Afghan Culture

I have no idea why, but when I was last in Afghastlystan we were taken into the middle of nowhere to talk to an elderly goatherd, whose herd of goats were all sheltering from the sun under a single tree.

the goatherd was brewing up. The tea tasted of goat shit and smoke from his tiny fire which I suspect was fuelled by dried goat shit.

The elderly goatherd gave me a boiled sweet.
I hoope he hadn't been storing it in his 'safe place' for little boys to find!
 
I have no idea why, but when I was last in Afghastlystan we were taken into the middle of nowhere to talk to an elderly goatherd, whose herd of goats were all sheltering from the sun under a single tree.

the goatherd was brewing up. The tea tasted of goat shit and smoke from his tiny fire which I suspect was fuelled by dried goat shit.

The elderly goatherd gave me a boiled sweet.
Cultural appreciation?

I believe the success of the LRDG and subsequently the SAS, if attributed to just one man it would be Brigadier Ralph Alger Bagnold, FRS, OBE (3 April 1896 – 28 May 1990) who would be most deserving of the credit.

He was the founder and first commander of the British Army's Long Range Desert Group during World War II. He is also generally considered to have been a pioneer of desert exploration, an acclaim earned for his activities during the 1930s. These included the first recorded east-west crossing of the Libyan Desert (1932).
Perhaps this is where modern British army adventure training has fallen short. Ok, there are exceptions, such as having an officer who travelled the length of the Amazon (despite no being able to swim) and others I imagine, but nothing as immersive, practical or pertinent as Brig. Bag. did in his day.

Should we have been giving gap years to go back-packing incognito round Kashmir back in the 80s and 90s? It would have given us a head start I believe. As it was we turned up in 2006 without language skills, cultural appreciation or tribal knowledge, but instead we were top trumps when it came to drinking games, Caribbean windsurfing and brothel shuffles.

All idle speculation of course...
 
Cultural appreciation?

I believe the success of the LRDG and subsequently the SAS, if attributed to just one man it would be Brigadier Ralph Alger Bagnold, FRS, OBE (3 April 1896 – 28 May 1990) who would be most deserving of the credit.



Perhaps this is where modern British army adventure training has fallen short. Ok, there are exceptions, such as having an officer who travelled the length of the Amazon (despite no being able to swim) and others I imagine, but nothing as immersive, practical or pertinent as Brig. Bag. did in his day.

Should we have been giving gap years to go back-packing incognito round Kashmir back in the 80s and 90s? It would have given us a head start I believe. As it was we turned up in 2006 without language skills, cultural appreciation or tribal knowledge, but instead we were top trumps when it came to drinking games, Caribbean windsurfing and brothel shuffles.

All idle speculation of course...
While I'm all in favour of adv trg and its benefits, Brig Bagnold didn't do it "in his day" in the Army but as a civilian or on unpaid / half-paid leave immediately before leaving the Army to become a civilian and do so.

"back-packing incognito round Kashmir back in the 80's and 90's" was also hardly an option given local circumstances in the 80's and 90's.

The lack of appreciation of cultural affairs, tribal differences, etc, goes far deeper than that and has been clearly shown by some of the views of some (but not all) who were the very people who should have been expected to know better.

(edit: and the "officer who travelled the length of the Amazon" for over two years waa an ex-officer when he did so, several years after leaving the Army).
 
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While I'm all in favour of adv trg and its benefits, Brig Bagnold didn't do it "in his day" in the Army but as a civilian or on unpaid / half-paid leave immediately before leaving the Army to become a civilian and do so.
Exactly - so having seen how valuable it was to have had such experience and knowledge surely the post War command must have encouraged all such activities in the 3 services.
"back-packing incognito round Kashmir back in the 80's and 90's" was also hardly an option given local circumstances in the 80's and 90's.
I know laid back Ozzies and a smelly Frenchman who managed to do it in the early 90s, so surely it wouldn't have been beyond one or two of Sandhurst's finest? Watch the news and bide your time that's all - it's not rocket science, it's adventure travel (I do know what I am talking about here, trust me).
The lack of appreciation of cultural affairs, tribal differences, etc, goes far deeper than that and has been clearly shown by some of the views of some (but not all) who were the very people who should have been expected to know better.
One of our greatest assets for Helmand in cultural and political respects was Michael Semple, an Irish expert on Afghanistan and Pakistan working in Helmand for the EU 2004 to 07. Unfortunately he was sacked and deported by President Karzai on some trumped up charges in 2007. This was in retaliation for us (Downing Street) sacking Karzai's main man in Helmand, Sher Mohammed Akhundzada, back in 2005. This was our dumbest move before the military campaign had already started. I genuinely believe that decision came from Blair but that will only come out in the Inquiry. The British were given a name after that - i forget exactly but it roughly translates as the most stupid, arrogant, deluded halfwits. Based on our campaign in Helmand I now think this was probably quite accurate.
 
Out of a ration pack I take it? Hope you made out like you've never had one before.
It wasn't a compo sweet. He had a tin of them. But it wasn't a compo tin. At the time I was mainly concerned with keeping my head in place as the presidents guard we had guarding us appeared to consist mainly of frightened young lads.
 
Cultural appreciation?

I believe the success of the LRDG and subsequently the SAS, if attributed to just one man it would be Brigadier Ralph Alger Bagnold, FRS, OBE (3 April 1896 – 28 May 1990) who would be most deserving of the credit.



Perhaps this is where modern British army adventure training has fallen short. Ok, there are exceptions, such as having an officer who travelled the length of the Amazon (despite no being able to swim) and others I imagine, but nothing as immersive, practical or pertinent as Brig. Bag. did in his day.

Should we have been giving gap years to go back-packing incognito round Kashmir back in the 80s and 90s? It would have given us a head start I believe. As it was we turned up in 2006 without language skills, cultural appreciation or tribal knowledge, but instead we were top trumps when it came to drinking games, Caribbean windsurfing and brothel shuffles.

All idle speculation of course...
I dont suppose the Afghan goatherd I met would have heard of the LRDG, nor of Brig Ralph etc. If he had heard of him he didn't mention it to me - at least the translator didn't mention it.

What we prolly need then, is a British Army Outreach Team (BAOT) to visit these people and educate them into the workings of the British Empire. Fly the flag, so to speak. They could be equipped with solar topees and Earl Grey tea and china teapots in wicker baskets.

Volunteers?
 
I hoope he hadn't been storing it in his 'safe place' for little boys to find!
I have no idea. It did taste of goat shit though. But, yaknow, when you are flying the flag (in this case the EU flag) small things like that don't matter.
 
He'd probably been saving it specially for an honoured guest.

(and as he was 'elderly', no I'm not joking)
He was a very nice old boy and we got a lot of interesting intel er information out of him.
 
I dont suppose the Afghan goatherd I met would have heard of the LRDG, nor of Brig Ralph etc. If he had heard of him he didn't mention it to me - at least the translator didn't mention it.

What we prolly need then, is a British Army Outreach Team (BAOT) to visit these people and educate them into the workings of the British Empire. Fly the flag, so to speak. They could be equipped with solar topees and Earl Grey tea and china teapots in wicker baskets.
I've never met a goatherder. I saw one once though.

My plan was more to travel incognito, go local. Study them, learn from them, gain their trust and then send in the politicians to betray it all (that happened to Lawrence didn't it?).

Although I'd love to do it I won't volunteer - there'd only be an international incident, or something worse.
 
I've never met a goatherder. I saw one once though.

My plan was more to travel incognito, go local. Study them, learn from them, gain their trust and then send in the politicians to betray it all (that happened to Lawrence didn't it?).

Although I'd love to do it I won't volunteer - there'd only be an international incident, or something worse.
Regarding your final point: since I am not noted for my tact and diplomacy, it's a bloody miracle that I survived Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Angola, Mozambleak, Cambodia, Laos, Bosnia and Vietnam - and a few other places, without a major diplomatic contretemps developing.
 
Exactly - so having seen how valuable it was to have had such experience and knowledge surely the post War command must have encouraged all such activities in the 3 services.
You've missed the point.

"Such activities" were / are a full time occupation.

It was / is only possible to get "such experience and knowledge" by spending several years living in the country, speaking the language, living with the local population TE Lawrence / Wilfred Thesiger / Ralph Bagnold style.

When your Army is several hundred thousand, recruiting on a WWI / WWII scale, it is not only possible but highly likely that people with "such experience and knowledge" will join the Army and be available.

When your Army is around one hundred thousand strong it is very unlikely that anyone with "such experience and knowledge" will then join the Army to do something entirely different. It's more likely that they might be interested in the TA / AR, but since it's only possible to do "such activities" when outside the UK, where their interests lie, that's unlikely.

Being in the Army or doing "such activities" are both full-time occupations; it's possible to do one or the other, but it's simply impossible to do both at the same time for the years required to get the necessary "experience and knowledge".
 
I know laid back Ozzies and a smelly Frenchman who managed to do it in the early 90s, so surely it wouldn't have been beyond one or two of Sandhurst's finest? Watch the news and bide your time that's all - it's not rocket science, it's adventure travel.
Relatively safe travel in Afghanistan was briefly possible only post-Najibullah ('92), pre-emergence of the Taliban ('94) in limited areas.

Beyond that the country was in a civil war, which makes "adventure travel" a particularly stupid and unnecessarily risky activity and completely incompatible with the objectives of military adventure training.

(I do know what I'm talking about here, trust me)
Based on what you've written in the last few posts you don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about.
 
One of our greatest assets for Helmand in cultural and political respects was Michael Semple, an Irish expert on Afghanistan and Pakistan working in Helmand for the EU 2004 to 07.
He wasn't one of "our" assets. He had been living and working in the region for 25 years, most of that in Afghanistan, and spoke fluent Dari.

That puts your suggestion that similar "experience and knowledge" could be gained by someone doing a bit of "adventure travel" in perspective.

One of "our greatest assets" was Mike Martin (ex-TA Capt) whose views on our lack of "cultural appreciation or tribal knowledge" are now widely accepted (including his views on our 'cultural advisors') and readily available.
 
I have no idea why, but when I was last in Afghastlystan we were taken into the middle of nowhere to talk to an elderly goatherd, whose herd of goats were all sheltering from the sun under a single tree.

the goatherd was brewing up. The tea tasted of goat shit and smoke from his tiny fire which I suspect was fuelled by dried goat shit.

The elderly goatherd gave me a boiled sweet.
Not a Werthers Original?
 
Not a Werthers Original?
Regrettably not. Thinking about it, the boiled sweet may have been of Russian origins as there was still loads of Russki stufski floating about when I was there.
 
Regarding your final point: since I am not noted for my tact and diplomacy, it's a bloody miracle that I survived Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Angola, Mozambleak, Cambodia, Laos, Bosnia and Vietnam - and a few other places, without a major diplomatic contretemps developing.
I gave that a funny rating but it was more of a nervous laugh - you're not making it up and some of those places are south of the Sahara. Hat's off to you.

Are their any 'monkey on back' removal specialists in the house? I can't seem to shake this one off.
 
I gave that a funny rating but it was more of a nervous laugh - you're not making it up and some of those places are south of the Sahara. Hat's off to you.


Are their any 'monkey on back' removal specialists in the house? I can't seem to shake this one off.
No I'm not making it up I have worked in all those places and a few more.

Of course I've also worked in nice places like the Solomon Islands. Filipines, Hong Kong and Thailand.

And Vietnam where I am now, a country that's developing so fast it's almost unreal.
 

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