: