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Pashto Language Ability

A colleague points me to this reporting from Gareth Porter back in April:

But according to an official at the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources, the United States has turned out a total of only 18 Foreign Service officers who can speak Pashto, and only two of them are now serving in Afghanistan — both apparently in Kabul.

The Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California trains roughly 30 to 40 military personnel in Pashto each year, according to media relations officer Brian Lamar, most of whom are enlisted men in military intelligence.

I don’t think this necessarily needs to hobble our ability to achieve anything useful in Afghanistan. But I do think it illustrates that manipulating Afghan politics is not likely to be America’s strong suit. Foreign politicians usually understand how to manipulate US domestic politics much better than our leaders understand how to manipulate their domestic politics. We have a lot of strengths as a nation, but that sort of thing is not one of them.

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