Friday, February 06, 2009

Positive thinking on Afghanistan

I've been reading so much negative press lately about the situation that I thought it was time to highlight some people who are trying to improve the way things play out in Afghanistan now and into the future. Tim Lynch (at left) is a happily married 50 year old retired Marine and founder of Free Range International a small, Afghanistan based, security consulting firm.

Tim has been in Afghanistan for over three years now. He writes on his bio page at Free Range International: "I started my work here as the project manager for the American Embassy guard force in 2005. In 2006 I moved “outside the wire” to start my own company and have been operating in every corner of Afghanistan ever since. There are only a few provinces I have not been in and let me tell you something – in a majority of this country it is completely safe for foreigners, especially Americans. The Afghan people are dirt poor but despite the incredibly slow and incompetent reconstruction efforts remain both grateful and hospitable.

Knowing a little Dari and Pashto helps and all of us in my small company can at least make it through a formal greeting session in both languages. I believe (rather strongly) our efforts here lack focus, unity of command, a sense of urgency, and resources. We have squandered millions on programs that do not work and were poorly conceived “off the shelf” solutions."

Tim's partner is Shem Klimiuk (right), a former Aussie Paratrooper, who describes himself as: " Oi! I’m Shem. It’s not short for anything. " Both Shem and Tim provided security for Michael Yon last October when he was touring Afghanistan on his own without the security of a military embed. Of that trip Michael wrote: "In the weeks that I would spend with Tim and Shem, we drove more than a thousand miles up and down Afghan roads without the slightest drama, except that Tim scares me with his driving. If you are rich and want the adventure of a lifetime, contact Tim Lynch. You might die. But if you live, you’ll come back with a new perspective on Afghanistan." You can read about it in his dispatch The Road to Hell .
Tim and Shlem have also provided security, (free of charge) for an amazing group of highly educated; highly motivated young people who work on Fablab projects in remote regions of the world to bring positive change through technology and they do it on their own time and often on their own dime.
The group who created the Jalalabad Fablab are an example of how effective reconstruction aid can be delivered on the cheap — a fablab costs $35,000 to $50,000 in equipment and about $15,000 to $20,000 per year to operate not including the satcom. I'm really very excited about this project and if you are looking for a way that you can contribute to the education of the young people of Afghanistan this just might be for you.
Besides providing free security for the group Tim also provided Amy Sun, who is the MIT team leader for the Jalalabad FabLab, with free blog space to write about the project. Fab Lab Jalalabad is an uplifting read about the project's beginning in December 2008 and Fab Surge Summary Part 1 : Value = (Cost)^-1 is an update this month. Read about it. You'll be glad you did.
In his post The Yellow Tim writes about a way to circumvent the cumbersome bureaucries of the Government of Afghanistan and the Pentagon in targeting the Afghan problem of poverty. " There is a model, arrived at through a marriage of convenience, which is capable of delivering enough boots on the ground to bring security and rapid infrastructure development to the Afghan population. That model was a Un Ops sub contractor / SF A-Team operation which informally cooperated with each other in Shinkay back in 2006.
This was one of the most volatile areas of Afghanistan back in 2006 and remains so to this day. Yet the small SF A-team and the equally small numbers of ANZAC and Canadian engineers were able to work effectively in that environment without taking casualties. By cooperating with each other their sum was greater than the parts of their respective groups. They showed what can be done by small groups of men living amongst the people and are a good model to emulate countrywide."
This post has sparked some very good comments from people and is still open to comments from anyone with thoughts on the subject or questions. Great forum.
Speaking of great forums, Old Blue, a senior American Army NCO who served a tour of duty in the Tag Ab valley in Kapiza province as a member of an Afghan Police Mentoring team (PMT) and has been in combat and conversation with the Taliban has a lively post going at his blog Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventures called With A Little Help From My Friends regarding the effective use of counterinsurgency (COIN). There's some lively debate there too and it's still open for commenters. Those who want to learn about COIN or contribute to the discussion will find this a valuable tool.
Blue doesn't censor for dissenting opinion, which he welcomes. He censors for smut.
If you are looking for outside the box thinking regarding the enigma that is Afghanistan today you can't do better than read Tim and Blue.


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erica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erica said...

hi,it was nice to hear that there are people who are really brave to do such one of a life time an ordinary human who also willing to do such thing and the people behind this,i adore such courageness,im looking forward for an easy access to them.erica