Leadership: August 22, 2002


In June, the U.S. forces in Afghanistan were put under the command of the "Joint Task Force Afghanistan" (JTFA). The troops to man the new headquarters were drawn from the 18th Airborne Corps back in the United States. There were, and still are, only about 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and many of them are basically operating in a combat zone (getting shot at regularly.) The JTFA set up its headquarters at Bagram air base, outside of Kabul. The new commander, formerly head of the 18th Airborne Corps, proceeded to bring some stateside soldiering customs to the wilds of Afghanistan. The new commander insisted that soldiers begin saluting superior officers, something that was usually not done in a combat zone (as it lets snipers know who the officers are.) MPs (Military Police) were ordered to enforce regulations strictly. Not just saluting, but also wearing the proper uniform and ensuring that all passengers in vehicles had their seat belts on (something not always done in a combat zone, so the troops can move more quickly if they are fired on.) The troops were not amused. Some Special Forces soldiers  stationed at Bagram promptly put up a sign outside their area that said, "This Is a No Saluting Zone." The general ordered the sign removed. The general also had a high tech command post put together so that he could, if possible, micromanage field operations via videocam broadcasts from the battlefield. The general also paid attention to the sensibilities of local Afghans by ordering the MPs to make sure American troops did not drink any alcoholic beverages (which the local Afghans, and other foreign troops, enjoy, despite the complaints of hard line Moslems.) Rumor has it that smoking may be forbidden as well, because of the health hazards. All of this stuff is called "mickey mouse" by the troops and it appears that, as far as our troops in Afghanistan are concerned, the rodent has landed. 


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