Much of what I have learned about Afghanistan came from Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple, an airman who spent a year (May 2009 to April 2010) as part of an Embedded Training Team charged with teaching Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers. Rex and I talked every week for my radio series and he wrote almost daily for his blog Afghanistan My Last Tour.
I remember one poignant moment for Rex. He was invited to speak to a religious class for ANA soldiers. A rare invitation which he accepted in the hope the soldiers would better understand U.S. troops.
Through his translator, Rex introduced himself and then asked a few questions. One was how many of the soldiers in the class knew about the 9-11 attacks? He was astonished that most did not. So, they had no understanding of why U.S. forces were in their country.
Many of the problems that Rex encountered – ANA illiteracy rates, corruption, etc. – were covered in a story this Friday by National Public Radio reporter Quil Lawrence. The NPR story analyzes the changes in Afghanistan since the war started more than a decade ago.
People living in Afghanistan 10 years ago had little electricity, few radios and almost no televisions to alert them of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. The news didn’t really reach across the country until the American bombing campaign and invasion began a month later. The fall of the Taliban regime at the end of 2001 and the flood of international aid raised hope in Afghanistan.
With a U.S.-sponsored government setting up in Kabul, President George W. Bush spelled out America’s pledge to Afghanistan in a speech at Virginia Military Institute in April 2002. Bush invoked America’s patron saint of nation-building, George Marshall, the World War II general who oversaw the reconstruction of Germany.
“By helping to build an Afghanistan that is free from this evil and is a better place in which to live, we are working in the best traditions of George Marshall,” Bush said.
To Afghans, this Marshall Plan for their country sounded like a promise underwritten by the most powerful nation on Earth. Bush listed how the U.S. would help; below, along with each pledge, NPR assesses progress in each area, 10 years on.
You can listen to and read the full story HERE.
Filed under: Air Force, Deployment, Radio | Tagged: Afghan National Army, Afghanistan, Embedded Training Team, Helmand Province, NPR, postaday2011, Quil Lawrence, September 11 attacks, SMSgt. Rex Temple |