Monday, April 6, 2009

Military Transport is Under the Weather

The U.S. military’s Afghan surge has clearly made its way to Bagram. This place is jamming with all kinds of folks in uniform newly arrived in-country. The military transportation system appears to be groaning under the weight of the burden, with weather adding to the hassles.

A producer from the CBS show “60 Minutes” has been trying to get to FOB Salerno for five days, but can’t get a seat on a flight. Adding to the problem is low cloud cover and rain in the south that’s kept both helicopters and fixed wing transport (airplanes) from flying into the area.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a problem with the assets as much as it is with the weather,” says Capt. Scot Keith, a public affairs officer at Bagram. “It’s just a difficult time to move around right now.”

Afghan Desk is scheduled to head out of here on a helicopter tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for an on-time departure.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Problem

When Vice President Biden went to Afghanistan a few months back he found what many who travel to that country discover: the U.S. agenda there is about as clear as a bug splattered windshield.

According to the New York Times, after his trip to Afghanitsan, Biden “observed to Mr. Obama that if you asked 10 people on the ground what American objectives were, [you] would get 10 different answers.”

This is the root of the problem for NATO forces. How can victory be attained when so few can even define that term succinctly?

Last weekend the president unveiled a new plan that hopefully will narrow the scope of U.S. and NATO initiatives in Afghanistan.

Let’s just hope that the guys on the ground get the memo. Otherwise, they’re the ones who’ll be left holding the bag.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Q&A with Nashville Scene

My old pals at Nashville Scene were kind enough to engage me in a little Q&A about my recent cover story about Afghanistan.

Check it out here.

Talking Detainee Abuse with the "You Served Radio" Boys

I had a delightful conversation with the Troy and C.J. on “You Served Radio” last night. We discussed the case of Capt. Hill and D-Company, but also talked in-depth about the Geneva conventions and detainee abuse. Specifically, we debated just what limits should be placed on U.S. soldiers when interrogating suspected insurgents.

Check out the whole convo here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

P.J. to Appear on “You Served Radio” Tonight

Troy, of the excellent Bouhammer Milblog, has kindly invited me to appear on his internet radio show tonight. We’re going to talk about the saga of Capt. Roger Hill and his D-Company boys who were brought up on charges of detainee abuse late last year.

I broke the story in The Washington Post last December, here’s a link to that story.

I’ll be on at 7 p.m. EDT. You can tune in here.


On Wednesday, The Village Voice published a feature that I wrote after my last trip to Afghanistan. The story also appears on the covers of Nashville Scene and New Times Broward- Palm Beach, both former employers of mine. My pal Rafal Gerszak's photos accompany the story and I borrowed one of his images for my blog’s header.

The piece tells of the difficulties that well intentioned U.S. soldiers encounter when dealing with local nationals who are supposed to be helping the coalition effort. It also highlights intra-coalition difficulties that bedevil the mission.

Most importantly, the story asks the question, “Why are we still in Afghanistan?” I don’t pretend to have any answers, but I was dismayed to find that many of the brightest coalition soldiers I interviewed didn’t have good reasons either.

One thing that the piece did not reflect was the time that I spent unembedded in Afghanistan. I met some wonderful people while in Kabul. The reason that I didn’t quote any of them in the story—aside from Jassim, the Chicken Street vendor—is because we didn’t really talk much about the war. We talked about family, business, food, music, the WWE, anything really, that normal people would talk about when getting to know each other.

Though I’ll start my embed soon, I’m going to make a concerted effort to develop relationships outside the military. One thing that’s missing from western coverage of the war is the voices of Afghan people. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and I aim to rectify that omission this time around.

Welcome to Afghan Desk!

Afghan Desk is a one-man news service providing first hand reporting and analysis of the NATO adventure in Afghanistan. I will soon be on the ground with U.S. and coalition forces and in touch with locals who have a different perspective on the conflict.

Afghan Desk will break news, offer reasoned opinion and showcase good thinking and creative works about Afghanistan. I’ll have guest writers, interviews with opinion and decision makers, and hopefully, lots of input from our readers.

I'm just getting this thing up and running, but as my embed begins in the next two weeks, I promise much more content soon.

Thanks for stopping by, if you’d like to reach out to Afghan Desk, just drop an email here.