For Afghan troops, donkeys are the new helicopters

Washington Post, By Kevin Sieff

PECH VALLEY, Afghanistan — Before U.S. forces arrived here in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, the instruments of war were rudimentary things: mud-brick outposts and aging Kalashnikovs. The American invasion brought with it a shiny arsenal of 21st-century technology, including advanced helicopters to navigate the treacherous landscape.

But as the U.S. military drawdown continues, the sky is emptying of the foreign aircraft that have kept remote outposts stocked with food, water and weaponry. Afghan troops are being handed the outposts, but not the sleek helicopters that have soared overhead, delivering supplies.

“Donkeys are the Afghan helicopter,” said Col. Abdul Nasseeri, an Afghan battalion commander here in Konar province.

Already, hundreds of donkeys are sustaining the bases that Americans built, fought to defend and, eventually, left. The shift underscores the vast gulf separating U.S. and Afghan forces, and the inevitable technological regression that will occur once American troops leave.

The hopeful take of U.S. officials is that this is the kind of “Afghan sustainable” approach that, though not ideal, will endure even as Western funding tapers off. But Afghan leaders aren’t happy. After a decade of joint operations and exposure to cutting-edge technology, they want their military to look like the American one they have seen up close. U.S. officials say that is impractical and financially un­realistic.

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