Greetings class,
I’d like to introduce myself as the forward deployed member of our class.  I am writing from a forward operating base (FOB) in Eastern Afghanistan and am here on a yearlong tour that began in January of this year.  If you are wondering how a Northwestern student ended up in Afghanistan, well that is a good question. I began my studies as a Northwestern Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences undergrad in 2001.  Suffering from a lack of direction (poor grades) and undecided career path, I enlisted in the Army in 2004.  The decision to enlist was in part due to pursuing a childhood dream of serving the the military and also because I realized that both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts did not have an end in sight.  I saw that those two conflicts would define my generation, as Vietnam and World War II defined the previous generations.  After spending a year deployed to Iraq, I found myself back in the civilian world employed as a police officer.  I then decided to continue my education in the School of Continuing Studies, looking to complete the undergraduate degree that I had began years earlier.  However, I was called to serve again, this time in Afghanistan, and now here we are.
I joined this class primarily for two reasons.  First, I wanted to learn more about the intervention in Afghanistan to get a better understanding and appreciation of everything that is going on around me.  Second, I wanted to share my experiences with the class.  In Iraq, I had the opportunity to witness the successes of the surge and counterinsurgency campaign first hand, as I was assigned to the headquarters staff of Multi-National Force-Iraq.  Here I find myself in a different role, but I still would like to share the experiences of a soldier in a combat zone.  Life of a deployed soldier is hard to put in words, as they say, “you have to be there” to truly understand the life of a soldier.  The views and opinions I will share are my own, not that of the Army or military.  Feel free to comment or asks questions and I will try to reply as quickly as possible.  I look forward to working with you all!

About Afghanopoly

I am an Assistant Professor of peace and conflict studies at Radboud University's Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management (CICAM). I completed my PhD in Political Science at Northwestern University and Sciences Po under the supervision of Will Reno and Bertrand Badie. Among other things, I teach students about the politics of international intervention in Afghanistan and elsewhere. My research focuses on the political strategies that Afghan strongmen use to consolidate and legitimize their authority. I am particularly interested in how these actors manage to conduct their own forms of international relations. My field research brings me in contact with Afghan community leaders, politicians, diplomats and foreign military officers.
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13 Responses to Greetings!

  1. patriotpaul says:


    I just wanted to let you know that there are a few of us in this class that have shared the experience you are now going through. While I am sure you will be busy in your day to day work, I wish to let you know that I am very much looking forward to hearing from you about the current events on the ground. To be sure, the information that is disseminated in the general public is insufficient for the purposes of gaining the depth of understanding that comes with being there day in and day out. So it is an advantage for us in the class to have you among us. Thanks for remaining committed to both your duties as a Soldier and scholar. And know that when you return, there will be a new group of friends here to welcome you back.



  2. Matt says:

    An MP? Sigh…

    Just kidding. Welcome to the class. It’s a good group, with enough varying perspective to produce some good discussions. I’ll try to contribute more frequently to the blog and I believe others will start kicking in as well. Stay safe.


  3. rexrigby says:

    Hi, I want you to know how awesome it feels to connect to a United States soldier in Afghanistan. Also, please know how much I appreciate your service. It is such a brave and exciting thing to do and the adventure sounds very intriguing. Although, i do not think I would have the nerve to do what you are doing myself. My question is about the Afghan people. I have heard and read about how extremely generous and hospitable the “regular” people are there. Also, we tend to only hear about the bad stuff that goes on, and I am sure there are some good stories. I do worry about the innocent lives involved in conflicts and cannot imagine how they cope. Thank you for joining our class and please stay safe. I am very pleased to meet you.


  4. Rena says:

    Hey! Like everyone else, I thank you for service, and I really hope you’re well. I’m interested in your thoughts on the President’s announcement regarding the end of the Iraq War. As someone who was actually there, do you think our exit is overdue or premature? Rena

  5. poliscimajor says:

    Let me begin by saying thank you for all that you have done each and every day while serving this country. While you and a couple of my classmates have served us proudly in your role(s) in the military, your commitment and service is truly appreciated. Over the years, we have all heard about the war in Afghanistan through the media and other sources. However, it is amazing to have someone who is currently serving in your capacity to keep us informed of the ongoing efforts to stabilize the situation there in Afghanistan. I am sure that each and every one of my classmates are looking forward to hearing from you regarding. Please stay safe.

    • ethannu says:

      I don’t really understand why Karzai would say that? I mean, what power does Pakistan have over Afghanistan besides sharing a border? If Karzai said they would stand by the U.S. in that sort of situation then they would have the backing of the U.S. if Pakistan tried making any moves on them. Further like Matt said, later in the article it says that the people are not very trusting of Pakistan. How does Karzai benefit from this?


  6. Matt says:

    I saw that article as well. Hopefully we can discuss it tonight, as it indicates an interesting shift for Karzai, as well as some deep fissures within his own government (note the governor towards the end of the article declaring that he’ll “never forget” that Pakistan allowed the tribal safe havens to continue operating as insurgent camps.

  7. bjorkified says:

    I’m also very excited for your unique perspective on what goes on day to day on the ground in Afghanistan. Unlike some others in our class, I had very little knowledge of the region (politically, geographically, demographically) prior to the last 6 weeks of the course. I’m eager to hear from this side of the printed forum. I expect we’ll have more and more to contribute as the class draws near its end and hopefully you’ll have the opportunity to respond here and there.
    Thank you!

  8. Hi WildcatMP 🙂

    Apparently the welcoming committee has already arrived, but I suppose it’s better late than never! Just wanted to welcome you to the group and let you know I’m very interested in hearing how things are over there on the ground in Afghanistan. I know how the media tends to twist perception of everything, so it would be nice to hear what things are really like from a first hand perspective.

    Other than that – I’ll chime in with everyone else and let you know how much I appreciate your service to our country and hope that you stay safe 🙂


  9. El Diablo says:

    While I don’t know you, I can say for sure that you add a dynamic to this class that makes it very unique. With that being said I hope you have an uneventful time that. Have a safe trip, I we will keep you in our prayers.

  10. ethannu says:

    Hi there! welcome!

    It’s awesome to have you in the class; like everyone’s already said, comparing your prespective from the ground and our back home will make a great discussion. I’ll look for your coments on the blog!


  11. WilcatMP says:

    My thoughts on Iraq: I think that we should definitely leave some troops in Iraq, but a key issue was that the government of Iraq would be able to try soldiers in their judicial system. Knowing that, I don’t disagree with the decision to pull all troops out by the end of the year. Iraq has a long way to go and would benefit from US support. Their Air Force is a handful of Vietnam-era Huey helicopters (just like in any Vietnam movie) and a few cargo planes. They would benefit for US advisors to train them to use all the equipment we just gave away. Speaking of that the US had over 100 bases in Iraq and now they will have none. Some of these bases were mega-cities and airfields which we just abandoned. Everything that cost too much to send back to the US was basically handed over to the Iraqis, to include up-armored vehicles. The Iraqis also could use the assistance of US Special Operations Forces. These brave men and women are the best at what they do and are operating in over 50 countries around the world currently, I believe. Finally, I don’t believe that when the last American leaves Iraq that the violence will end there.

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