Uncut lessons learned from 6 and a half years in Afghanistan


Force Recon
Verified SOF
Mar 15, 2008
Tun Tavern

Disclaimer – The Blind Men and the Elephant

Lest anybody think that my writing this is an indication that I’m assuming to be all-knowing, I’ll
start with the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant.

Like the 6 blind men, many of us thought we knew how the Afghans think after a month or two
of interaction with them. Also like the 6 blind men, many of us think anybody who sees the
Afghans in a way that doesn’t match our own observations must be an idiot.

I propose to you that none of us “knows the elephant”… that is, none of us knows the full picture
of Afghan culture… and none of our brothers-in-arms is an idiot. Listen to the observations of
others, no matter how long/short a time he’s been here. There’s something to learn there.

Most importantly, though – Listen to the Afghans. There’s a whole lot to learn there.
Having not been there I appreciate the insight. I have the trunk figured out now for the rest of the Elephant.
Thanks for posting
I don't share the underlying optimism of the article. It does make some good points however and is thought provoking none the less.
I would add: for every success you and your counterparts have in combat in the field, for every epiphany you have in your understanding of the nature of the conflict, of your enemy, of your indigenous counterparts and of the diverse politics at village/district level, there's always two or three assholes back in the rear who're just as successful fucking up the relationships you are risking your life to build.