Thursday, September 24, 2009


Tonight, for the first time in a long time, I cannot sleep. A lot of thoughts are swirling in my head, so the blog is my outlet.

I think many people have forgotten why we invaded Afghanistan. And I also think many people think that Al-Qaeda and Taliban are synonyms.

I try to see the positive aspects in life, but I'm afraid that I can longer see that in Afghanistan. The lack of direction, guidance and strategy is say the least. The newness haze of my situation has warn off and I'm staring the truth in the eyes. What we're doing here is not an effective counter-insurgency strategy and no one knows how to make it right. And we will probably never get it right.

The past several weeks have been hard. Our R&R program was canceled without reason. Leave is not available to everyone in the unit. And the shop has been busy.
We had a flash flood destroy a critical bridge on one of the highways and we had to find a solution. We also had twenty new projects to award...and that meant reviewing 450 proposals, selecting a winning contractor and signing the contract. In 12 days. We can build all these schools, but are they, alone, really defeating the insurgency? When we visit a school that the PRT built five years ago and it's had no maintenance since, tell me what I should think about the 20 school projects we currently have under construction. Governance has not caught up to development.

I love the quote, "Where the road ends, the insurgency begins." I believe in it 100%. Why else would the Taliban have attacked our road projects over a dozen times in the past three months? Why else would they intimate the construction workers and contractors? Why else would they kill effective village elders who support the road? It's because the project is effective to their demise. But will the PRT be building any more roads in the near future? The answer is no. I've been told by higher headquarters that it's not the PRT's job and that we need to focus on small scale projects. I've been told by an aeronautical engineer that the PRT does not have the expertise to build roads, but his organization does. How many civil engineers does it take to convince people that we have the expertise, experience and capability to build excellent quality roads? Because I have 10 and we have the roads as our proof!

Unfortunately I feel that I am at the end of my rope. This PRT experience has been so disappointing that the only way I can cope is to stop caring and continue to count down the days (184). And we don't have the best team one could wish for, which amplifies the disappointment. I'm ready to move to Switzerland and just forget.........Afghanistan what? Where's that? And civilian clothes look better and better as I'm on my 186th straight day of choosing between the green outfit or the blue outfit. I wish Scott and I were on the same page, like we usually are. But when it comes to this issue, I'm afraid that we are reading different books. Hence, the source of my insomnia.


  1. Dear Jenna,
    I wish that there were some magic words i could give you that would help. Only cliches come to mind. The main one being "War is Hell."
    Know that we love you and think of you daily.

  2. Your observations and subsequent commentary on the nature of insurgency and how to combat it are exactly accurate. We have failed since Vietnam to learn the essential lessons of winning insurgent wars- modernization guts unrest. As you state it, roads are the tools for winning hearts and minds, as are other infrastructure that you and your fellow engineers have the know-how to implement. I think building schools is great and will in the long run be essential, but quite frankly they do not do the real work of fighting insurgent support when the largest groups of people fighting are those who go without basic services, let alone education. I think pretty much any social scientist who looks at Afghan society would agree that your statements about what should be done are completely correct, and it is maddening to know that the advice of experts in engineering and social science are not really involved in crafting a military directive for reigning in afghan insurgency. I am sorry that you and your fellow officers and enlisted are forced to deal with this lack of effective leadership, and hope that it soon changes.