Lessons (Not) Learnt in Afghanistan

The Remnants of an Army, by Elizabeth Butler (1879 )

The Remnants of an Army, by Elizabeth Butler (1879 ). This photograph depicts the lone survivor of the massacre (and capture/desertion) of 16.000 British Empire troops and civilians as they fled from Kabul in the winter of 1842. What have we learnt since then?

I am posting the pdfs of my visual presentations for the course ‘Lessons (Not) Learnt in Afghanistan’, given at the Paris School of International Affairs in Feb-March 2015, here. My presentations serve as visual aid and to recap the main points about a given subject; so these documents do not contain all the course material and may be, at times, even confusing out of the class context. So handle with care! Continue reading

Making Environments Hostile

A few days ago I got my certificate for Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) from the Carabinieri in Livorno. The Carabinieri are the Italian counterpart of the Gendarmerie, or Guardia Civil – the police force that depends from the Ministry of Defense. The training was given by the First Paratrooper Regiment (“Tuscania”), who engage in difficult operations abroad, like protecting VIPs in enemy territory or liberating hostages. They are strong, self-confident, good-looking and easy-going Italians, the real stuff, machos beyond posturing. Continue reading

Security through integration, not isolation

La Taverna du Liban Kabul

Afghan security in front of bombed restaurant in Kabul. Photo by Johannes Eisele for AFP/Getty Images

The news of the bombing of La Taverna du Liban, a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, reached me while I was following a pre-deployment course for a EU mission in Libya. I think I knew Kamal, the owner of the restaurant, who died in the assault; if it was the same man who set up the restaurant somewhere in 2004-5 (and it seems so from this personal account), he was a hearty, generous man and I regret his death, especially for his children. Continue reading