Ben Anderson, an independent film maker, was embedded with troops in Afghanistan in 2007 and late 2012. Earlier this year he released This is What Winning Looks Like, a documentary including snapshots of what’s happening now as the United States and coalition forces begin their withdrawal. It’s not a pretty picture.
The “training” has fallen flat, on deaf ears one might say. It’s a bit disturbing to see Afghan police and army forces at patrol bases look at trainers with quizative looks after someone tells them they shouldn’t be wasting hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Identifying their target and knowing what’s behind the target is a completely foreign concept after coalition training and support measured in years. Drug use certainly seems rampant. US forces must work with known bad guys and watch as Afghan army and police violate prisoner rights … and they can’t do a damn thing about it.
I know the video is about 90 minutes and I found it to be a worthwhile way to spend my time and learn a bit. Anderson writes.
In February 2013, on his last day at the helm of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John R. Allen described what he thought the war’s legacy will be: ‘‘Afghan forces defending Afghan people and enabling the government of this country to serve its citizens. This is victory, this is what winning looks like, and we should not shrink from using these words.’’
The US and British forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan for good (officially, by the end of 2014), and my time in the country over the last six years has convinced me that our legacy will be the exact opposite of what Allen posits—not a stable Afghanistan, but one at war with itself yet again. Here are a few encapsulated snapshots of what I’ve seen and what we’re leaving behind.
Those “encapsulated snapshots” certainly do not tell the entire story, but it is enlightening for certain.