visitors since 4 oct 2008

Kandahar Rocks

This is a post from March 2010 re-posted now as a reminder of how unstable most of Afghanistan has become in the past five years. There was a Taliban attack outside of the Kandahar Airport that killed over 50 people (Cartman says 61 in his reporting) two days ago. For those of us who spent time at Kandahar it is hard to imagine a two- day siege going down just outside the wire. There are Americans still stationed at that airfield today and one has to wonder just how secure they can be given their reduced numbers. There was a time when internationals who knew what they were doing could operate safely even in kinetic places like Kandahar and this is a story from that time…it didn’t have to end this way.

I’m still on the road trying to make my way back to Jalalabad from a big implementation working group meeting in Lashkar Gah. Step one of the journey back was to hitch a ride to Kandahar where Panjawaii Tim promised to pick me up and take me out to his compound for the night. It is a large, comfortable place which has something I have been looking forward to… cold beers. The plane was late which was annoying – driving around Kandahar at night is risky even for guys like us who know what we’re doing. Although many don’t believe me when I say this we avoid taking unnecessary risks whenever we can. But there’s cold beer and piss up at stake so this trip was obviously mission essential.

We were delayed getting across the Tarnak River bridge by an American convoy – the bridge was blown up a few days back and the convoy was trying to maneuver around it in the river bed. Michael Yon has the story about the loss of that vital bridge here.  It turns out the delay was a good thing because as we cleared the bridge area and headed towards the city the sky in front of us lit up like a flashbulb. “That’s not good,” said Tim as his cell started to ring. The boys back in the safe house reported a large explosion in the vicinity of the Karazi compound about 300 meters west of our destination. Then we saw what looked like a smaller (yet still pretty impressive blast) followed by another very large boom. Then Tim’s cell phone went dead, which was completely uncool. The the night sky just lit up with a few more big bangs and we both shut up – I reached into the back seat for a long gun; the shit I’ll go through for cold beer….I’m retarded.

The boys standing to on the roof of the Team Canada safe house. Of course I did not have my good camera so this shot looks like crap. The four expolsions bracketed this house on three sides and were very close.

The boys standing-to on the roof of the Team Canada safe house. Of course I did not have my good camera so this shot looks like crap. The four explosions bracketed this house on three sides and were very close.   There was still a lot of small arms fire going off when this shot was taken – seemed to us to be coming mostly from the Afghan security forces.

We were entering the city by then and could see an American QRF force racing towards the area where most of the international compounds, Afghan government offices, the Sarposa prison and our safe house are located.  The roads were being cut by Afghan Security Forces (ANSF) and during times like this trying to talk your way through security checkpoints is a bad idea so we switched to plan B. Panjawaii Tim knows Kandahar like I know Jalalabad; he started working his way through side streets that were full of people milling about looking towards the blast clouds. There were lots of broken store windows the closer we got to home; in fact all of them were broken as we worked our way parallel to the main road closer to the area targeted in the attacks. We had to clear only one ANSF checkpoint  – it is always funny to see the police react when Tim and I drive up in local garb with our ISAF (contractor) ID’s and tell them we’re with ISAF and need to get through. They get confused when we start talking Pashto and look at us like we’re ghosts, or Jinn, or just plain crazy.

One of the Team Canada guys is on leave so I was given his kit to use tonight - a poor shot I know - my little pocket camera sucks

One of the Team Canada guys is on leave so I was given his kit to use tonight – don’t know what is going on with me eyes in this picture – my   pocket camera sucks

Here is Panjawaii Tim’s report on the incident:

“The first bomb was at the Al Jadeed market: 10-20 killed, unknown number injured; second was a large bomb at the Sarpoza prison.   20 -30 killed and 100 injured allegedly; third was the bomb near PHQ, unknown number injured/killed; fourth was bomb near Mandigak mosque, unknown number injured killed. First bombs lured the ANP response out of PHQ and then they were hit. US and CDN units seen responding with ANSF assets. No reports of a prison break at this time. We heard Taliban propaganda broadcast over a megaphone in our neighborhood within half hour of attacks. Many ambulances and other vehicles seen transporting casualties to Mirwais (Chinese) Hospital.”

You know what all this means?  It means no sitting on the roof and drinking cold beers with my buddies. It also means that I have to get up in the middle of the night to pull sentry duty. Fucking Taliban; killing civilians for no damn reason, damaging people’s stores and homes for no damn reason, and spoiling what looked to be a good piss up (for no damn reason).   I hate them.

You Can’t Handle the Truth

This morning I was doing something I ought not be doing, reading the news sites (guaranteed to fill my bitter heart with enough anger to subtract a few months from my life span) when I came across an article on the latest failure of female officers to pass the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course. The article was written by Marine 2nd Lt Sage Santangelo who had just failed day one of IOC and despite the quality of her writing, impressive background, and obvious grit her conclusions about why she failed are wrong.  She failed because she’s a girl and girls do not, will not and cannot compete with boys in feats of physical strength and endurance.  Anybody who functions in the reality based world understands this but the military is not an organization that functions in the real world because the people who make the military a career are people of the lie.

Earlier this week CNN covered a new study released from the Army War College which stated, in unequivocal terms, that “US Army officers lie routinely”.  Check this out:

In other words, in the routine performance of their duties as leaders and commanders, U.S. Army officers lie,” reads the study, which was conducted by the War College’s Strategic Studies Institute.

The 33-page report, compiled following interviews with officers across the Army, concluded that the Army’s culture is rife with “dishonesty and deception” at all levels of the institution — from the most junior members to senior Army officials.

It’s not just the Army either; its the entire military. I wrote about this a few years back when I described in detail why our Afghanistan strategy would fail.

The resolute reluctance by the American government to deal with reality in Afghanistan is not the exception to a rule; it is the rule. The rule of the big lie which infuses our military from top to bottom. I remember vividly the first time I experienced it in the military. Former Commandant of the Marine Crops General Krulak was then the Commanding General in Quantico, Virginia where I was an instructor at The Basic School. There was a new class of Lieutenants on deck and the General had come to welcome them on day one of their 6-month course. The first thing he asked was “who here thinks that a female is incapable of doing anything and everything a man can do”? I almost had a heart attack when I saw some of my new Lt’s preparing to state the obvious fact that there is no way the female gender of the species can physically compete with the male gender in any endeavor that requires strength, stamina, or endurance. Fortunately the good General had paused for only a second before concluding with this warning “because if you do I’ll dismiss you from our Corps this very afternoon” (that may not be an exact quote but it’s close).

I tend to turn on Fox news at night for background noise as I fix dinner. For those of you who are not Americans Fox News is a conservative news service that serves a niche market in this country called 3/4 of the American people. There was a time when Fox news would calm me, allow me the comfort of knowing that, despite the unrelenting liberal propaganda of the main stream media, NPR, PBS, Hollywood, ESPN, and even the fucking National Football League, there were still a lot of people in this country who viewed the world with the same set of values and expectations I did.  But I can no longer watch Fox news because they are incapable of realizing our military is incapable of doing the missions they think need to be done. This leave me incapable of watching them because their reporting on the topic is complete BS and I can’t take any more BS even if its Meygn Kelly feeding it to me.

What can or should our military do about ISIS or ISIL or the ICEHOLES which we should be calling them? It could accomplish much if it went about it the right way but it can’t because reality is optional for the Pentagon today.  Sending in “trainers” to train up the “Iraq Army” is an option that has already proven itself to be futile.  The Shia fighters of the Iraq Army are not going to fight for the Sunni’s of Mosul and if they do they’ll be as hard with the Iraq Sunni residents of that city as they will be with the ICEHOLES assuming they are even capable of prevailing.  When we think about the confrontation of ICEHOLES vs the Shia dominated Army of Iraq or Syria the question should be “can’t they both win”? To sort of quote Napoleon; “The City of Mosul is not worth the bones of one Marine Corps M32 Grenadier”.

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The only rational response to the ICEHOLES would be a vigorous program of punitive raids launched from the sea and returning to the sea and ones that are composed of trigger pullers with no lawyers attached. The pentagon will never consider that option: lawfare is now their standard operating procedure and lawfare, by design, defuses responsibility if things go pear shaped in order to protect the careers of Colonels and Generals who (in the old days) would be accountable for the performance of their commands. Protecting the careers of the “vested” in order to get along with all the other parasitic organizations that infect Washington DC is now job number one for the military.  Finding ways to effectively impose our political will on the countries enemies is for losers, the winners in our military get life long lucrative retirement benefits along with 6-figure paychecks from federal contractors upon retirement.

What about the Coptic Christians and Yazidi or Yazeezee or whoever those people are?  Who cares? They are not our problem; they can’t nuke us – Russia is our problem  and also where the true threat is today because they have nuclear weapons and a lot of them too.  Know why they’re a threat?  Because serious military powers do not like to be treated like second rate has beens.  Remember this bit of alternative universe news?  Dominate Obama starring down the beta male Putin?  You think that kind of ridiculous amateur hour bullshit is funny?  It’s not; this is how the lives of millions are forfeited over the personal vanity of so called “leaders” like Barak Obama who built his public reputation on a foundation of flat out lies. Think I’m exaggerating?  Have you read the news recently?  Have you noted that Russian nuclear capable bombers are buzzing the coast of England?  How about this bit of good news; Ukraine crisis: “One miscalculation and Britain faces an existential threat to our whole being“.

Dealing with The ICEHOLES would be (if we had a reality based military) simple.  ICEHOLE is a fourth generation threat but one that must maintain the integrity of the territory it has seized and the myth that its fighters are unbeatable in order to maintain its legitimacy. We could, with a series of long range battalion size raids, demonstrate that they cannot control their lands nor beat their foes. We could then post You Tube videos of us beating them like a drum just to rub it in on the medium that matters today.  Additionaly we could dump metric shit-tons of weapons and explosives on the Kurds, the Shia, the Sunni royal families etc… and let them murder each other to their hearts content.  Who gives a damn?  We have all the oil we need right here in North America and should no longer allow the house of Saud or any of those other scum bags (who have been funding the Jihadis since day one but get a bye for that from DC because they spread tons of money around to “all the right people”) to have any control over our foreign policy.  They are not now and have never been our friends; they created ISIS with their world wide deobandi mosque bullshit and can now reap the rewards from what they sowed.

The Pentagon  should be thinking about how to mitigate the problems we now have with the wounded bear that is mother Russia.  What is more dangerous or unpredictable than a wounded bear? Dismantling NATO, an organization that proved it can’t fight in Afghanistan, would be a good start. Preventing the idiots of Foggy Bottom from interfering in States that border Russia would be another good start. Russia may not be our BFF but there is no reason to make her an enemy either.

Which brings us back to the woman in the infantry nonsense.  It is impossible to introduce woman into the infantry without lowering standards while crushing the morale needed by our warriors to sustain themselves in battle. The Marine Corps is not about the whims Lt Sage Santangelo or any other woman and the fact that they can’t do what they really really want to do as Marines is irrelevant.  The standards would have to be lowered for woman to compete but even though that has yet to happen the damage to the Marine Corps is already done.

When I was a student at IOC and then an instructor at that awesome course there was no endurance challenge that dropped students.  The whole point of IOC back then was to create an environment where the student was hungry and his instructors were mentors, not evaluators.  We told the Lieutenants on day-one that there were no tests, no evaluations and that we were there to teach the men who wanted to learn and if you weren’t down with that to hang out in the back of the class and shut up.  The evaluation phase of their officer training was over, they had already been through almost a year of training at that point – they were no longer student Lieutenants, they were straight up real Lieutenants expected to learn the lessons being taught to them.

And what a course it was too; so popular that when we ran Lieutenants waiting in the Naval Aviation pipeline or those who were waiting to attend their JAG officer school through the course to help fill in the class size (in the early 90’s IOC classes averaged 35 Lieutenants and you wanted 41 or so for a full platoon) we had the problem of future pilots and lawyers wanting to drop their respective contracts to become infantry officers.  Headquarters Marine Corps went bat shit crazy over that; disrupting the Naval Aviator or Lawyer training pipelines was verboten.  Now HQMC has a class of officer that is not good enough to be an infantry officer so he has to be a Motor Transport, or Logistician, or Intel or some lesser form of Marine Corps officer….are you kidding me?

That is a fundamental transformation of how the Marine Corps officer class is supposed to function.  There is a reason Marine infantry officers are not allowed multiple tours in Force Recon. There is a reason that the Marine Corps breaks out its TBS classes into thirds and forces men in the top third into MOS’s (military occupational specialties) like Motor T and Supply that they don’t want, but those wise policies are now moot because the Marine Corps leadership is more than willing to perpetrate the big lie even as it corrodes the very foundation of their Corps.

The Marine Corps is an institution designed to fight; not to coddle the delusional ideas of our political and media elite.  Inshallah there are a few generals left in the Corps who remember this. Only the dead have seen the last of war; at some point in the future we are going to need warriors, not social engineers.

Gandamak

Last week I received and polite email from Professor Richard Macrory of the Centre for Law and the Environment, University College London asking me for permission to use some of my photos of the Gandamak battlefield in his upcoming book on the First Afghan War.  When most Afghan expats hear the name Gandamak the first thing […]

Spiking The Ball One Year Later

Last night I was coming back from the La Taverna du Liban, Kabul’s best Lebanese Restaurant, located in the Wazar Akbar Khan section of Kabul.   Back in the day it had a full bar and open patio and was packed with  expat customers.  Most of the expats back then had at least a pistol on […]

All Clear

At 0630 this morning, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in the form of the Kabul Critical Response Unit (CRU) finished off a crew of villains who had been fighting for the past 16 hours.  These guys, most likely HIG militants, had barricaded themselves in a building under construction next to the Azizi Bank located on […]

Storm Warning

America is currently experiencing some monster tornados deep in the heartland.  As dawn breaks across the land, the scenes of devastation are dramatic, but the casualties so far, remarkably low.  Modern early warning systems have a lot to do with that.  When a sudden serious storm breaks in Kabul, it is a tornado of metal, […]

Operation Magistral

There was an article floating around the news on Afghanistan last week that got my immediate attention.  The article had a one day life cycle and have not seen any follow ups about it, which, given the content, is surprising.   I am not referring to the change in  night raid policy which I couldn’t […]

Extended Shelf Life – April Fools Edition

In my last post I claimed to have reached the end of my useful shelf life as a blogger which, it turns out, is not true.  I’m back in Afghanistan and what better day to turn the FRI blog back on than April Fools? Groundhog day would have been more appropriate but I missed it. […]

Back in the USSA

I’ve been trying to come up with a post for over a month now but don’t have any good pictures because I’m back in America, sans super cool Nikon which got blown up in the Helmand, and without good pictures I don’t seem to be able to write.  That camera cost over a thousand bucks […]

EFP’s

After the creremonies described in the last three posts we had one more task to complete before we went home.  In the ANSF after action report on the ambush of Haji Nematullah, they reported seizing three large buckets of Home Made Explosives (HME) and three Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP) mines.  EFP’s were a big problem […]