Archive for October, 2009

Afghanistan Doesn’t Need More Troops (with Cmdr. Dave Adams, USN)

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

In 2007-2008, 250 paratroopers secured a Pashtun province of one million by working closely with the tribes.


From the beginning of 2007 to March 2008, the 82nd Airborne Division’s strategy in Khost proved that 250 paratroopers could secure a province of a million people in the Pashtun belt. The key to success in Khost—which shares a 184 kilometer-long border with Pakistan’s lawless Federally Administered Tribal Areas—was working within the Afghan system. By partnering with closely supervised Afghan National Security Forces and a competent governor and subgovernors, U.S. forces were able to win the support of Khost’s 13 tribes.

Today, 2,400 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Khost. But the province is more dangerous.

Mohammed Aiaz, a 32-year-old Khosti advising the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team, puts it plainly: “The answer is not more troops, which will put Afghans in more danger.” If troops don’t understand Afghan culture and fail to work within the tribal system, they will only fuel the insurgency. When we get the tribes on our side, that will change. When a tribe says no, it means no. IEDs will be reported and no insurgent fighters will be allowed to operate in or across their area.

Khost once had security forces with tribal links. Between 1988 and 1991, the Soviet client government in Kabul was able to secure much of eastern and southern Afghanistan by paying the tribal militias. Khost was secured by the 25th Division of the Afghan National Army (ANA), which incorporated militias with more than 400 fighters from five of Khost’s 13 major tribes. The mujahedeenwere not able to take Khost until internal rifts among Pashtuns in then-President Mohammed Najibullah’s government resulted in a loss of support for the militias in Khost and, eventually, the defection of the 25th Division in April 1991.

The mistake the Najibullah government made was not integrating advisers to train the tribal militias and transform them into a permanent part of the government security forces. During the Taliban period between 1996-2001 the 25th Division dispersed amongst the tribes. Many fled to Pakistan.

When the U.S. invaded in 2001, the 25th Division, reformed under the command of Gen. Kilbaz Sherzai, immediately secured Khost. But the division was disbanded by the new Afghan government for fear of warlordism.

Today, some elements of the 25th still work for the Americans as contract security forces. However, the ANA now stationed in Khost is mainly composed of northern, non-Pashtun Dari speakers, and it is regarded as a foreign body. Without local influence and tribal support, the ANA tends to stay on its bases.

Part of this is our fault. We built the ANA in our own Army’s image. Its soldiers live on nice bases and see themselves as the protectors of Afghanistan from conventional attacks by Pakistan. But to be effective, the ANA must be structured more like a National Guard, responsible for creating civil authority and training the police.

We saw how this could work in the Tani district of Khost starting in 2007. By assisting an ANA company—with a platoon of American paratroopers, a civil affairs team from the U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Team, the local Afghan National Police, and a determined Afghan subgovernor named Badi Zaman Sabari—we secured the district despite its long border with Pakistan.

Raids by the paratroopers under the leadership of Lt. Col. Scott Custer were extremely rare because the team had such good relations with the tribes that they would generally turn over any suspect. These good tribal relations were strengthened further by meeting the communities’ demands for a new paved road, five schools, and a spring water system that supplies 12,000 villagers.

Yet security has deteriorated in Khost, despite increases of U.S. troops in mid-2008. American strategy began to focus more on chasing the insurgents in the mountains instead of securing the towns and villages where most Khostis live.

The insurgents didn’t stick around to get shot when they saw the American helicopters coming. But the villagers noticed when the roads weren’t built on time and the commanders never visited.

Meanwhile, the increasing number of raids on Afghan homes alienated many of Khost’s tribal elders. The Afghan National Police in Tani and many other districts of Khost were afraid to patrol in their uniforms and official vehicles lest they be killed by insurgents. The ANA in Tani rarely left the district center, which came to resemble a small fortress. Having lost support of the tribes, Badi Zaman Sabari was assassinated on Feb. 14, 2009, by insurgents led by the longtime mujahedeen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani. They are the main belligerents focused on undermining ISAF’s efforts in southeast Afghanistan.

A major reason for our slow progress in Afghanistan is that, because of turnovers in leadership and changes in strategy, we continue to fight one-year wars and forget about the long term. When we become fixated on clearing insurgents, we lose focus on the tribes, which are critical to our success. The proper recipe is not clear, hold and build. As we learned in Khost, it is befriend, secure, build governance—and then hold. Without a consistent strategy of enlisting tribal cooperation, more troops will simply find more trouble in the Pashtun belt.

—Cmdr. Adams commanded the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team from March 2007 to March 2008. He is now the prospective commander of the nuclear submarine the USS Santa Fe. Ms. Marlowe did four embeds with American forces in Khost during 2007-2008.

Ann Marlowe on Afghanistan, Blogging Heads TV, 10/19/09

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Linda Lovelace’s Ordeal (from A New Literary History of America, 2009)

Monday, October 19th, 2009

1972: The Pill available to unmarried women in all states
March 22, 1972: The U.S. Senate adopts the Equal Rights Amendment
June 12, 1972: Deep Throat opens at New York’s World Theater
June 17, 1972: Five burglars arrested while breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate hotel
January 11, 1973: First broadcast of An American Family on PBS
May 17, 1973: First broadcast of Watergate hearings

Linda Lovelace: January 10, 1949–April 22, 2002

Ordeal, the third of four autobiographies of Deep Throat porn star Linda Boreman (Lovelace), isn’t interesting because it’s a good book, a tragic one, or even an arousing one. Published in 1980, it’s interesting as an artifact of early feminism, just like Deep Throat in 1972, and because, again like Deep Throat, it raises endless questions about sincerity, pleasure, the public and the private, questions that floated in the air just a year later during the Watergate hearings, questions that still shape our culture.

Lovelace’s voice is the studiously bland voice we hear every day from politicians, in the smuggest of op-eds, in the passive-aggressive niceness of airline employees. Hypocrisy has always been with us, but the mimicking of the colorless tone of down-to- earth “good folks,” of what was once called Middle America, seems to have become prevalent after World War II. It was diagnosed in the earnest realist novels of the 1950s, and parodied in Catch-22, Mad magazine, and The Graduate (“Plastics!”).

The deliberate impersonation of a blameless dailiness might have been an artifact of television, television commercials, and the televising of political oratory. All of this created a national speech, a national jargon, broader and more impersonal than the regional accents of radio, and it also allowed the audience to see how facial expressions and words played with and against each other. It is much easier to lie with your voice when your face is hidden, or to lie with your face when you don’t talk. (Deep Throat, like most porn films, is light on dialogue.)

When Lovelace discusses the injuries of her past, her voice has an almost autistic blankness: “My mother has always been very emotional toward me. When I was four years old, she started beating me—first with a belt, later with the buckle of the belt.” Is that “very emotional” a reflection of Lovelace’s inability or unwillingness to understand her own history? Is it a defense against the sadness that must underlie such a memory, if true? Ordeal might have been a very sad book, but intentionally or not, it is not. Or is “very emotional” a sly understatement, allowing the reader to draw the connection between Linda’s abuse by her mother and her choice to stay for years with her abusive husband and Svengali, Chuck Traynor?

Consider this bit of Linda’s backstory: “I don’t want to pretend that I was always Miss Holy-Holy. I fell in love once or twice; I lost my virginity at age nineteen, and when I was twenty, I gave birth to an illegitimate child that my mother put out for adoption.”

“An illegitimate child.” She doesn’t even say whether it was a boy or girl—the important thing is that it was “illegitimate.” Her mother put it out for adoption? I was under the impression that the child’s mother’s consent is necessary, not the grandmother’s. Linda has no agency here. “My only honest conversations those days were with God,” she says of her initial time with Traynor, but the question of how honest she is with herself, or us, comes up throughout her book.

Discussing sex, Lovelace blends false modesty and coyness, like the tan lines on the otherwise overexposed bodies of porn stars. Chuck Traynor may well have abused her, but Lovelace had a foot in the world he lived in before they met, through her high school best friend, Betsy, a “topless dancer.”

Lovelace’s ghostwriter for Ordeal, Mike McGrady, was an Eastern establishment journalist—Yale, the army, Newsday—whose Naked Came a Stranger, a parody of a sex novel, was a best seller in 1969. A year later, he published his self-exposé: Stranger than Naked; or, How to Write Dirty Books for Fun and Profit; A Manual. Linda did something similar. In 1974 she published her first autobiography, Inside Linda Lovelace, portraying herself as a sex addict who participated willingly in the porn world. In Ordeal she calls Inside Linda Lovelace “a pack of lies” and says it was written by Chuck Traynor. Ordeal doesn’t mention a second, 1974 autobiography, The Intimate Diary of Linda Lovelace, which was put together by the man who became her producer and lover after she left Traynor; he seems to have been gay, but beat her anyway at the end. Not to mention that in 1986 Linda published a fourth autobiography, Out of Bondage, also cowritten with Mike McGrady. The issues become murkier still when you consider that Out of Bondage was published by Lyle Stuart, a division of Kensington Books, while The Intimate Diary of Linda Lovelace was published by Pinnacle Books, also a division of Kensington.

Why would a woman who wanted to distance herself from an earlier, false autobiography choose a collaborator with McGrady’s history of hoax? Did she choose McGrady precisely in order to tantalize the reader with questions about truth? Or was he the best she could find—damaged goods, like herself? Or was Ordeal his idea, inspired by his own history of spoof and confession? These questions are emblematic of the early 1970s, when the first hearings on a possible presidential impeachment in American history were televised, and when the first reality TV show—An American Family—aired.