Former Navy officer shares his first-hand experience of Afghanistan
Ronald Ratcliff is a self-proclaimed left-leaning liberal. He made this point clear to the Central Baptist Church audience on April 3 before presenting them with a lecture of his take on America’s involvement in Afghanistan.
Ratcliff advised the crowd that for the next hour the lecture would be comprised of his own opinions and personal views and not those of the U.S. government or military.
Ratcliff is a career surface warfare officer who retired in 2003 after 31 active years in the U.S. Navy. He and his wife Brenda reside in Jamestown, the hometown of his wife and where the couple met. Ratcliff is currently a professor of National Security Affairs and teaches at the Naval War College in Newport.
Recently, Ratcliff spent two months on assignment in Afghanistan. Ratcliff’s assessment of U.S. objectives in the region differs greatly from what is being portrayed to the American public, he said. Ratcliff is astounded by what he saw in Afghanistan and what the press presents.
“There are two types of Afghanistan,” he said. “The first is the romantic side. The other is the side where women are mutilated and disfigured by their husbands.”
According to Ratcliff, women live a “hell on Earth” inside Afghanistan. The average lifespan of a female is 44 years old. The media may show an Afghan girl being educated in America, but once she returns to her province, her future is a guaranteed death sentence.
The Afghan populace is still living in the 13th century, he said. It is not modern at all.
“It is a land of tribes,” Ratcliff said. “Afghanistan is a land where no one from one tribe gets along with anyone else from another tribe.”
Ratcliff, a Native American Indian himself, was born in Montana. He understands the reality of disparity among tribal-type communities. The Afghan believe their lives on Earth are uncertain. They will gladly die or blow themselves up in order to seek a perceived better life. The Afghan is intent on killing the American infidel and their children, he said.
Afghanistan is the size of Texas and has a population of 28 million people. “The exact number of inhabitants can only be estimated,” said Ratcliff. “Most of the census people were executed while taking the country’s poll.”
The religion of the country is 90 percent Muslin with 80 percent Sunni, which is the largest branch of Islam. Pashto and Dari are the principal languages. Heroin extruded from poppy plants along the green belt of the Helmand province is the principal commerce.
“All countries, including Afghanistan, are corrupt,” Ratcliff said. He explained that people there are stealing most of the American taxpayer money the United States sends to fund projects in Afghanistan. Ratcliff served as special adviser to the regional commander in southwestern Afghanistan to develop a regional anti-corruption strategy for the Helmand and Nimroz provinces.
To date, the United States has sent over $400 billion to Afghanistan but there is no oversight or penalty for stealing. One person caught, Ratcliff said, had over $52 million in one-dollar bills in his luggage. Once captured and released, the man went back and stole another $52 million of American taxpayer money.
The American theory for triumph in the war in Afghanistan is to win and capture the hearts and minds of the people and show them a better way. The dishonesty and corruption of the Afghan National Police, however, is part of the reason why tribes will rely on the Taliban for their safety rather than the American soldiers, Ratcliff explained.
Part of the American plan in place in Afghanistan is to provide its people with three proven directives: provide security, governance and development. Afghans need to know they will not be beheaded if they go out to worship, shop or are gay. Also, basic services such as water and electricity, as well as judicial services, must be in play. Finally, jobs, self-employment and education are key.
Ratcliff states that he has read and reread every speech President Barack Obama has given. He said that Obama clearly states that no nation building is being done in Afghanistan. That statement, claims Ratcliff, is simply not true. Obama announced that American troops would be removed from Afghanistan in 2014, yet American generals have demanded 60,000 more troops be sent in. Obama sent in 40,000 more troops last year.
According to Ratcliff, the only way change will come about in Afghanistan is when there is a change in the current American administration. Will Afghanistan be different in 2014 than what it is today? asks Ratcliff. Every year since 2001 has seen Afghan territory become more hostile. The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for 10 years with absolutely no increase in safety for American soldiers.
“Some of our soldiers,” insists Ratcliff, “are losing multiple body parts. Quadruple amputees die. The single amputees are the lucky ones. They get to live.”
Afghanistan, in Ratcliff’s opinion, is Vietnam all over again.
The cost to American taxpayers, in Ratcliff’s estimation, is $100 million each year we fight in Afghanistan. Other than opium, asks Ratcliff, what does Afghanistan have to offer? There is no farming, no oil and no minerals.
“It is a waste of American blood and treasure,” he said. Critics will say that if the Americans pull out of Afghanistan the insurgents will increase in numbers. That statement, Ratcliff said, is false.
War is a political act, added Ratcliff, and only a change in leadership will put an end to it.