It’s the Super Bowl this week, which means that if you’re really an American, you watched the Baltimore Stallions of the CFL take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL’s gross attempt to bring legitimacy to Canadian football. I kid, of course: it’s the Baltimore Colts…wait…no. Ravens. Right. And apparently there was some brotherly competition, and a gross amount of money being shelled out to stem world hunger and abolish poverty.
Or to allow Americans worldwide to overindulge in a series of foods that are inherently designed to kill them.
In honor of that, then, here’s the 5 things I learned and their connection to New Orleans and the Super Bowl.
1. Just like Super Bowl advertisers, the SIGAR’s trying to find the money
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has something in common with Super Bowl advertisers: he’s hoping the money was worth it. The office of the SIGAR has the thankless job of determining whether or not the billions of dollars pumped into Afghanistan have actually been put to good use.
Spoiler alert: he’s going to be looking for a while.
Too much money has gone (out) too quickly in too many places without the management side looking closely and considering the environment they’re working in. We’re not contracting in Kansas, so we should be designing programs with that in mind. I hate to pick on the Afghan government, but it has been identified by other people as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
Here’s where that statement is a bit hypocritical, but still honest: the US owns much of that. While corruption will occur no matter whether the US was here or not, the fact remains that the first part of his statement is largely responsible. US dollars spent with little oversight left room for corruption at so many levels that we have to take quite a bit of the blame for ourselves.
“A lot of these cases came to light deep into the reconstruction experience, which by then had been recognized to have fallen short of its goals.”
That’s from the office of the SIGIR, the OTHER body charged with tracking down reconstruction dollars. It seems like the only thing the US has learned from its mistakes both here and in Iraq was how to make bigger mistakes.
2. New Orleans will likely see a spike in crime, which, sadly, is also true in Herat
While it’s not true that Super Bowl Sunday is the worst day for domestic violence in the US, it is true that the influx of people into New Orleans will definitely have an impact on the city’s crime rate over the weekend. Though, hopefully, nothing like this happens:
The son of a Herat businessman has been killed by his captors 35 days after he was kidnapped and held for ransom, local officials said Thursday.
The father of the boy said the kidnappers had initially asked him to pay US$400,000 for his son’s release. This was negotiated down to US$90,000, which he paid, but the boy was still killed and buried – probably in order to protect their identities, the father told TOLOnews.
Kidnapping is a big enough industry in Afghanistan that this is a bit of an anomaly: fact is, killing who you kidnapped is just bad for future business. They did detain eight people in connection with the crime, and it’s premature to point to events like these as being signs of coming instability. With the Americans and their dollars here, kidnapping pays better than it used to, and it’s likely that these kinds of events will actually decline as the drawdown continues.
3. In a national version of “I was holding it for a friend,” the Afghan government denies the drug charges against Kam Air.
It’s happened before, it’ll happen again: some well-meaning officer of the law’s going to bust some kid on Bourbon Street for pot. Like that kid, the Afghan government is protesting US charges that Kam Air, Afghanistan’s largest private airline, was responsible for smuggling heroin out of the country. Mainly ‘cuz that’s Karzai’s ride:
One part of the dispute is a practical problem: Mr. Karzai often charters Kam Air for foreign trips, and planned to do so in the next few days for a flight to Europe, Mr. Faizi said. If the airline has been publicly listed for drug smuggling, Western officials noted, other countries’ air traffic controllers and aviation regulators will not want Kam Air planes landing on their runways.
So if Afghanistan’s largest private airline, used by President Karzai, is smuggling drugs, that probably doesn’t bode well for future US relations. If one is going to be transparent, one may want to start with one’s drug operations.
4. Voter registration cards in Afghanistan are going to be as tough to get as tickets to the Super Bowl.
It’s a fact of American sports that Super Bowl tickets are a) expensive and b) hard to get. Kind of like the electronic registration cards Afghans are supposed to use in the 2014 presidential election.
It is not expected that all the cards will be distributed in time for the presidential election in April 2014, mainly because of challenges in reaching the remote areas of Afghanistan.
So the one device we’ve come up with to fight vote fraud in Afghanistan won’t be available to all Afghans. That’s a downer when it’s the super bowl. It’s a disaster when it’s a presidential election.
5. Like football players, the Afghan Army does not need to know how to read, apparently.
The Afghan Ministry of Interior (MOI) Thursday dismissed the remarks of a US official that rampant illiteracy among the ranks of the Afghan army was proving a “huge challenge” to training, saying it will not undermine the strategy ahead.
“Illiteracy cannot put obstacles in the way of the withdrawal and transition process,” MOI spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said.
Also? Mortars are going to be able to replace those Apaches. At least according to US Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
“Mortars will help Afghan troops to do their own indirect fires as the US scales back air support, he said, adding that Afghans were familiar with the weapon from the Soviet period.
This is the same army that’s getting its collective ass handed to it by the insurgency. And that’s with the US here. But I’m sure the mortars will work just fine.
Until next time, you stay on that sunny side!