Friday, November 2, 2012

Month 3 day 2

Notebook Entry:
Meeting with RCT on 4th 0800 Showed METLs and Status report

Journal Entry:
Yesterday was a decent day as far as mentoring goes. I got one of my sergeants to nearly reliably find a point on a map. That is good. I also sat down for nearly an hour and spoke with the Captain frankly about the state of intelligence in the brigade. Prior to our meeting he told me that he knew everything that he needed to know about intelligence and that there was nothing that I could teach him. I sat down with him and told him that I assessed intel to be nonfunctional in this brigade and he started to point the finger at everyone else. I enumerated the points that they have failed at, and again I got excuses. It is difficult to relay to someone their deficiencies when they are ignorant of the entire process. How do you tell someone that they don’t know what they don’t know when you don’t even have their language doesn’t even have the words for it? Anyway. I think I made some progress with Samir.

One good thing happened the General said that he wants to have an intel meeting every month with all the guys from the kandaks [Afghan battalion roughly 1000 personnel]. Maybe this will get everyone off of leave and up to T/O [Table of Organization, how many people they shoudl have]! Awesome.

Edited to Add:
The language barrier was very difficult. There are six dialects of Dari, itself a sub-dialect of Farsi. The Persian armies came into Afghanistan from the west, generally ran into the mountains and stopped. The terrain was so bad that many of the villages were cut off from the larger body of Persia, thus their languages slowly evolved on their own track. Those who are closest to Iran, like those from Herat speak a dialect nearly indistinguishable from that of the Iranians whereas many of those from the mountainous portions of the country struggle to understand them. This is before you throw in the other language families (Pashto, Uzbeki, Baluch). All of this language segmentation forces people to learn a small portion of a few languages to be understood, and even their native dialect is not very well known to them. It is like putting a second grade hick from North Carolina next to a bogan from Australia, they might understand some of what they are saying, but it is difficult. The language devolves to its simple mono-syllable roots. The Persians/Iranians often have the words to express the thoughts that you would like to convey to the Afghans, but if you show them the word in the dictionary, then they will have no idea what the word is or means. This linguistic challenge continued throughout the deployment and will be further expounded upon later.

To be sure, this is not the fault of the Afghans. That they are a poor people in a land with terrible terrain surrounded by stronger people is not their fault, but it the truth. These effects are as real as the effects of the Normans, and the Vikings on the Saxons and Angles. Look at the types of words that English retained, base words from German about the home and hearth. High-minded words, democracy, liberty, equality, are all direct transpositions from Latin via French. These things simply were not the concern of those old English speakers in 1066 when the Normans invaded. Through several centuries of close contact and dominion, much of the French language was taken on by the English and they learned what these ideas meant. I was dealing with the equivalent of an Saxon peasant in 1067, he didn't understand the words I was trying to convey, and he was more concerned about the equivalent of the Welsh, Irish than about my seemingly incomprehensible words.

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