My Last Tour: Election Limbo

SMSgt. Temple entertaining orphanage kids
SMSgt. Temple entertaining orphanage kids
TAMPA (2009-10-06) -

Almost two months have passed and the ballot re-count is still under way in Afghanistan. The delay in election results and the dismissal of a top UN official overseeing the process have Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple concerned.

The Tampa airman is on a year-long deployment in Afghanistan and checking in about once a week with WUSF.

It's almost as if someone hit the pause button in Afghanistan and then forgot that everything is on hold. That's what the past few weeks have felt like for Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple.

"It just seems like everything in these past several weeks is in limbo and its all focused on that recount," Temple said. "I was really shocked that the UN relieved the US envoy and sent him back he seemed to be very outspoken about the amount of fraud."

Temple is referring to the dismissal of former US diplomat Peter Galbraith, a UN official who voiced concern about Afghan election fraud. He was recently fired by the UN. And while everyone waits for results, Temple says one group is moving ahead.

"Every day that goes by the Taliban is expanding their power," Temple said. "They're setting up shadow governments. They're collecting taxes. They have their own justice system. And they rule by fear. Even though they're not on the surface they are still controlling these towns and cities."

He says those Taliban shadow governments seem to be spreading throughout the provinces and can be found everywhere except for the large cities. And that reality could have a direct impact on his mission and troop safety.

"You really have to proceed with caution because you're doing the same thing. You're having key leader engagements to let them know what your intentions are and when receive approval of the tribal elders that you can go into those villages or into those schools and hope that you're not being set up for an ambush."

Right now, many of Temple's missions also are in limbo. When he was moved to a new base, only half his team came with him and that makes it difficult to plan missions because they don't have enough people. But, he did meet the Afghan National Army Sergeant Major he'll mentor over the next several months.

"What little bit I do know he was a colonel in the former army under the Soviet Union and he was demoted to sergeant major because he refused to pay the corruption money to keep his rank," Temple said.

Temple suspects the last ANA sergeant major he mentored took money from a camp project. Yet that experience has not hardened Temple.

"I have to evaluate person for who they are and for him to tell me that he was a former colonel and refused to pay for that rank kind of speaks volumes," Temple said. He added that it doesn't look like serving under the Soviets is being held against his new sergeant major. Temple said the Afghans view that time as a civil war when everyone had to make hard choices.

To read Temple's blog "Afghanistan My Last Tour" click here.

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