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Tim Lynch is a retired Marine who has lived and worked in Afghanistan for the past five years. He is currently based in Jalalabad, where he works as an independent consultant, helping with reconstruction and development projects. Tim runs a blog, Free Range International, about Afghanistan and he will be contributing to Regarding War as one of our guest bloggers. As means of an introduction, we asked Tim a handful of questions about his background, military service and writing.
Where are you from?
I was born in Honolulu but call Annapolis, MD my hometown.
Can you give a summary of your military career and the places it took you?
I enlisted in the Navy in 1978 basically because I had no other attractive options available to me. I signed up for six years in order to get a guaranteed advanced technical school, which for me was Laboratory Technician (Advanced). That was a 56-week long, difficult course during which I learned, among other things, that I hate working in medical laboratories. I spent my Navy years in Bethesda, MD and Newport, RI, with a short deployment to Beirut, Lebanon after the bombing of the Marine Barracks in 1983. It was during that deployment I set my sights on joining the Marines as an officer. My Dad was a career Marine officer who retired as a Major General, but it wasn't until I saw Marines in an operational setting that I appreciated how cool it would be to be one of them. I attended Roger Williams University while on active duty and only had a semester to go by the time my enlistment expired. I finished college and was in Marine Office Candidate School six months after I left the Navy. I was an infantry officer and loved being a Marine. I deployed exclusively to the Pacific during my active duty service doing two WESTPAC MEU (SOC) — Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable — deployments while stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA and a six month pump to Okinawa from Camp Lejeune, NC. I retired in 2000 because I never thought we would be in a shooting war within my lifetime.
What are you doing now in Afghanistan?
I came here in 2005 from Iraq because the company I worked for at the time had been given a bridge contract for the guard force at the U.S. Embassy, and I was selected to be the project manager. During my time at the embassy in Kabul I learned exactly how not to operate in an unstable environment. I left the embassy to start my own company with some partners, and we had a good three-year run. We could not afford the Afghan Private Security Contractor certification process without taking on an Afghan partner who would essentially own us lock, stock and barrel. We sold our company rather then continue as a false flag Afghan operation. I have been consulting for USAID-implementing partners for the past year, which is what I currently do in country now.
Why did you start your Free Range International blog?
The blog came out of a growing sense of frustration with our efforts in Afghanistan. During the years I had my own company, we did a lot of work for the government of Japan and its efforts were 100 times more effective than ours because its people were living in the communities that they were helping and, thus, were able to provided daily, detailed supervision. I learned that moving around the country was easy with the most minimal of security efforts and that in most of Afghanistan, we were wildly popular. The people here love us and want the redevelopment projects we are trying to implement, but our efforts are slowed by a rigid, unnecessary, security bubble that retards everything. The blog has become my contribution to the debate. I have the distinct advantage of currently doing everything I argue our military and civilian agencies should do.
How long do you expect to stay in Afghanistan?
I have three kids in college; I'm not leaving anytime soon.
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