LETTERS FROM AFGHANISTAN - Feuds, disputes cast pall over outlook for future

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Imagine your neighbor decides to build a road right through your property; he doesn't ask you if he can do it and he doesn't even give you the courtesy to tell you what he is doing before he does it.

Then, imagine the guy builds a wall between his house and your house that blocks you from being able to pull your car into your garage.

Maj. Rahmdil approached me with a sworn statement by an American soldier up in Konar province the other day. He asked me to read it aloud to him while one of my interpreters translated it. The statement included how a 17-year-old kid had been shot in the leg and how two Afghan National Army officers accused a man of having a weapons cache next to their house.

As the story unfolded, the ANA officers were the ones whose land had been stolen so that a neighbor, who happened to be an Afghan National Police colonel, could build a road leading to his house then subsequently build a wall that blocked the driveway of one of the ANA officers.

In the mix of a heated fight between the two families, the brother of the police colonel shot the son of one of the Army officers in the leg. The Army officers, not being too happy with the police colonel, reported to coalition forces that the police colonel had a cache of weapons being stored in his house -- the platoon leader in charge of the coalition forces at the scene calmed down the situation and gathered sworn statements from all the parties involved.

Finally, the ANA officers made their way to the Jalalabad Garrison to get help from the 2nd ANA Brigade after the son had been shot. Rahmdil launched an investigation into the matter to help resolve what could be the beginning of an everlasting family feud.

While one family feud was exposed to the ANA Brigade earlier in the week, another was exposed later in the week. Just as Helen of Troy was the face that launched a thousand ships, so is the wife of an ANA officer from Herat Province.

Rahmdil has spent most of the last few days out looking for an NCO who belongs to the brigade staff. Apparently, the NCO ran off with the wife of an ANA officer from Herat. Rahmdil informed me that she is a very beautiful woman and I was immediately reminded of the Iliad and all of the subsequent trials and tribulations that followed.

In the wake of a family feud earlier in the week, I only see this one turning very sour once the NCO is found. This time, the ANA is involved and there will certainly be severe consequences for the soldier.

About 10 soldiers from the Mongolian Army have been here for the past couple of weeks. I was not too sure what to expect out of the Mongolians, but they turned out to be very professional and provided excellent training for the ANA artillery batteries.

They concluded their training at the end of the week and awarded roughly 20 ANA soldiers certificates signifying their proficiency in field artillery. The Mongolian commander at the ceremony gave a speech at the conclusion; I could not help but wonder what he actually said as there tends to be a lot lost in translation.

He spoke in Mongolian, but the translator available for the Mongolians only spoke from Russian to Dari. Therefore, one of the Mongolian soldiers translated into Russian so that the next translator could translate into Dari.

Of course, I don't know Dari, so my translator then translated into English. I realized that around here can be a lot like the game you play when you are a kid -- sit in a circle, say something to the person to your right and then see what the person on your left says to you once it goes all the way around the circle.

I wondered how many words and how much meaning was lost through so many languages as the words went from Mongolian to Russian to Dari to English.

Life continues here on the Jalalabad Garrison and I suppose feuds are just a part of the everyday life of the Afghan people. From the land dispute in Shinwar several weeks ago to these two recent family feuds, I find the continuum of issues rather disheartening.

Quite often these inconveniences that are a part of life are consumed by government organizations to such a degree that they distract from the operations that are important to rid this country of the insurgency. The disputes and feuds are one of the many problems inhibiting progress and development.

First Lt. Andrew Plucker is deployed to Afghanistan. He is not an Army spokesman, and his updates from the field are written from his personal perspective as a soldier.

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