Battleland

Solar Systemic Failure

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Marine Photo / Lance Cpl Shawn P. Coover

A freshly-sprouted solar-powered street light in Marjah, Afghanistan.

It was just over a year ago that a senior U.S. military officer in Afghanistan was raving about the solar-powered streetlights popping up in Kabul:

There is no reliable electric grid here in this city of 5 million people, and so we looked at putting in solar street lights as a way to provide safety, security, improve commerce in an otherwise dark city at night…These lights are working great.

Battleland recalled that while reading Dexter Filkins’ piece in the latest New Yorker on what to expect once the U.S. military leaves the country. He tagged along with U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Curtis Taylor on a visit to an Afghan town, whose bazaar was once illuminated by such lights:

…he looked up, at the solar-powered street lights that lined the road through the bazaar, another woebegone American project. Each light had been stripped of its solar panel, its fixtures, its wires. In some of the panels, birds were building nests. “You have to really admire the people who built those,” Taylor said, shaking his head, and then he climbed into his troop carrier and drove away.

11 comments
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Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

I'll go with bobdebarb. If one has never been poor and desperate  then it's difficult to  imagine what it's like, and then it's easy to talk down to those who are.

Thomas Kolakowski
Thomas Kolakowski

If they looked around the village they probably would have found that some people now had electricity in their homes thanks to the solar panels they liberated from the poles. Kind of strange when you think about it... we give them street lights, but they have no electricity for their homes.

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

It's all a waste of money, something the Pentagon excels at. You can't convert people living in a seventeenth century largely illiterate country to be Just Like Us.

Take  FOB Sharana. The $89 million U.S.-funded forward operating base, called Super FOB, is being built to house the Afghan army brigade that patrols Paktika province, along the contentious Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The generators often break because the Afghan operators haven't learned to turn them on properly and keep overloading them, said engineers of the 172nd brigade. The engineers figured they have replaced at least 25 generators given to the Afghan forces at a cost of $400,000 each.

"We've taught them the steps to turn it on, but it hasn't stuck, and the generators, air conditioners, all of that will break," said Capt. Mike Merseburg. "The answer for them has always been,˜'Well, give me a new one,' " said another engineer, Capt. Adrian Sanchez. "But what's the point if they can't sustain it?"

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

 It's all a waste of money, something the Pentagon excels at. You can't convert people living in a seventeenth century largely illiterate country to be Just Like Us.

For just one example, the U.S. has funded dozens of bases for Afghan army units. The bill has come to $6.7 billion in projects completed, under way or planned since fiscal 2005. One of them is FOB Sharana. The $89 million U.S.-funded forward operating base, called Super FOB, is being built to house the Afghan army brigade that patrols Paktika province, along the contentious Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The generators often break because the Afghan operators haven't learned to turn them on properly and keep overloading them, said engineers of the 172nd brigade. The engineers figured they have replaced at least 25 generators given to the Afghan forces at a cost of $400,000 each.

"We've taught them the steps to turn it on, but it hasn't stuck, and the generators, air conditioners, all of that will break," said Capt. Mike Merseburg. "The answer for them has always been,˜'Well, give me a new one,' " said another engineer, Capt. Adrian Sanchez. "But what's the point if they can't sustain it?"

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

It's all a waste of money, something the Pentagon excels at. You can't convert people living in a seventeenth century largely illiterate country to be Just Like Us.

For just one example, the U.S. has funded dozens of bases for Afghan army units. The bill has come to $6.7 billion in projects completed, under way or planned since fiscal 2005. One of them is FOB Sharana. The $89 million U.S.-funded forward operating base, called Super FOB, is being built to house the Afghan army brigade that patrols Paktika province, along the contentious Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The generators often break because the Afghan operators haven't learned to turn them on properly and keep overloading them, said engineers of the 172nd brigade. The engineers figured they have replaced at least 25 generators given to the Afghan forces at a cost of $400,000 each.

"We've taught them the steps to turn it on, but it hasn't stuck, and the generators, air conditioners, all of that will break," said Capt. Mike Merseburg. "The answer for them has always been,˜'Well, give me a new one,' " said another engineer, Capt. Adrian Sanchez. "But what's the point if they can't sustain it?"

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

It's all a waste of money, something the Pentagon excels at. You can't convert people living in a seventeenth century largely illiterate country to be Just Like Us.

For just one example, the U.S. has funded dozens of bases for Afghan army units. The bill has come to $6.7 billion in projects completed, under way or planned since fiscal 2005. One of them is FOB Sharana. The $89 million U.S.-funded forward operating base, called Super FOB, is being built to house the Afghan army brigade that patrols Paktika province, along the contentious Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

At FOB Sharana the generators often break because the Afghan operators haven't learned to turn them on properly and keep overloading them, said engineers of the 172nd brigade. The engineers figured they have replaced at least 25 generators given to the Afghan forces at a cost of $400,000 each.

"We've taught them the steps to turn it on, but it hasn't stuck, and the generators, air conditioners, all of that will break," said Capt. Mike Merseburg. "The answer for them has always been,˜'Well, give me a new one,' " said another engineer, Capt. Adrian Sanchez. "But what's the point if they can't sustain it?"

http://online.wsj.com/article/...

HotelQuebec
HotelQuebec

Misleading title.  It should be failure of humanity and petty thievery doing harm to their own community.

C1ydeFrog
C1ydeFrog

Similar things happen everywhere.

If people do not have a vested interest in their community  then the only thing they care about is whats in it for them.

So they steal anything they can make money off of before someone else does it first.

Then they wait for more handouts. just to do it again.

Similar actions have happened in the US due to the housing bust.

Many of the homes where vandalized by the former occupants or by people in the area.

(Many of these people never had a vested interest in the communities, due to their interest in only flipping the home for a profit)

As prices for copper, aluminum and other metals rose air conditioners have been stolen from homes, churches and schools.

Scum is every where not just Afghanistan, and if the people in an area do not have an interest in preserving the community then no progress can be made.

If the mindset does not change it is just a waste of time, money and effort.

The people will complain the government does nothing for them, then when given what they wanted and did not earn, they will destroy it and ask for more.

Make them earn it and work for it if you want them to protect it.

Guest
Guest

Yes, things don't work too well when they are ripped off. I remember in Iraq when the schools we built were stripped bare: everything from the tables and chairs to the fixtures in the bathroom. And then the Iraqis would come back to us to demand even more expensive replacements. The only way those solar panels will survive is if the ANPs have a man posted by each with a "shoot to kill" order for anyone tampering with them. What the Americans can't seem to learn is that when people are desperate, they do not care about the greater good. They care about being able to put food on the table for their family. As one colonel put it, "These people have a 24 hour event horizon."

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