As the United States sets up to ramp down their activities in Afghanistan it is time to write stories about the country that folks might find interesting. First up (admittedly low hanging fruit) is the myth of Afghan hash. It had a reputation for being good but where reputation originated is hard to determine. Stories of hash cultivation and usage in the era go back centuries. But most Afghan hash is #39 (not good).
It is not hard to find hash in Afghanistan, in fact you can go up to any street vendor and procure a Talli (lamb tongue) for $10.00. But the international community was generally less than impressed.
Turns out most Afghans cannot grow dope worth a damn. Separating male from female plants in not the norm, they refuse to stop throwing water on it as the flowers mature, they have no idea what trichomes are or how to look at them to determine the optimal time for harvesting. They end up roughing the plants up with leather gloves weeks before they should touching the damn things and their hash sucks.
How do I know this? Sea story time.
There I was, There I was … escorting a Japanese agricultural expert as she inspected a barn the people of Japan had donated to the women in the village of Uzbeck Uzbeck. This was in 2006 and Uzbeck Uzbeck is in Balkh province near the city of Mazar-i Sharif. I knew something was wrong when we pulled into the village because there was a small group of men and women in a heated argument which is most unusual.
What had happened was the men of the village had taken custody of half the barn to dry a monster harvest of weed. The women, knowing exactly how Tani-San (our Ag expert who is all of 4’10’ and slight of build) would react, had turned their cows loose in the dope fields where they had gone to town and were now acting most strange.
Once we understood what was happening Tani -san took her charges aside and started to wear them out. One of the elders took me aside and explained they did not know I was coming and could I wait in this storage room as they set up a tea to host me. I sat down in the room and noticed the body a young teen-age girl was laid out on a door sitting on saw horses. I’ve seen plenty of bodies in my days and knew the girl had been placed there so the women could prepare her body for burial that night. I have no idea what caused her early demise, it was clearly not trauma, and my hosts never said a word about it. Death is part of life in Afghanistan and waiting to bury a loved one routine.
The village elders came for me 15 minutes latter and we went to a slightly raised wooden deck with a wood frame surrounding it and sage bushes forming a wall on one end. There were a dozen little boys in the creek next to the deck and they threw water on the sage bushes as we sat and drank tea. It was August, over 100 degrees, and the slight breeze running through the sage brush was luxurious.
I was not proficient with languages back then (never got that good with Pashto) and was doing my best to figure out what the heck everybody was talking about when an Afghan in western clothes walked up and , after exchanging greeting with the elders, said “what’s up man”?
Turned out the guy had spent years living in Amsterdam and knew a thing or two about growing weed. He told me he came back after the Taliban fell to stare his knowledge with his fellow Afghans. After Tani-san and the women had gone to eat lunch we went into the barn and he took out a 30x magnifying glass and showed me the trichomes on the weed buds and explained why this crop should have been harvested a week early (thanks to our visit apparently).
Years later in Jalalabad I would repeatedly hear of guys having hash from Bahlk province so I am guessing the European bud farmer had some success, or maybe it has always been that way, who knows?
What I know is the deeper you dig into perceived conventional knowledge the more you learn to suspect convenient narratives. Afghanistan is a complex place full of the unexpected….but the hash production sector needs some work.
Buried in the news last month was a story announcing the most significant tactical adaptation in the history of Afghan Security Forces. The international media company AFP broke the story with this article Under US pressure Afghan army starts closing checkpoints. The article was reprinted in various legacy media outlets, Stars and Stripes ran their own reporting that included a little more depth, and the subject disappeared from the news cycle without further examination or comment. This should not be as it is a fundamental change in how Afghan Security Forces are handling a resurgent Taliban.
For eighteen years western military advisors to the Afghans have repeatedly pointed out that dispersing manpower out in small, poorly built, militarily unimportant, easily overrun checkpoints is a pointless waste. The Afghans counter that small forts flying the Afghan flag demonstrates to the people that the government holds that area.
The photographs below are from one of the better organized checkpoints I ran across during a road trip with Ralph Ward a.k.a The Skipper. He was heading into Nuristan province to blow an ammo cache the ANA had uncovered, something he normally we not do which was why I was tagging along.
In 2016 the American military estimated that there were 8,400 Afghan police and army checkpoints in the country. Despite insisting that the Afghans start closing them the number of checkpoints grew in 2017. It is obvious these poorly manned, undefended, far flung, unsupported positions contribute to low morale, high rates of desertion and high casualties. In fact a week after this policy was announced Afghan Security Forces suffered 23 KIA’s in two attacks on checkpoints, one in Ghor and the other in Logar provinces.
If it is so obvious that these checkpoints are a bad idea why is it they proliferate? The motorbikes in the picture above are a hint and here is another:
The checkpoint Shem and I are looking over had reported they were overrun the night prior and fired all the rounds on hand to drive off the Taliban. The building, on all four sides, is pockmarked with bullet and shrapnel holes, as the structure pre-dates the Soviet invasion. None of the battle damage on this building was new, and not one piece of brass could be found on the ground. The troops (all Hazara’s from Ghazni province) were obviously selling ammo and AK rounds, at the time, cost 65 cents each on the black market.
When soldiers “benefit” at their checkpoints they are expected to kick a percentage up. It’s similar to the mafia, or at least The Sopranos version of the mafia, and that is the main reason the Afghans have refused to take them down. Afghan police and army officers assigned a certain area have normally paid serious cash for the position and expect a return of their investment. The practice is so common it doesn’t require footnotes (but here’s a link anyway). I have been told that this is changing as younger officers in the Afghan Security Forces reach ranks of responsibility. I hope so, I’m a big of the Afghans.
If the Afghan Security Forces are now willing to forgo revenue from their checkpoints to focus on offensive operations targeting the Taliban they have crossed the Rubicon in military professionalism. Time will tell, but this is the most positive development I’ve seen regarding Afghanistan in a long time. Inshallah it is a sign of a tide starting to turn.
Last week an article popped up from Swedish journalist Franz J. Marty titled What Living in Kabul is Really Like.Franz tells us Kabulis perfectlysafe which is in stark contrast from the recent Laura Logan report on 60 minutes. From his article:
I don’t live in a highly secured compound. When I move around town, I usually walk. Only if it is too far will I take a car, and then certainly not an armored one or one of the expensive taxis for foreigners. …. I don’t eat in guarded, expensive restaurants as other foreigners do. I choose tiny, shabby local places, or carts selling food in the street. I live more or less like an average Afghan. So I dare to say that I have a pretty good image of the daily life in Kabul.
When I was living in Kabul I could have wrote that same paragraph but for different reasons. Given the deadly attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul yesterday it is important to describe why a city that is safe for a Swedish journalist is not safe for anyone else, even a guy like me who has spent years living there and knows the place better than any city in my home country.
The first thing to understand about safety in an unstable, war torn city like Kabul is that you have only two options; Grey Man or Hard Man.
The main threat to foreigners in Kabul comes from kidnappers who know they (and middle to upper class Afghans) will bring in a good amount of ransom. The secondary threat comes from Afghan security forces who have a nasty habit of shooting or arresting foreigners when they’re pissed.
Swedish journalist Nils Horner was shot in head from point blank range in the middle of the day by men who appeared to be NDS agents. American Louis Maxwell, a former sailor who was working for the UN, was executed by Police in Kabul. He had just fought off a Taliban attack on the UN guesthouse he was guarding, was badly wounded and had his high end G36K rifle laying next to him when the police showed up. One of the responding Kabul PD officers shot him in the head and ran off with his rifle – which has never been recovered.
The two strategies to mitigate risk available to foreigners are Hard Man or Grey Man. During the years I spent in Afghanistan I was forced, by genetics, into using the hard man option. I’m 6’2″, weigh 220 lbs and am fit. I have good genes which, when combined with a life long habit of physical training, is a considerable blessing. Except when it comes to working outside the wire in places like Kabul. There my appearance is a considerable liability because I stand out.
The hard man approach in Afghanistan included being obviously armed. I carried at 1911 pistol (.45 caliber) and used an OWB (outside the waistband) holster so my concealed pistol wasn’t that concealed. I was always alert and aware of my surroundings. I walked with my head up, shoulders squared, while employing my most effective weapon when dealing with Afghans on the street; a big, warm, friendly smile. Looking relaxed, confident, friendly and calm were essential to my ability to successfully travel into every corner of Afghanistan.
From 2005 to 2008 the average Afghan in Kabul had no issues with foreigners walking around the city. If you spoke a little Dari and people regularly saw you out and about even the street urchin problem (following you everywhere while aggressively begging) could be avoided. But what I could never do was attempt to blend in and go Grey Man; I’m too big and my languages skills were never good enough to go full Grey Man.
Grey Man involves blending into your surrounding environment and not standing out. It requires the wearing local clothes and near perfect language skills. To pull it off in Afghanistan you had to be shortish, skinny and limber. Walking gaits stand out, a western gait was easy to spot. Very few men were able to mask their western heritage well enough to pull off a full Grey Man in Kabul.
The atmospherics for westerners started changing in Kabul around 2010. It might have been earlier but I wasn’t living in Kabul from 2008-2012 so my finger was not tightly on the pulse there. The first change was that all the high end restaurants prohibited firearms. The Gandamak and L’atmosphere had always made patrons check their guns at the door which is one of the reasons I didn’t frequent them. By 2010 every restaurant catering to Westerners did the same (except certain Chinese places).
The weapons ban was part of the effort by then President Karzai to force every expat outside the wire to either get back inside the wire or pay him for security. He was aided and abetted by the UN who always had great security in part because they carved out an exemption for themselves. It is interesting to note that Louis Maxwell was killed while guarding a special election monitoring unit from the UN sent to Kabul to oversee the 2009 elections. They pulled out after the attack but before the elections. Louis’s hometown (Miami, Florida) newspaper wrote an article about his murder here where they accused Karzai of directing it.
In 2012 I moved back to Kabul where foreigners were prohibited from owning a weapon. Security contractors could carry company registered weapons on duty but even that was risky. The Karzai government would routinely confiscate weapons and radios from contractors who had the proper paperwork authorizing them. I know of at least one incident where they did the same to American army soldiers who were wearing civilian clothes on duty (there were a few outfits in Kabul authorized to do this) and they even impounded their armored vehicle. By the time the army got the radios, weapons and vehicle back the run flat inserts had been pulled from inside their tires.
I still walked around in Kabul that year mostly because I hated being cooped up inside our living compound. I wore local clothes in an attempt to blend in but that was useless. I was unarmed and felt like a target. I could not shake an inner voice that reminded constantly walking around was not a good idea. I know my posture changed, my shoulders slumped, my stride was different smile was long gone too because my level of confidence had plummeted and that is an important data point.
We have a mechanism in our brains that runs on serotonin and tracks our status constantly. The higher our status the better our emotions are regulated. As serotonin levels increase we feel more positive emotions; as they decrease less positive emotions. When I was living in Jalalabad a journalist once asked me if I was afraid of the Taliban. I smiled and told him something like “in this part of the country I’m the apex predator; I’m not afraid of anything”.
I honestly felt that way too and I say that knowing it is total bullschumer. I might be big and I can shoot like the professional, high end instructor I once was but to think that somehow made a lone American an Apex predator was ludicrous. But I felt that way which was why I was so positive and why I always smiled and why the Afghan security guys at every checkpoint (except for damn NDS one outside Kabul) loved it when my simple ass pulled up with my big smile, chattering away in atrociously poor Dari or Pashto like I knew what the hell I was doing.
I had gone to a modified Grey Man posture in the badlands of Helmand, Nimroz and Kunar provinces. I dressed in local clothes, drove old local beaters but I was heavily armed (pistol, rifle, frag and smoke grenades). I also was under no illusions about fooling anyone once I stepped outside my vehicle. Afghans cannot wink and I cannot squat on my heels which means my gait is different from an Afghan’s gait.
The ability to wink, I suspect, is just a cultural artifact. I’m sure Afghan kids have mastered the technique by now. What I found interesting was winking at Taliban who rolled up on project sites in an attempt to intimidate us made them furious. But we were armed and they weren’t so they had to take it which meant a loss of face for them that amused the Afghans working for us. They would laugh out loud during these confrontations; Afghans are brave like that.
I suspect that Franz Marty is a shortish, skinny man fluent in Dari who has developed the ability to walk with an Afghan gait. If so he is an exceptional Grey Man and that is a high compliment. The only other westerner I know who could pull off that level of Grey Man is my best friend and Free Ranging partner Shem (a.k.a. The Bot) who was the best operator I ever saw in Afghanistan.
Having the ability to use the Grey Man technique at that level allows for the Neurochemical regulation system to run at full capacity. A westerner who can pull off that level field craft knows he is doing something that very few of his fellow humans can do. He is, in the world of the outside wire westerner, a high status man.
There is a high degree of safety when one is able to become part of the herd. This is why Zebra camouflage works so well and why fish look the same as every other fish of their species and why they swim in schools. Men who stand out for any reason; too fit, too tall, too fat or too small cannot blend in well enough to pull off the Grey Man.
For women going Grey Man in the Muslim world is out of the question. Unescorted women stand out, trying to slip by wearing a burqa is problematic due to gait and the Islamic version of T&A. T&A in Afghanistan means toes and ankles and I became an expert at judging what was under the blue burqa by looking at women’s feet. When asked by other westerners what I was looking for I always answered “dudes”. I never expected to find any but it was such a cool answer I had to use it.
Franz Marty was writing about the Kabul he sees today but that is not the Kabul any other Westerner is going to find if they venture back to Afghanistan. His observations are interesting but they are also dangerous; nature is not fair and she does not endow many men with the skills needed to go Grey Man in Kabul.
All Franz has to worry about is being in the wrong place at the wrong time so his personal risk is low. It sounds like he avoids places frequented by other Westerners like the Intercontinental Hotel (I’ve stayed there many times over the years) which also significantly decreases his level of risk.
Any attempt by another Westerner to emulate the system Mr. Marty is using in Kabul would be suicidal. There may come a time when westerners can again go to Afghanistan and roam that beautiful country without too much drama. I’d love to do it myself but doubt that time will come while I’m still alive to see it.
One of the most popular posts I wrote while in Afghanistan was Laura Does The Special Forces and it was not a flattering review of Ms Logan or the Special Forces. It’s time for another review of Ms. Logan’s work on 60 minutes and this time she hit the ball out of the park. It was outstanding and you should take the time to watch her segment below.
Many years ago a 60 minutes report like this would have caused a major reaction with the American public and our do-nothing shysters in congress. That time has long past which is mostly a good thing but not in this case. The course we are taking in Afghanistan will not work and this 60 minute report made that painfully obvious.
The report starts with the flight from Kabul International Airport to the US Embassy which is a trip of less than 2 miles by road. Laura points out that no US official or military member travels on the road in Kabul. The American leading our effort, army general John Nicholson (not to be confused with Marine general Larry Nicholson who kicked the Taliban’s ass in Helmand back in the day) replies that force protection is his number one mission and that it’s safer to not use the roads in Kabul.
Several points to make here starting with the fact that the helicopters being used are contractor air. Because the evil Eric Prince isn’t providing these aircraft nobody seems to mind but I’ll tell you this; they are charging a hell of a lot more than Blackwater ever charged the government and you can take that insight to the bank. The second observation is it is much safer for the Afghans to not have American military convoys on the road for reasons I have described about a dozen times over the years. Another obvious point is that if, after 16 years, we have gone from a Kabul where all foreigners were welcomed (which is how it was for at least the first 10 years of our involvement) to a city where no foreigner can travel anywhere without taking significant risks what does that tell you? Tells me we aren’t winning.
But General Nicholson says that we are winning. He tells Ms. Logan straight up that we’re killing Taliban leaders by the score and that they now have a choice to either come to the governments side or die. He goes on to say that there have been no attacks on our homeland from Afghanistan over the last 16 years and implies that if we leave Afghanistan that “International Terrorists” will take over the country and our homeland will be at risk.
This is madness disguised as conventional wisdom. Guess what? There has never been an attack on our homeland from Afghanistan. The 9/11 hijackers weren’t from Afghanistan and if you wanted to attack the city where they organized that would be Hamburg, Germany. All Afghanistan did was harbor bin Laden and we let him get away when the risk adverse Pentagon took over the original entry operation and prevented Delta (and a young Marine brigadier named Mattis) from smoke checking his dumb ass in 2001. What was their excuse back then? Force protection.
In the eyes of the modern general force protection trumps the mission as a priority in the American military. So does the imperative of foisting female machine gunners on the infantry. Do you know what a machine-gun section does in combat? It humps ammo, heavy 7.62mm ammo, along with their heavy gun and its tripod (which is heavy) and the traversing and elevation mechanism (which isn’t that heavy) and spare barrels and their own rifles…
Sorry, got a little off track there.
If there is anyone in America who thinks we did Afghanistan a favor by listening to the highly over-rated Colin Powell and staying in that country I can assure you that you’re wrong. A trillion later, an unknown number of Afghan and international lives later, who knows how many arms and legs lost later; our military is still there and in the hermetically sealed Kabul military headquarters there sits a four star general who says (and might even believe) that the Taliban now has two options, die or capitulate.
Nicholson went on to claim that if we lose in Afghanistan “It would embolden jihadists globally”. I don’t think that is remotely true after the Axis of Adults crushed ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Laura Logan pressed the general hard and then moved up the road to the Presidential Palace to press Ashraf Ghani, the leader of the so called ‘Unity Government’.
Lara Logan: Your soldiers and your policemen are dying in unprecedented numbers.
Ashraf Ghani: Indeed.
Lara Logan: How long can that be sustained?
Ashraf Ghani: Until we secure Afghanistan.
Lara Logan: How long is that? How long until you secure it?
Ashraf Ghani: As long as it takes. Generations if need be!
Lara Logan: The U.S. isn’t going to be here for generations.
Ashraf Ghani: We will be here for generations. We do not need others to fight our fights.
Lara Logan: People in this country say that if the U.S. pulled out, your government would collapse in three days.
Ashraf Ghani: From the resource perspective they are absolutely right. We will not be able to support our army for six months without U.S. support, and U.S. capabilities.
Lara Logan: Did you just say that without the US support your army couldn’t last six months?
Ashraf Ghani: Yes. Because we don’t have the money.
We have spent over a Trillion dollars on Afghanistan but they don’t have any money. Do you think a Trillion more will help? Do you think killing Taliban is the answer? Do you think mentoring the Afghan army from inside secured bases and then sending them out to get chewed up is the way forward?
We know how to mentor foreign troops plagued by low skills and low morale; our current Undersecretary of Defense for Special Operations wrote a book on it and you know what he said? You have to live with and fight with them to get them up to standard. That was why the Prince Plan made sense.
The only rational way forward is to allow the Afghans to solve this problem the Afghan way. General Nicholson said he’s giving himself two more years for his plan to work. I don’t what he’ll be saying in January 2020 but do know this much; there will be no significant changes to the situation in Afghanistan.
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Last night President Trump gave a solid speech about why he is committing American power and prestige to continue fighting in Afghanistan. It was a good speech that outlined some reasonable goals and contained the kind of one liners guys (and gals) like me appreciate. “We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists”. That sounds great until you think about who, exactly, are these terrorist we’re going to be smoke checking. Depending on how you look at it the “terrorists” could be every non Hazara Afghan residing beyond the confines of Kabul.
One of the other components of the speech was the refusal to give out specific numbers regarding the increase in American forces in Afghanistan as well as what these forces are expected to do. The most common number in the press, based on pre-speech background briefings, was an increase of 4,000 troops. Some of these troops are supposed to be supplied by our NATO allies but that’s not going to happen. There are only a few of those allies who have troops that can fight and they have no reason to go back for Operation Groundhog Day.
What will these troops be doing on the ground? It sounds like they are going to fight but who will would be doing the fighting, where are they going to fight, how long will they be fighting? We really can’t do that much fighting because we have a center of gravity that the Taliban understands well. We cannot afford to take casualties. The American people are not behind this effort and they are not going to tolerate a steady flow of body bags into Dover.
The stated goal of our continued effort in Afghanistan is to prevent the repeat of a 9/11 type of attack on the American homeland. 9/11 was planned and coordinated in Afghanistan by al Qaeda and some of them, as well as an ISIS franchise, remain in the country. But it is impossible to believe that, even if the Taliban took control of the entire country, one of those organizations would be allowed to plan and launch attacks on America. We are to continue fighting villains until we have “exposed the false allure of their ideology”. That too is not going to happen; their ideology is based on the Koran; there are no countervailing Koranic interpretations evident in Islam today that would push back against the Jihadi narrative.
Talking about changing our approach to Pakistan, increasing cooperation with India and holding the Afghan government accountable sounds like a reasonable course of action unless you know something about Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. How do you make the Kabul government “more accountable”? How can you get the Pakistani’s to stop funding cross boarder mayhem while at the same time inviting India to assume a much bigger role in Afghanistan? Pakistan will once again be critical to the logistical effort required for putting even more boots on the ground and thus holds the trump card in any dispute with us concerning what they are or are not doing in Afghanistan.
The strength of the Prince Plan was embedding trainers/mentors with the Afghan Security Forces at the battalion level and leaving the same team in place for years on end. That would have allowed the mentors to gain front specific knowledge regarding the tactics and personalities at the granular level and that in addition to their access to combat enablers (Tac Air and Artillery) could have been decisive.
Extended time on the ground in the same place also renders the number one Taliban weapon (IED’s) ineffective. Fighting on the same turf for years at a time provides the knowledge required to avoid IED’s as well as complex ambushes. Increased dwell time = increased tactical proficiency = decrease in combat casualties from IED’s. Increased dwell time is no longer in the cards meaning units who venture outside the wire during their 6 to 9 month rotations will take casualties they could have avoided had they been on the ground longer.
The Trump plan is not going to result in enablers at the battalion level; it will augment the Corps level training missions while (apparently) allowing those forces to sortie out of their FOB’s and take on Taliban formations when they deem the conditions favorable to do so. Job number one for all deployed forces in going to be avoiding casualties; focusing on the enemy and exploiting his weaknesses will be a secondary consideration which means “favorable conditions” will not necessarily translate into decisive defeats of various Taliban formations.
The Trump plan is placing the responsibility for our continued efforts in Afghanistan squarely on the shoulders of the Pentagon. But the Pentagon has major problems that are starting to manifest themselves. The latest evidence of this was the USS John S, McCain which collided, in broad day light, with an oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca.
Having transited the strait a couple of times aboard Naval shipping this accident is impossible for me to comprehend. The Strait has always had a huge pirate problem and when in the strait the normal navy watch crew (aboard gator freighters) is augmented by armed Marines. The McCain had no armed Marines but should have had an enhanced watch section with the crew on hair trigger alert to go to general quarters. That has been the standard operating procedure for over 50 years. We are hearing (just like the last ship collision) that maybe this was an intentional attack. That should have been expected and avoided and is probably not going to prove to be true. What is happening to the Navy is, I fear, the chickens coming home to roost.
“….eight years under the leadership of a Navy secretary, Ray Mabus, whose social-justice priorities almost always took precedence over tradition, morale, training, and operational readiness. Under Mabus, according to the Navy Times, the service prioritized shipbuilding—not a bad thing, necessarily, but it came at a cost. The secretary “made a policy of directing money away from operations and maintenance”—that is, away from training of the sort that clearly could have prevented at least the Fitzgerald tragedy. (What happened on the McCain remains to be seen.) “At the same time,” the editorially independent publication reports, “Mabus pushed hard for major cultural shifts inside the fleet, including the inclusion of women in combat roles in the Navy and Marine Corps, unisex uniforms, gender-neutral ratings titles and opening the services to transgender service members.”
Pushed to the point of obsession, the Navy Times might have added. As a result, the Marine Corps ended the Obama years in a state of near-mutiny over the administration’s insistence on shoehorning women into front-line combat roles despite convincing evidence that they aren’t up to the task. Meantime, the Navy has developed a serious pregnant-sailor problem“.
The American military is no longer able to shoulder the burden of putting Afghanistan back together again. Our diplomatic service lacks the leverage to force change in countries who are not aligned with our goals. The Taliban have no reason to end its armed opposition to a central government that is weak, corrupt, and entirely dependent on foreign aid dollars. There is little hope on the horizon for the people of Afghanistan.
I remember the day everything started to go downhill for Americans in Afghanistan. It was Monday, the 29th of May 2006 when an American army truck had a brake failure and plowed into a bunch of cars at the bottom of a long hill at the northern entrance to Kabul. The accident caused fatalities which caused the hundreds of locals milling around the area to converge on the accident scene. The situation rapidly escalated when a gunner on the back of the stricken truck panicked and started shooting people at point blank with his .50 cal machinegun. Tolo news was running the tape of that shooting over and over when my buddy Walt called from the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) office and told me to turn on the news because we had a major problem.
I watched the shooting play out twice before Tolo shifted to a live reporter and immediately went to General Quarters in our compound. We lived behind the American embassy in a local compound that looked like any other compound so we were safe. Our JICA clients were spread out in offices across Kabul and were not safe. It took less than 30 seconds to come up with our plan; local clothes only, no body armor or rifles as they were useless in this situation; we would go with concealed pistols. I opened the golden conex (I had it painted gold to accommodate my quirky sense of humor) and grabbed the one CS grenade we had and then took as many frag grenades as I could carry without being too obvious. The rest of the expats took frags too and we started heading towards the various offices stopping briefly outside the JICA compound to get radio’s.
Our SUV’s turned out to be worthless as traffic was jammed up so badly that we could not make it to our various destinations ahead of the rioting crowds. We purchased a few bikes from locals on the spot for 15 times their worth and started peddling furiously down side streets. Unable to move our clients to safe harbored we gathered them into several different offices around town and strong-pointed them. Then we waited and thankfully the rioting mobs passed us by. It was, to be honest, terrifying and one of those times I remember with a shudder. We had only one incident. The guard manning the JICA office gate was shot in the leg. It was a minor wound and the Afghan, who was an albino and as white as Casper the ghost, told me latter; “every time there is a riot somebody shoots me in the leg because they think I’m a damn foreigner like you”. Gotta love a guy who maintains a sense of humor in the face of adversity.
Over the years that I have been writing this blog I have bitched incessantly about the unnecessary killing of civilians due to convoy procedures and night raids. Examples can be found here, here, here and here. And it is with that in mind that I welcome the breaking news of the overturned murder conviction for one of the Blackwater contractors involved in the Nisour Square shootings along with the re-sentencing of the other 3 members of the Raven 23 team. If what they did in Nisour square was a “massacre” (as Wikipedia dubs it) what the army did in Kabul in May of 2006 was a mega massacre. Both incidents were unfortunate, both incidents happened in places I know well – I’ve driven through Nisour square dozens of times.
Of the two incidents the one I find the most unforgivable was the American army lighting up dozens of civilians in Kabul. With heavy machineguns at point blank range no less. That shooting pales in comparison to Nisour Square. When I read the circumstances behind the Nisour Square incident I can only say there but for the grace of God go I. There was a lot of lead being thrown at Raven 23 as they fought to reach safe harbor. When I remember what I saw during that long day in Kabul I can say with certainty that there is no way I’d react with deadly force. There was no lead coming their way; going to guns was an inexcusably amateur move.
The men of the Raven 23 PSD team were railroaded by a transparently corrupt Department of Justice who, I believe, was motivated by racial animus and politically correct group think regarding armed contractors. Matt over at the always excellent Feral Jundi has a good round up on the status of the Raven 23 story here.
I am not contending that the hundreds of military men who killed civilians they thought to be suicide (VBIED) bombers or shot regular villagers who were responding to a night time raid on their own or a neighbors compound are war criminals. These things happen in war. My contention is that these deaths were due to poor tactics (convoys) and questionable strategic objectives (night raids) and thus could have and should have been avoided. But if the military men involved in these incidents aren’t murders neither are the members of the Raven 23 PSD team. That is a self evident truth.
Plus there is the fact that the contract Raven 23 was working stipulated they were under the tactical control of a State Department Regional Security Officer. Why wasn’t he prosecuted? The answer is obvious.
Part of the Kangaroo court proceeding that went beyond bizarre was the federal court flying in alleged victims of this shooting. Leave aside the costs passed on to the taxpayer and look at the reality concerning the potential for veracity from these alleged victims. The best way to explain what I mean is demonstrated by a story I pulled off of All Marine Radio. The episode, broadcast on the 21st of July, was titled You Paid the Iraqis for Detaining Them? ; the story I’m relating starts at the 28:08 mark. I urge you to listen to the whole hour – it’s hysterically funny, interesting and a bit alarming to those who lack experience in the Arab world.
The story starts when the Ops Officer of the MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) working Iraq rolled into Mac’s command post (CP) back in 2004. As they were shooting the breeze the OpsO talked about the MEU’s recent operation against the Shia militia of Muqtada al-Sadar in the city of Najaf.
S3 “We had them surrounded in the main mosque in Najaf and the Iraqi’s from the national army who were with us were talking with the Marines about what it was like to fight Americans:
Marine: “How long have you been in the army”?
Iraqi solder: “I have been in the army for 15 years and fought against you guys in Kuwait and I am so excited to be on your side right now…this is wonderful with your tanks and your helicopters… fighting you was very scary so we ran away as soon as our officers abandoned us which is why we are still alive….This is awesome, we are going to go tomorrow with your tanks and guns and paint the walls of the mosque red with their blood”.
Marine: “Yeah that’s probably not going to happen”.
Iraqi: “what do you mean”
Marine: “Our country has this thing about attacking mosques”.
Iraqi’ “What? They are hiding in the Mosque and tomorrow we will go kill them all and cover the walls with their blood!”
Marine: “Yeah we’re probably not going to do that”
Iraqi’ “Then what are you going to do”?
Marine “We’re negotiating with them right now..”
Iraqi’ “No, no, no, no ..this is Jihad they will say anything because it doesn’t matter. You are the infidel and they can lie to you. They will lie and they will leave and within 10 minutes they will have another weapon and we will be fighting them again. How can you be a great nation and not annihilate your enemy”?
Needless to say the militia negotiated a surrender and the next day the Iraqi’s were fighting them again. The point being there are deeply embedded cultural reasons not to trust one word of alleged victims in the Nisour Square case or any other similar case. I urge you to listen to the podcast; there are a dozen or more examples of why this is so.
That our country now has a two tiered justice system is obvious. Were I to commit any of the many crimes that former FBI director James Comey outlined in his non indictment of Hillary Clinton I’d be rotting in jail for the rest of my life. And justifiably so. The legacy media is currently consumed with the Muh Russia story while trying to spin away the fact that it was Clinton’s who were paid millions by Russia after signing away a healthy percentage of our Uranium stocks. The current scandal involving Debbie Washerman Schultz and the Awan family is, in not just my opinion, the biggest political scandal of my lifetime. Yet the same corporate media shills who screamed for the scalps of the Raven 23 crew refuse to cover it.
Yesterday the current reign of progressive judicial tyranny was dealt a solid blow. Let us hope that this is the start of a trend to apply the rule of law equally to every citizen regardless of race, political affiliation or elected status. If it is not then our country is in for a world of hurt. But that is down the road; right now three of the four men of Raven 23 are still in the Federal Pen and still need our support and prayers. The Raven 23 website is here – drop by and spread the love by giving them whatever support you can. They’ve earned it.
Last Friday night I was invited for a short segment on Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler . She is on the One America Network and wanted to talk about the situation in Afghanistan. I was asked to speculate on the 4,000 additional troops that the legacy media has been discussing for the past few weeks. I responded it would be enough to provide permanent adviser teams for the 6 Afghan National Army (ANA) Corps and 14 ANA Brigade headquarters. I should have added the five geographic zones of the Afghan National Police which would add up to 4000 nicely. I was then able to add that this increase in troop levels would not work. I’d like to expound on that and offer up what I think would work.
The addition of 4,000 troops would probably work as a stop gap measure to prevent the collapse of the Afghan government. But that does not correlate with the goals outlined in the Department of Defense report to congress that was just released by the Pentagon today. The quote below is from the U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan section of that report:
The U.S. and Afghan Governments agree that the best way to ensure lasting peace and security in Afghanistan is through reconciliation and a political settlement with the Taliban. The United States supports an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process and supports any process that includes violent extremist groups laying down their arms.
That is such an ironic statement that it’s almost funny. What they are describing as a goal is exactly where Afghanistan was in 2002. The Taliban had laid their arms down (a least a majority had) and gone back home to war no more. Those that had no home, had bad reputations from the Taliban days or just liked to fight went to Pakistan but they were a small subset of the former Taliban regime.
The Afghans were all about starting over in 2001; in Kandahar the tribes gathered in the municipal soccer stadium to elect representatives for the loya jirga future president Karzai was planning to hold. At that meeting one of those selected was an elder from the Ishaqazi tribe, Hajj Burget Khan from the Maiwand district. Anand Gopal, in his book No Good Men Among the Living explains what happened next.
One hot May night, Abdullah was sleeping in the courtyard when a thunderous blast shook him awake. Looking up, he saw a blinding white light in the space where the front gate had been. Silhouetted figures rushed toward him. He ran for the guesthouse, shouting that the house was under attack. Inside, Hajji Burget Khan was already awake; he had been sipping tea with visitors before the dawn prayer. His bodyguard Akhtar Muhammad raced into the courtyard, firing his weapon blindly. Before he knew it, he was thrown to the ground. Two or three men were on top of him. He was shackled and blindfolded, and he was kicked again and again. He heard shouting, in a language he couldn’t understand.
Hajji Burget Khan and Hajji Tor Khan, Akhtar Muhammad’s father, ran into the courtyard with other guests, heading for the main house. It was then, as the first morning light shaped the compound, that they saw armed men standing on the mud walls in camouflage uniforms and goggles and helmets. American soldiers. Gunfire erupted, and Hajji Tor Khan went down. Before Hajji Burget Khan could react, he, too, was shot. Nearby, women huddled in their rooms, listening. Never before had strangers violated their home— not during the Russian occupation, or the civil war, or under the Taliban. A woman picked up a gun and headed into the courtyard to defend her family, but the soldiers wrested it out of her hands. Then a soldier appeared with an Afghan translator and ordered the women outside. It was the first time they had ever left their home without a mahrem. They were flexicuffed and had their feet shackled, and some were gagged with torn pieces of turban. The group was then herded into a dry well behind the compound.
The story gets worse, first Hajji Burget Khan was killed while being questioned:
“…a confidential dispatch from the Canadian Joint Task Force 2, part of the special forces team that carried out the raid, states that “an elderly father died while in custody” at Kandahar Airfield, “reportedly from a butt stroke to the head, which has caused much grief/ anguish in the village.”
Then the Americans in Bagram figured out the truth:
“For days, the prisoners were questioned. “We don’t know who we have, but we hope we got some senior Taliban or at least some Taliban folks in there,” Lieutenant Colonel Jim Yonts, spokesman for the US Central Command, told reporters. Yet it soon became apparent that the captives had all followed Burget Khan in embracing the new American order. After five days, they were brought to Kandahar’s soccer stadium and released. A crowd of thousands, who had made the trip from Maiwand, was there to greet them. A few months earlier many of these farmers had packed the stadium seats waving the new Afghan flag and chanting in favor of the coming loya jirga. Now, for the first time, anti-American slogans filled the air. “If we did any crime, they must punish us,” shouted Amir Sayed Wali, a villager elder. “If we are innocent, we will take our revenge for this insult.” Tribal elder Lala Khan asked, “Is there any law? Any accountability? Who are our leaders? The elders, or the Americans?”
Now, 16 years later, the American military strategy is to try and put things right by returning them to the way they were before somebody on high decided to stick around Afghanistan to root out an al Qaeda which had fled and Taliban which had already surrendered. This war should have ended with the killing of Bin Laden in Nangarhar province but the geniuses from the the Pentagon let him slip away because nobody sitting on their ass back in Bagram wanted “another Mogadishu”,
Killing Osama and ending our intervention in Afghanistan would have been worth 10 Mogadishu’s. The only senior player in theater who recognized that was a young Marine general named Jim Mattis who was begging to throw his Marines into the mountains to block bin Laden. That he, as the current Secretary of Defense, is the guy left holding the bag is a bitter irony that is lost on virtually everyone. But not me and now not you either.
The architects of the blatant incompetence describe by Gopal was the CIA. They were using a warlord to provide their actionable intelligence. The same warlord whose men assumed the responsibility of policing Maiwand after their police were arrested, Gul Agha Sherzai. Trusting that same organization to fix what it has spent 16 years breaking is madness.
What can be done? The first step is clear out the incompetent bureaucracies who have not one clue what to do now and appoint a Viceroy. We need one man with proven capabilities to lead a very slimmed down effort of reconciliation. I nominate Eric Prince because he is the only public figure who has made a lick of sense concerning a rational direction for Afghanistan.
Then we need a Information Operation (IO) campaign that works. Note how the Taliban and ISIS-K were all over the airwaves denying responsibility for the horrific attack on Kabul with the poop pumper truck. I say the Taliban did do that with the help of the Haqqani network. Why? Because on 9/11 /2011 an identical attack took place against an American base in Wardak province. The only difference was the truck was a water truck not a poop pumper truck. I’ll bet the explosives and triggering mechanism were identical and even if they weren’t, I’d be running a 24/7 IO op saying they were. Who’s going to argue the point; Haqqani?
According to the recently released Survey of the Afghan People the only provinces that harbor sympathy for the Taliban are Zabul, Uruzgan, Wardak, Laghman, Kunar and Nuristan. I’d be harping on that too with an IO campaign targeting them. You need IO to put constant pressure on the Taliban from the Afghan peoples perspective not from the big army or international press perspective.
The worst IO problem we face in Afghanistan is the common belief that we (the international community) are cooperating with Pakistan and the Taliban to keep Afghanistan unstable and in constant conflict. The United States Government and the Kabul Government can do nothing at the moment to change that. Kabul is facing intense, constant rioting over the latest bombing and their (Kabul’s) inability to protect the people of Afghanistan. The time for sweeping change is now but the players who created this fiasco are in no position to facilitate it.
That Afghans need help with both tactical and strategic intelligence and the model to use is the old Office of Strategic Services (OSS) model. Specialists embed with the Afghans; not in their own high security, incredibly expensive compounds. Go after the Taliban funding sources and cripple them. What do you do with all the opium? Buy it, send it to India and let them turn into pharmaceutical analgesics or build a plant to do that in Afghanistan or burn it.
What about the hash? Don’t buy that because it’s crap. In fact you could import some bubble hash from California to show the Afghans just how badly they do at growing dope. Then we could introduce industrial hemp and teach the Afghans how to make rope, clothes and shoes from it. Do you know how expensive hemp fiber clothes are? Real expensive and they last too. The Afghans could make a killing on hemp textiles and use their smuggling networks to try and get bubble hash from the west. Once some gets dumped on them they’re going to want more. Know what that’s called….IO ops brother – an IO op that works
Same with the lapis and the silver, and the wood; buy it all and then sell it back to Afghans at a subsidized rate so they can make stuff and develop what we in west call “an economy”. I can promise you this; buying the dope and the minerals will cost pennies on the dollars we’re spending now. And it will provide jobs and income that, if taxed reasonably, will allow Afghanistan to get off international welfare dole. Plus when they find out they’ve been doing the dope growing thing wrong for the last 5000 years it’s going to bother and confuse them. Which is how you get the industrial hemp trade going.
The Afghans need help defending themselves and the biggest problem they have with their army is the field discipline to takes to avoid IED’s, firefights you can’t win and keeping all the complex gear we’ve given them combat ready. The biggest problem they have with their air force is enablers and enough pilots. Embedded contractors are the answer, a fact which the international elites continue to lie about which is a good indicator it’s true.
What would these contractors need to be effective and avoid the Green on Blue attacks? Virtue. They cannot drink, smoke dope, do drugs, or womanize. They have to wear local clothes that keep their arms and legs covered. They need to be humble, deadly and dedicated. To use a tier one SF analogy – they need to be the Combat Applications Group (Delta Force) not SEAL Team 6. When’s the last time you heard something about Delta? Exactly my point.
This concept would work only if the Afghan people accept our help. We cannot gain that acceptance through a government that is viewed as corrupt, predatory and kept in place by the guns of foreigners. The way forward now goes through the National Ulema Council – the religious leaders. If you can sell to them a plan that involves westerners on the ground, flying aircraft and assisting with intelligence collection and analysis then there is hope.
The men selected to do this would have to stay for the duration. They need to be men that Afghan men would respect and the younger Afghans would want to emulate. As long as the Ulema could handle their your young men wanting tattoos the West can provide the help they need to stand alone.
Don’t tell me that can’t be done; I’ve done it, Panjwayi Tim has done it, Jim Gant did it and although I don’t know Eric Prince I’ve read his book and watched enough of his speeches to I know he’s done it too. There are thousands of internationals, some who I know of and many I don’t; men and women who have put in the time and displayed the aptitude to do what needs to be done to help the Afghans to help themselves.
It ends like it started with the Afghans, as a people, rising up to demand an end to the fighting, looting and destruction of war. That is how we started out, that is exactly how the Taliban started out and that is how this going end; with or without us.
What do the diplomats do? They could help by starting their own campaign advocating for a Pashtun and Baloch homeland. Those people should have their own country – who gives a damn about the boundaries drawn up by the old British Empire that were designed to split and them apart and weaken them? I can hear people now hissing their dismissal of such an ambitious plan but guess what? You don’t have to actually do it – just advocate for it and watch how quickly the Pakistani’s and Iranians start thinking about not messing with Afghanistan.
They would be screaming bloody murder as would the Turks but we can just shrug and act all PC like. “Hey man, were just trying to help the people and nobody likes the borders us old white guys drew up right? Why do you insist on borders us infidels imposed on you at the point of a gun? Why do you want hostile tribes inside your countries anyway; we did that to you and now we’re trying to fix and you’re getting shitty with us”?
Now there’s an IO op…could you imagine? I can; nobody in Foggy Bottom could which is another point.
Let’s go one step further (I’m on a roll) why not start talking about legalizing opium and heroin too? Portugal has and that drove their junkie population down. It’s not like junkies can’t find the junk easily anyway. And again, you don’t have to actually do it; just start talking like you’re going to do it while you buy up the opium in Afghanistan and watch the bottom fall out of that market. Know what that is? That’s an IO op; one you can believe in and one that will work.
This may sound like crazy ideas to you but I’ll tell you what is really crazy. Believing that the various agencies and governments who created this mess can find a way out with just a few more troops and a few billion more dollars.
I say give me a Viceroy and 10 Billion a year (we’re spending 50 now) and I’ll give you a peaceful Afghanistan. And we won’t lose anymore troops – just contractors and nobody gives a damn about them (which is why you pay them the big bucks). If anyone else has a better idea I’d love to hear it.
As I said in my last post the Green on Blue attacks will continue and they have with the wounding of fourmake that seven (the count keeps increasing) more soldiers. This time the attack was in Mazar-e Sharif, the capitol of the once peaceful province of Balk. There are several factors driving these Green on Blue attacks but the most important one to understand is that Afghans hate us. Couple their traditional antipathy of foreign armies operating in their country with 16 years of broken promises and what you are left with is hate.
Hatred of ‘the other’ is a natural motivating tool that America has used in previous wars. We are genetically programmed to love our own families, tribes and clans while hating those who are not part of them. Satoshi Kanazawa, an American-British evolutionary psychologist, currently with the London School of Economics, explains why in this article:
….ethnocentrism (or “racism”) is an innate human tendency. We are designed by evolution to love members of our group and hate members of other groups, in order to motivate and facilitate intergroup conflict. Yes, hate is natural. But remember the danger of the naturalistic fallacy — deriving moral implications from scientific facts. “Natural” means neither “good” nor “desirable.” Nor does it mean “inevitable.” Most of us learn to overcome our innate evolutionary tendencies.
The concept of “hate” has been removed from our lexicon but it is alive and well among the Islamic radicals we are fighting around the globe. Understanding hate helps to explain our floundering efforts in Afghanistan and the most disturbing question from the San Bernardino attack of 2015. I remember survivors of that attack saying they had recently thrown a baby shower for Tashfeen Malik, the pregnant half of the terrorist couple, and they could not understand why she had come back to kill them after they had showed her so much kindness. I’ll tell you why; she hated them, not for anything they did but because of who they are.
Hate is a dangerous weapon that is now being used by our elite political, media, entertainment, academic and corporate masters against the silent majority in the United States. Look what is has wrought so far…and here’s another prediction; there will be more political violence directed at President Trump and his supporters. Why? Because the legacy media and the democrats have doubled down on their lunatic hatred of the President and those who support him.
After sixteen years of broken promises the Afghans have no reason to trust the United States or the international community but they do have plenty of reasons to hate them. Gestures of support, like sending a permanent advisory teams to the Afghan army and national police in Helmand province (which is what the Marines are doing now) are meaningless. They will not turn the tide of battle, will not increase combat proficiency or decrease the unsustainable loses currently being inflicted on the Afghan security forces. Everybody knows this to be true yet the kabuki theater continues because the pentagon, at this point in time, has no idea what else to do.
The introduction of more troops will increase the number of potential targets for Green on Blue attack. Continuing to conduct night raids and air strikes will also increase the chances of more Green on Blue. Why? I’ve told you why in dozens of previous posts but now there is a high speed Modern War Institute study out of West Point to cite so I don’t have to repeat myself. Check this out:
….research suggests that most of the attacks are triggered by cultural frictions and personal disagreements. The triggers include, among others, anger from night raids and airstrikes conducted by international forces that result in civilian casualties, violations of privacy during searches, disrespect to religious beliefs, cultural misunderstanding and violations of local norms and values, combat stress, and personal differences between Afghan troops and their NATO counterparts.
How long have I been railing against night raids and the force protection mentality that allows NATO to shoot up car loads of civilians and pretend that it was their (the civilians) fault? Nine years if you’re counting and when I started saying this I received tons of push back but little support. In fact the only support I remember came from Herschel Smith at The Captain Journal . Having Herschel watching my back has been one of the true joys of my blogging adventure….I really need to go meet him in person one of these days.
How did the men (and women) of Ghost Team not only survive but thrive in the contested areas during the worst of the fighting? I’ll tell you our secret (which is in the linked article). We did what we promised we would do, on time, on budget and with exceptional quality control while respecting the local people, their religion and their mores. We were not only protected by the Afghans we worked with and for; we were liked and respected by them too.
Not all Afghans hate us Kharejee; there is an educated elite who are not taking part in the plundering and pillaging of the Afghan economy. They are grimly hanging on hoping that one day their talents will help unite a fractured country. Identifying who they are and supporting them would require our embassy people or the UN bureaucrats to get out from behind their walls to find them. That, they can no longer do, which is why they need to go.
For now hatred rules Afghanistan and that vile contagion is spreading rapidly across America too. Victor Davis Hanson sums the case up well:
Most Americans agree that the present levels of borrowing and spending cannot continue. But many believe that the tough medicine to cure the disease of chronic annual deficits and mounting debt is unacceptable. America’s infrastructure and military are vastly underfunded, even though some voters want more subsidies for themselves and apparently want others to pay for them.
America’s once-preeminent colleges and universities are fatally compromised. Universities charge far too much, resist reform, expect exemption from accountability, and assume their students must take on huge amounts of debt. Yet campuses can’t guarantee that their graduates are competently educated or that they will find jobs. Illiberal attempts to end free speech, to sanction racial and gender segregation, and to attack rather than argue with opponents are disguised by euphemisms such as “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” and various -isms and -ologies.
Behind the guise of campus activism and non-negotiable demands is the reality that too many students simply are unprepared to do their assigned work and seek exemption through protests in lieu of hard studying.
As I wrote in my D-Day post war is a horrible thing but let me caveat that with this; civil wars are worse. In a civil war the contagion of hate runs rampant. I don’t hate Afghans but as a professional I would not hesitate to smoke check one if I was certain he was a villain who posed a threat to me or those around me. I can watch documentaries on the Taliban and respect their ability to suck up bad weather, bad food, bad karma and massive amounts of firepower without feeling a bit of hate towards them.
What I can’t do is watch footage of anti-fa protesters screaming hysterically at normal people and attacking them with bike locks, boots, pepper spray and urine without feelings of intense hatred raising in my consciousness. And I am not an angry person by nature, a fact I consider a true blessing.
The Taliban are not going to back down because they don’t have to; they’re winning and will only come to the negotiating table when they, not us, can dictate the terms.
Progressives in America are not backing down either, not because they are winning but because they face no consequences for their unhinged lunacy. Globalist big money backs the left as does Hollywood, the legacy media, professional athletes, every comedian who doesn’t want to be blacklisted, academia and our coastal elites. The progressives have plenty of money and an unlimited number of poorly educated young people for astro turf protests that make life miserable for average, hard working Americans.
I can see a way out of Afghanistan that would benefit the people of that tragic land and I’ll write about that next. What I can’t see is a way out of the culture of hate in America currently being directed at the productive classes. The progressives will continue to push right until they start facing the consequences of their actions. At that point it will be too late. Civil wars are horribly bloody affairs because identifying friend from foe is easy as is the natural impulse to hate.
There is much more darkness to venture through before we start seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel.
When dealing with news out of Afghanistan we must start with what we know to be true before speculating on the remainder in an effort to understand what happened. The soldiers were killed in Achin district where the Afghans with American Special Forces units in direct support, have been battling ISIS-K. I suspect the soldiers were in the field operating with Afghan soldiers when this unfortunate incident occurred. That would explain how four them were hit by a loan assailant. That also means the units assigned to the ‘advise and assist’ mission are engaging in direct combat. They have to do that to gain even a shred of credibility with the Afghan army but I bet they won’t be out and about much longer.
What additional troops were doing rolling around in Khogyani district requires speculation.
I suspect they were moving from the base at Jalalabad (FOB Fenty) into Achin district using the back roads to avoid the exposure of the Jalalabad – Torkham main road. Regardless of circumstances the killing of a car load of locals, something that was all too common when there were large numbers of NATO forces moving on the roads, is bad.
It appears the Taliban are trying to force Kabul to the negotiating table by inflicting massive casualties that the population can no longer endure while driving a wedge between the NATO advise and assist troops and their Afghan colleagues via green on blue attacks. That is a sound strategy. When those same American troops, while moving through a countryside they know to be hostile, kill civilians who happen to be too close to them when an IED goes off…..that’s a perfect storm. NATO doesn’t trust the forces they mentor to not kill them, the forces they mentor risk being shot every time they are getting mentored. The people are getting hammered by the Taliban and by NATO if they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s a storm alright (a s–t storm) and one for which NATO, the UN and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan have no answer.
When the problem of Green on Blue attacks reached a crisis stage in 2012 the response by NATO was to separate themselves (even more) from the Afghans they were supposed to mentor. Then they instituted a ‘guardian angel’ program to protect themselves from the Afghans they were there to help. Here are the Green on Blue numbers (hat tip Long War Journal)
US military commanders in Afghanistan have assigned “guardian angels” to watch over troops as they sleep, among a series of other increased security measures, in the wake of rogue Afghan soldiers targeting Nato forces.
The so-called guardian angels provide an extra layer of security, watching over the troops as they sleep, when they are exercising, and going about their day.
Among the new measures introduced, Americans are now allowed to carry weapons in several Afghan ministries. They have also been told to rearrange their office desks so they face the door.
Now the Guardian Angels will have to be standing, at the ready, prepared to shoot any Afghan who makes a move for his gun too fast during every interaction between Afghans and NATO. How that will work out in field operations is obvious – it won’t and thus we are going to suffer more of them.
The issue is trust and trust is something that can only be built over long periods of time in Afghanistan. Governments in the West have been proving, for years now, they are incapable of taking the steps needed to protect their citizens from Jihadist terrorism. Sovereign citizens have little reason to trust their ruling elite who are more concerned with inclusion, diversity, various ‘phobias’ and not being perceived as racists then they are with protecting the population. Afghans have no reason to trust their ruling elites and the question is when you can’t trust the government who do you trust?
Tribes and clans are still used when information security and omerta are paramount. No technical solution yet devised can beat treachery. Only loyalty can do that — and we have made loyalty, to nation at least, a bad word.
The Afghans who are committing these Green on Blue (and Green on Green) attacks are trusting the Taliban to take care of their clans when the dust settles. That is probably a solid bet. The Americans and other NATO troops in Afghanistan are not able to build trust networks during their seven month tours so they have to trust their fellow soldiers to have an OODA loop quick enough to protect them. That is not a solid bet – being that quick on the trigger will result in Blue of Green deaths that were unnecessary and further divide allies who are supposed to be fighting together.
The Perfect Storm is building and it is obvious that it will break soon. When that happens we can be certain of one thing. The elites who masterminded this fiasco will ignore it and continue taking us down the path of multi culti madness. It is too late to save Afghanistan the only question now is do we have the intestinal fortitude in the West to save ourselves?
The 73rd commemoration of the Allied invasion a of Normandy on D-Day (operation Neptune) is a fitting place to start an examination of what is happening in Afghanistan. One reason for that are the iconic photographs from that invasion of the firepower the Allied forces were using that day.
Battleships were part of the prep fires for that invasion and they fired 123,984 shells on D-Day. The mark 8 “super heavy” 16-inch shell, when fired with a proximity fuse would leave a crater 50 feet deep and 20 feet wide which is bigger than the crater caused by the honey dipper borne IED that hit Kabul last week. A relevant question to ask when watching the old footage of Battleships launching broadsides into the French coastal towns and village is where were the French citizens who lived there? They were still there and to this day the civilian casualties from the D-Day invasion remain unknown although one source claims the number to be around 50,000.
As the invasion forces landed and started to move inland they were supported by M4 Sherman tanks. These tanks were named after William Tecumseh Sherman, a famous (in the North) infamous (in the South) Union general noted for his scorched earth tactics during the “March to the Sea” where he gutted the agricultural and light industrial capacity of the deep south.
Sherman is also famous for this quote which is relevant to the quagmire in Afghanistan today.
“I am sick and tired of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.”
Sherman knew war was hell and because of this immutable truth he felt wars had to be ended as quickly as possible. This is why he destroyed the economic foundation of the South while avoiding pitched battles when he could. He knew that in doing so he was inflicting a harsh punishment on the civilian population of the South but didn’t let compassion interfere with his mission. Although Grant ultimately beat Robert E Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia forcing its surrender at Appomattox it was Sherman’s destruction of the Confederate economic base that sealed their fate. Sherman ended the Civil War as fast as was possible given the situation on the ground at that time.
The Taliban seems to have adopted Sherman’s strategy. They have inflicted massive, morale draining defeats on the Kabul government in the past few months. The attack on Kabul’s military hospital, the horrendous slaughter of recruits in Mazar-e Shraif, the Kabul truck bomb attack (using the equivalent of one 16-inch shell) followed by the suicide bombing attack at a funeral for the victims of that truck bomb attack which has been followed by another massive VBIED in Herat. The Taliban are stepping up their relentless campaign of death and destruction with one goal in mind. They want the war to end and end on their terms.
Western armies in general and the American military specifically no longer understand the truth behind General Sherman’s famous quote. We lack the capacity to inflict the damage required to end wars quickly and (more importantly) decisively. Instead we offer solutions and forces that will string out war for decades. We come with firepower controlled by lawyers, we are more concerned with “tolerance” and putting females into fighting formations then we about winning. We adopt tactics like night raids that accomplish nothing tactical but instead drive the population away from the allies we are supposed to be supporting. We insist that taking out Taliban ‘leaders’ is important while ignoring that the Taliban gets stronger and more capable the longer we fight them.
Understanding that wars must be ended quickly to prevent unnecessary deaths and destruction does not mean there will not be death destruction. Lobbing 123,984 16-inch shells into the towns and villages of France was not humane, it exposed the civilian population to unimaginable death and destruction but it also shortened a horrible war. Going into Musa Qala or Sangin and giving the tribes a simple ultimatum; join our side or we will burn down your villages, kill your livestock, and put all of you in ‘relocation camps’ is not humane. But it would have shorten the current Afghan war by a decade.
We can see what is happening by allowing the Afghan war to enter its 16th year; death and destruction on what is now approaching biblical levels. That’s not humane, it’s not smart and it reflects poorly on our ability to think and act at the strategic level.
Telling the Pakistani’s to go into Miranshaw, kill the Haqqani clan and get those tribes under control; or we will, is not humane but it would win the Afghan war. Putting Pakistan on the horns of a dilemma by starting to advocate for a Pashtun and Baluch homeland would be humane for the tribes involved. But it would also involve diplomatic brinkmanship of the highest order. To do that the international community would have to be prepared to eliminate Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal with preemptive strikes. That would cause the same level of death and destruction we visited on the citizens of France 73 years ago but nobody in the west has the stomach for that. Yet.
The Taliban and their radical Islamic allies see our current campaigns in Central Asia, the Middles East, Africa and now the Philippines as a clash of civilizations. Western Civilization was once able to do the most important function of a healthy civilization. That is to reduce and re-direct the natural aggression of males while also reducing and re-directing the natural tendency of vanity in its females. Today in the west male aggression is crushed, starting before grade school, by a feminist dominated system that medicates them and then prosecutes them for the trivial offense of eating part of a piece of pizza so it is shaped like a gun. Our boys are drugged, punished and ostracized relentlessly for the crime of being boys.
Yet that same system promotes female vanity to such ridiculous heights that we now have females in Marine Corps infantry battalions. If you think that’s progress you just might be a denier….of reality.
Islam promotes male aggression while crushing female vanity. Their cultural fear of female sexuality produces a bizarre dissonance reflected in increases in birth defects from intermarriage, a hatred of homosexuals but an acceptance of homosexual acts between young men and with younger boys. Large farm animals are at risk of rape when bands of armed young Muslim fighters are about; the US military has thousands of hours of surveillance video to prove that. The repression of females by Islamic society has produced shocking levels of hypocrisy which should make it the weaker participant in a clash of cultures yet, for now, the issue is in doubt,
When an Islamic terrorist blew himself up outside a Ariana Grande concert last week the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom announced she had enough and promptly introduced measures that will do nothing to stop Islamic terrorism while reducing, even more than before, the freedom of her people. Islamic terrorist proved that point with yet another truck/suicide knife attack in London just days ago.
In response to the attack in Manchester Ariana Grande staged a benefit concert where thousands of her young female fans were transfixed as she sang about having a “wrist ice cycle (meaning her wrist was covered in male seman) while riding a dick bicycle“. What do you think ISIS YouTube star who influenced the Manchester bomber, Shaykh Ahmad Musa Jibril, of Dearborn Michigan thought of that performance? I don’t know but I bet it was something like “we will kill them all”.
Our response for the past 16 or so years to the challenge of Islamic terrorism seems to be something along the lines of “hold my beer..I got this”. We don’t have a damn thing; the only question is will we get a clue in time to save ourselves?