"The Strangest of Places" offers an unvarnished look at the U.S. Military's folly and failed effort to build Afghan institutions in the U.S. image. It dives into the complexities and ineptitudes that have transpired during the war in Afghanistan, and the misleading messaging to the American People. The book explores the fundamental problems with understanding the complex Afghan culture and the danger of ignoring the lessons of history, including Winston Churchill's writings on the topic over a hundred years ago. Author Gerald (Jerry) Carozza wrote this book between 2011 and 2012, shortly after completing his one-year tour as the Senior Legal Advisor to the Afghan Ministry of Defense and Army. Shortly after, he testified before Congress about the scandalous events he witnessed. Consistent with his message to Congress, it calls out the dire consequences to our Nation if the approach to Afghanistan were allowed to continue and the damage to the military's reputation that took years to rebuild since the Vietnam war. Jerry also gives insight into the culture of U.S. military and civilian personnel who served their nation that was fighting two wars at the same time for almost two decades.
I picked up Jerry’s book one morning and stayed with it until I finished it that day - it really nailed the entire Afghanistan experience, especially NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan (NTM-A). As the follow-on commander of NTM-A after Jerry left in 2011, I know so many in it, and he captured the atmosphere of Afghanistan as well as any account I've read. (And I've read plenty.) It's not a happy narrative, but it's a valid one, and it got me thinking and angry at the same time. Jerry and I never served together, but I wish we had. I commanded NTM-A a lot differently than my predecessor. But in the end, it was still mission impossible, for all the reasons Jerry explains so well. I love the Afghans but we have not helped them as much as we thought, which has become painfully evident in August of 2021.
[A]rticles by the WSJ and Buzzfeed as well as the subsequent congressional investigation have uncovered wrongdoing on the part of senior U.S. military officials as well as a chain of corruption that runs to the very top of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Ministry of Defense (MoD). The scandal is proof that the Afghan War has failed and should be ended immediately. . .
The most poignant testimony on this subject during the Congressional investigation came from retired U.S. Army Colonel, Gerald N. Carozza, who was the senior legal advisor for the ANA and the MoD. Col. Carozza speaks at length about the allegations against Yaftali and Amiri and provides this assessment of the Afghan leadership as a whole:
"They are not leaders in the sense that we think of officers. They steal their soldiers’ pay, medicine, food, fuel, bullets and blankets and sell them on the black market – even to the Taliban who might shoot their undersupplied subordinates. They use U.S. taxpayer supplied vehicles and aircraft to further their own business interests over the well being of their armed forces or nation. The ANA soldiers in turn go AWOL at official rates close to 30% with Afghans having told me the rate was 40% in early 2011. The same generals told me of those who do serve, 70 to 80 percent are stoned on hash."