Afghan donkey contractors, some of whom haven’t been paid for more than a year, are threatening to bring the war effort to a halt.Yes, donkey contractors.
Kevin Sieff of The Washington Post reports that as the footprint of American forces in Afghanistan diminishes and ground bases built on the back of cutting edge technology is handed over to Afghan Security Forces, donkeys are making a comeback.
“Donkeys are the Afghan helicopter,” Col. Abdul Nasseeri, an Afghan battalion commander in the Konar province, tells the Post.
It’s more of out of necessity than anything else as U.S. commanders refuse to buy the Afghans helicopters because they say choppers are too costly and not essential to the mission.
But even a solution as seemingly simple and sustainable as donkey supply convoys has become subject to corruption and incompetence, an emblem of the logistical problems plaguing the Afghan army. Just as Afghans are preparing to inherit dozens of bases, all of which will require donkeys for daily or weekly rations, the funding to pay donkey contractors has disappeared. The Afghan army’s relatively modern bureaucracy has proven incapable of acquiring even ancient tools.
The problem goes beyond the failures of Afghans and into the American negligence. Recently, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a report which concluded that reconstruction funds were so mismanaged that many projects would not be completed, and if they were, they could not be maintained by the Afghans.
From the SIGAR report:
The ANSF lacks personnel with the technical skills required to operate and maintain critical facilities, such as water supply, waste water treatment, and power generation.
The Ministry of defence’s procurement process is unable to provide the Afghan army with (Operation and Maintenance) O&M supplies in a timely manner.
With a corrupt system of money disbursement hindering the Afghan army from running basic services or bringing enough water to their troops, it’s no wonder they’re having difficulty maintaining the 40,000 Ford Ranger Light Tactical Vehicles given to them by the Ford Motor Company.
“The best we can do is donkeys,” a 16-year-old donkey handler told The Post. “Without donkeys, there would be no Afghan army.”
And U.S. advisers are now devoting much of their time trying to solve the donkey problem in key fighting positions because if they don’t, the 11-year war effort will completely unravel.
“If you lose the outposts, the Taliban have an open door to walk right in,” Sgt. Travis Washington told The Post.
Given that the there will be no peace agreement between the Afghans and the Taliban before the U.S. leaves in 2014, time is running out to master the donkey system.
“Who knew that the end of this war would boil down to donkey contracts?” Lt. Col. Brandon Newton, commander of Task Force Lethal Warrior in Konar, told The Post. “I wasn’t trained for this.”
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