Gun Running, Drugs and Flamenco: US Army Human Terrain System Has It All

See also:  Nature: Shut Down Army’s Human Terrain Program

A member of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command management team in Afghanistan, according to sources, is a “gun runner.” That individual is allegedly listed in an “Federal Bureau of Investigation database” and has “ties to Ahmad Wali Khan Karzai and the drug business.”

Another Human Terrain System leader has apparently been accused by “local nationals…of being a pedophile—touching young Afghan children while out in the field and making disturbing comments about them.” Members of a US Army Stryker group in Afghanistan have made the same comments.

These comments appear outrageous but, then again, this is the US Army Human Terrain System. It’s a head-shaker that the US Army (TRADOC) and Lieutenant General William James Lennox Jr. heap praise upon it even as the US Congress, House Armed Services Committee, has said the program needs a good scrub, as reported by the authorities on HTS at Wired the Washington Independent.

HASC is to be applauded for this action. And it could not come at a better time.

In Other News

One team leader resigned recently “due to his team turning on him.” Some members of Human Terrain Teams (HTT’s) have reportedly taken to wearing side arms on each leg. Another HTT leader was “dismissed due to incompetence.” In one instance, an HTT member disrupted “a night patrol she should not have been on.” That person quit the HTS program and ended up with a position at USAID.

Observers say that Dr. Montgomery McFate and Dr. Marilyn Mitchell are overseeing the development of anthropology training within the program. According to many, these are the “two most unqualified people” to manage the training. “This choice assures future failure and possible casualties/fatalities,” they said. Management, recruitment and training continue to be the weak links in the program.

Others argue that McFate and Mitchell are qualified PhDs and are up to the task. Observer’s counter that McFate and Mitchell (earns $1,200 USD a day) have no substantive field work or military experience. Those weaknesses can lead to gaps in training and, perhaps, deadly outcomes in a combat zone. Such has been the experience of HTS to date.

Speaking of qualifications one of the social scientists hired by HTS and deployed to Afghanistan, and now the butt of Wired’s Caption Contest, received her PhD at the age of 25.

“Anna Maria completed her doctoral dissertation at the University of Notre Dame. Her Ph.D. was awarded in Theology with an emphasis in Latino Studies. The topic of her dissertation, however, reflected a lifetime of interdisciplinary study. Anna Maria carefully researched the early roots of today’s Spanish flamenco as they are preserved in the liturgical tradition of the New Mexican Penitentes–a society whose worship presents a time-capsule of medieval Spanish spirituality. Her research yielded surprising revelations about a historically unique time and place where Islam, Judaism and Christianity flourished in community. Her work speaks both of the tragedy of the destruction of this delicately beautiful balance and the triumph of its continued survival in the arts. Surprisingly enough, Anna Maria’s interest in her culture’s ancient roots revealed a message of cooperation of terribly timely relevance to today’s troubled world.”

John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security matters. Reach him at


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