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.
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.
Yesterday I was talking with one of the unsung hero’s of the Afghanistan reconstruction battle Jeff “Raybo” Radan. I’ve known Jeff since we were instructors back at the Marine Corps Basic School and we worked together again when I replaced him (at the end of his tour) in Lashkar Gah as the regional manager for the USAID implementing partner CADG. He was has been working out of Kabul and told me about the ISIS-K car bomb before it hit the wires. He’s moving on to another project in Iraq but said he has seen definite improvement in the Afghan Security Forces.
Raybo got his nickname when he returned from the Army Ranger Course minus about 20 pounds on his already skinny frame and couldn’t stop talking about how much he loved it. His take on increasing the advise and assist mission? He’s not sure how effective it will be but is certain about what will happen if we don’t do it and that assessment was bleak.
Yesterday’s car bomb attack was to be expected; it was a matter of time before ISIS struck back after getting MOAB’d. This latest attack was unusual in one respect. The car bomb was parked, not driven into the convoy, which is a departure from the norm. It could indicate that the ANP has downtown Kabul under better control…or not…it’s hard to say. Setting off a car bomb that kills local civilians without doing too much damage to the NATO MRAP’s they were targeting is an amateur hour performance. It is also a far cry from their previous attacks in Kabul which were more dramatic and inflicted heavy casualties on their intended targets be they Hazara people or Afghan security forces.
The MOAB took out 38 building in an unnamed (meaning unauthorized) settlement and 69 trees. There was no gigantic crater because the MOAB is a fuel air explosive which is something the media still doesn’t seem to understand. From the article linked above:
Fuel-Air Explosives [FAE] disperse an aerosol cloud of fuel which is ignited by an embedded detonator to produce an explosion. The rapidly expanding wave front due to overpressure flattens all objects within close proximity of the epicenter of the aerosol fuel cloud, and produces debilitating damage well beyond the flattened area. The main destructive force of FAE is high overpressure, useful against soft targets such as minefields, armored vehicles, aircraft parked in the open, and bunkers.
It looks like the MOAB under-performed but looks are deceiving. If there were men hiding in those tunnels they’re crispy critters now; if the tunnels contained large stores of weapons and ammo those are now gone. It will take months of donkey trains to replace them if replacements are even available. I believe the weapons and ammunition were the targets and that nobody involved in the attack really cared about a high body count because that is a meaningless metric. I also believe all the conjecture in the press surrounding this weapon has proven to be fake news. That conjecture has shifted now and the legacy media is contending the bomb was a dud. That they know not what they are talking about is obvious.
The Taliban is fighting ISIS-K, we’re targeting ISIS-K regularly and the Pakitani’s are targeting them too. I doubt they will survive much longer with all the attention they’re getting. The one disturbing factor is that ISIS-K has the support of the Safi tribes; a problem I’ll address in a future post.
There is a potential game changer being put in play with the return of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to Kabul. He is a former prime minister and the leader of the Hezb-i-Islami militant group. More importantly he is a Pashtun from the northern city of Kunduz and one would suspect he’ll have the ability to bring a resurgent Taliban in Kunduz to heel. That would be huge and comes at a time when the Taliban from that area have pulled off the most devastating attack (the Mazar-e Sharif attack) against the ANA to date in this long nasty war .
The Mazar attack targeted young recruits attending Friday prayers in the base Mosque which has enraged Afghans who feel (correctly) it was an assault against Islam. Heckmatyar has said repeatedly the Taliban are an affront to Islam and that is a message which now resonates, more than ever, with the Afghan people. We shall see how this plays out but if he can dampen the fires of insurgency in the north the Afghans will have the space they need to concentrate their forces in the south and east.
There is one other thing Heckmatyar could help with in this critical phase of the fight for Afghanistan. He may be able to do something about the Haqqani clan. Every attack inside Kabul and the recent devastating attack in Mazar-e Sharif had Haqqani fingerprints all over them. They are funded by Pakistan’s intelligence agency (the ISI) and have been able to penetrate Kabul seemingly at will. They are dedicated, professional butchers who kill without pity or remorse. They need to be put down and the sooner the better.
We have been trying for years to get both Jalaluddin (the family patriarch) and his son Sirajuddin with drones but have come up empty. A man like Heckmatyar has the capability to get them the old fashioned way using car bombs or ambushes. I wonder if he’ll make the effort and know taking out the Haqqani’s would have an immediate impact on decreasing the level of violence directed at Kabul. Time will tell.
The Marines of Task Force Southwest are on the ground starting their advise and assist mission in the Helmand province. No news about them is good news because the only news we’ll see in the legacy media will concern casualties. I’m not aware of any reporters who plan to embed with them to write about their mission and how it is working out. Yet another reason why I want to embed with them for a month this summer. The Marines and soldiers on the front lines deserve to have their stories told and not just when they have sustained casualties.
There are no good options available to the international community in Afghanistan. My greatest concern, shared by many others, is that we will calibrate our advise and assist efforts to do just enough not to lose. If we are serious about the advise and assist mission then we have to accept two things. It is going to take more than a decade of sustained effort and at some point we will have to fight with the troops we are training and advising. Fighting means losing troops; it’s inevitable but the public has not been prepared for nor will it accept high numbers of American combat deaths in Afghanistan.
President Trump has not revealed his plan for Afghanistan yet but when he does his plan will be attacked by the legacy media regardless of content. That’s not good for our country or Afghanistan. It appears the President is allowing Secretary of Defense Mattis to shape this plan without micromanagement or intrigue from the White House. That is good news given the prior pattern of micromanagement by both the Bush and Obama administrations. If the new plan is the same as the old plan then we’ll know the Afghans are screwed. I doubt Secretary Mattis will settle for more of the same and know there is not another American alive today who could handle this task better. If he can quietly kill the current females in the infantry madness while he’s at it we can consider ourselves blessed. Let us hope that both of these things are not a bridge too far given the madness that passes for reality with our ruling class in Washington DC and their accomplices in the press.
There is no way to determine what is going on in Afghanistan without competent reporters on the ground digging up truth and reporting that in context. That is why I’m trying so hard to fund an embed back there but I cannot do that without your support. If you can please consider a donation to the Baba Tim Go Fund Me page in support of accurate reporting from the front lines.
This morning the main stream media caught up with FRI by reporting how the terrorists who attacked the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) in Mazar-i Sharif got onto the base. They also reported on the relief of the 209th Corps commanding general. To be fair the news report (linked here) contained details I didn’t know so good for them for the original reporting. Here’s one of those details:
When the first fighting broke out, one of the assailants dressed in a special forces uniform rushed into the mosque, the security source said. He herded the panicked recruits to take cover together in a room. “And there he blew himself up,” the source said. Any survivors were gunned down by the remaining militants, he added.
That is a hard attack to defend against. In military terms it was a raid and raids are often easy to pull off because they, by design, target units or people who are not prepared for them. The hard part of any raid isn’t gaining surprise; it’s getting your troops back safely. That problem is mitigated when the assaulting troops have intentions of surviving the attack.
Saying “I told you” is, at this point, a tedious exercise in irrelevance. Nobody really cares and it makes for boring blogging. So, let me tell you something you didn’t know using another current news story.
Last week there was an uplifting story about high school girls in Herat, Afghanistan mastering basic internet skills in a computer lab apparently provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The article is titled “In Afghanistan, girls break cyber walls” and was a human interest story designed to showcase progress but really showcased failure, and did so with reckless disregard for the future health and well being of the girls being reported on.
Herat is in the Western part of the country and the local culture, as it is in Zaranj, has a heavy Persian influence. The mores regarding women are a little more lax but not so lax that encouraging school girls to get on social media is a good idea. Both the Taliban and ISIS have used social media to target apostates and spies. Maybe the girls in this story belong to families with enough clout to keep them safe once we’re gone but I doubt it.
Bringing internet and IT training to Afghan children is not a new story; it’s been done before in a much more comprehensive way. But that effort garnered little media attention or big money foundation support.
Unlike other aid programs this one cost the taxpayers exactly nothing. Not a dime of aid funding funded the FabLab; the equipment was provided by MIT and grad students from MIT and their geek friends (known as Fab Folk) self funded their way to Afghanistan to set it up. They came from as far away as South Africa and Iceland; it was remarkable to see and best yet they paid their bar bills on time and with cash.
The Fab Lab equipment would have been of limited use without good internet conductivity which was installed by Baba Ken from Reachback.org. Ken supported a start up portable satellite antenna company into field testing their new Gatr ball system to Taj, to determine how long this portable system would function in a remote location. A government agency based in the Fort Washington Facility donated the 15k a month worth of fat pipe bandwidth (they too were interested in seeing how long and at what capacity the system would last). FRI provided the expertise to get all this gear through customs (for a mere 200 buck bribe) and delivered to Jalalabad and (as we did with all our guests at the Taj) Shem Klimiuk and I provided security for the internationals who came to work on the project.
Their story is remarkable, inspirational, but never gained any traction despite being told in the pages of this blog and featured in an excellent interview by NPR of Dr. Amy Sun, who introduced the Fab Lab to Afghanistan. Listen to the interview; you’re not going to believe what they accomplished without the help or support of the US Government or any other international aid organization.
The Jalalabad Fab Lab was unable to generate the donations required to continue operations and I believe that is because the success was counter- narrative. While NATO was spending millions and millions of dollars developing the”virtual silk road” the universities and teaching hospitals in Jalalabad had lightening fast internet provided free of cost by the Fab Folk and Baba Ken’s Jbad Geek squad (not pictured in this blog for security reasons).
When dealing with the narrative we have to judge what we know to be true before speculating on anything else. What we know to be true is that the most effective cyber aid program in Afghanistan came about in the exact same manner as America’s current oil boom – despite, not because of the government. It was an effective grass roots movement that ultimately died because the Fab Folk were unable to attract organizations like the Gates foundation to sustain it and they did try that source and many others.
These pictures and this story were once a source of great pride for those who participated in this noble effort. Viewing them now brings a sense of ennui. Baba Ken, Dr. Dave Warner of the Synergy Strike Force and Dr. Amy Sun were told over and over what they were doing could not be done. They took huge risks to prove it could be and did so because they wanted to help and knew their skill set could bring much needed technical education and resources to the Afghan people. But they had no connections in the halls of power and it seemed to me the last thing that the US government agencies deployed to Afghanistan wanted to see was people doing what they themselves contended could not be done. The ruling class and their technical experts hate being proven wrong.
The boys pictured above, if they are still alive, are in the fight now; on one side or the other. They wanted to be in university, they wanted a chance to live a productive life. What the can you say to them now? Sorry just doesn’t seem to cut it.
I’d like to report how this story ends but I cannot do that without your support. If you can please consider a donation to the Baba Tim Go Fund Me page in support of accurate reporting from the front lines.
My sources for this kind of information have never failed me but the media and Resolute Support staff are failing you by refusing to allow the news to come out unfiltered. This mornings news feed carried conformation of the scoop in this mealy mouthed way:
Ghani also reshuffled the local army leadership, as the Taliban threatened further attacks.
There are six corps in the Afghan army. Four of them have just had their commanding generals relieved. I do not believe the Afghans have a deep bench of senior general officer talent and know this move will cause turmoil in ongoing operations. It’s devastating to morale and not well timed either as it’s spring and time to start a new fighting season.
So, at this point, what difference does it make?
I don’t know. As many of my friends have said nobody cares about Afghanistan anymore. I respond that people will start caring when we start losing troops again but it is possible we’ll continue to avoid casualties (with the exception of the occasional SF soldier because they are staying in the fight). If that pattern holds then it means our train and assist missions are locked down inside FOB’s and never leave them. Which is to say they are wasting their time because you can’t mentor combat troops unless you’re fighting with them too. That approach is the exact same type of kabuki theater that is inflicted on the public daily by TSA agents at our airports.
Yet I still smell danger; not in the form of a threat to our country but in the form of refusing to learn from repeated past mistakes. I remain unable to track down who agreed to the deployment of 300 Marines and why. I’ve talked to general officers up to the three star level and they don’t know either nor are they optimistic about achieving mission success. I could have pressed general Turner on the issue but he’s a friend and I’m not a real reporter and would never put a friend on the spot like that.
I know the Pentagon will contend that the currently level of secrecy involving the Afghan commitment is to prevent enemies from knowing what we are up to. I also know the one entity that knows exactly where American troops are and in what number is the Taliban. They don’t need the press to tell them where we are and what we’re doing. This brings up the disturbing possibility that the Pentagon could fall into the same position of distrust and contempt that they were in at the end of the Vietnam war.
Recently in the news was another story about a gang of youths robbing and beating people. This was on a BART train but in the past similar things have occurred in shopping centers, state fairs or the high end retail property in Chicago. These stories always say the perpetrators are “youths” but look at the comment section following any of these reports and note the commentary concerning the ethnicity of the “youths”. The media won’t report on ethnicity concerning mob assaults which is one of the reasons Americans despise our main stream media. The media lies by omission and fools no one; our military leaders should not emulate their strategy; we’ve been losing enough lately.
I don’t want to see the military become the home of the “five o’clock follies” again. Nor do I want to see Afghanistan descend into civil war again. Both these possibilities are inevitable if we continue to do the same thing over and over expecting different results.
As I mentioned yesterday I am comfortable that whatever Secretary Mattis decides is the correct course of action because I respect the man that much. However it is dangerous to put that much faith in one man. Knowing him and knowing his level of understanding about war I would have expected him to drive a stake through the heart of all this females in the infantry bullshit. He hasn’t yet and he may not ever say a word on the subject. If that happens then I’ll admit I was wrong about the man; even our heroes are, in the end, only human and thus vulnerable to the twin curses of hubris and pride.
If there was ever a time in our history we needed a hero to step up an interject reality into the narrative it is now. If we don’t find one soon we’re doomed to descend into the third world status. History tells us that descent can be rapid and when it happens we’ll learn what the Afghans already know; death waits just around the corner and cares nothing about race, gender, annual income, or altruistic feelings. Death cares about death; we can be a free people or a dead people. Everything rides on the truth and treating reality with respect by not feeding a pretend narrative that makes coastal elites feel good about themselves.
This morning’s news contained the best news (for Americans) yet to come from Afghanistan. Our Secretary of Defense, former Marine Corps General James Mattis flew into Kabul to assess our efforts there. His visit was unannounced and I am willing to bet his entourage small. Secretary Mattis is the best general of his generation and is revered by the American military. America saw why if they watched him at his confirmation hearings. He comes to Kabul at a critical time because the Afghans just got some bad news.
The Afghan defense minister, the army chief of staff and (although not in the press and maybe an inaccurate tip) four Afghan army corps commanders have been sacked. The press is contending the two ministerial level officials resigned but that is not what I am hearing from my sources in country. This level of senior leadership turmoil will crush the already fragile morale of the Afghan National Security Forces while throwing current operations in disarray.
There is no longer a question about our intentions regarding Afghanistan; we are staying to see things through. You can hear for yourself below:
ANSF is taking a beating reportedly losing 9,000 KIA in 2015 and 10,000 in 2016. Attrition from desertions average 1/3 of the force per year but buried in that number are soldiers who are late coming back from leave and marked as new joins when they return. How big or small that number is remains unknown. Ghost soldiers (having men on the payroll who are not there) has always been a problem but it is a different phenomena than it was in the days before all pay was distributed into individual bank accounts. In the past ghost soldiers were a sign that the commander was pocketing the cash himself. Now it is a sign that commanders are seeing that the families of their soldiers who were killed in action receive financial support without which they will be destitute. The next big idea we should be floating in Afghanistan is adequate compensation for the families of soldiers lost in combat.
Secretary Mattis contends that the levels of cooperation between NATO and the Afghan military and government has never been better. He also has said the ANSF security forces continue to improve in the face of excessively high casualties. If that’s true then how did the Taliban pull of such a spectacular attack in the prosperous and safest city in Afghanistan? I’ll tell you how.
The Taliban approached the base in Mazar-i Sharif with wounded men in their vehicles telling the guards at the first checkpoint they had to get their men to the hospital immediately. They were let past the first checkpoint but stopped at the entrance by guards who wanted to see the wounded men before allowing them to proceed. That was when the first suicide bomber detonated himself killing those guards and allowing the rest to race towards the Mosque and chow hall. Soldiers in the mosque attending Friday prayers would be unarmed; it would be an insult to Islam if they were. Soldiers eating chow are normally not armed either and no military in the world allows its recruits to run around armed. Once through the gates the attackers had everything they need to kill hundreds of unarmed troops.
Attacking troops in a mosque is an affront to Islam; it has enraged many Afghans (it should enrage them all) and the location of the attack is important to understand. Mazar is as anti-Taliban as Dearborn Michigan. Wait, that’s probably not true actually – it is as anti-Taliban as San Antonio. Populated by mostly Tajik and Uzbek peoples it draws thousands of itinerant laborers including Pashtuns from the south of the country. The people of Mazar are now afraid that the central government cannot protect them and they will turn to those who can; the former Northern Alliance which is another way of saying local warlords. They also could turn on the Pashtuns by lynching innocent men in the streets (like they did in 2001) sparking another nasty civil war.
The Mazar attack was a professional operation that was well planned, obviously rehearsed and has the hallmarks of a Haqqani network operation which is to say it was sponsored, directed (and possibly lead) by Pakistan’s secret police, the ISI. The goal of Pakistan is to keep Afghanistan prostrate, unorganized, and at war because they cannot handle a stable state to their west when they are fighting India to their east. Plus they are making millions off us allowing our equipment and supplies to transit their country.
This attack is part of a campaign to bring civil war to Afghanistan and it comes at a time with the progressives seem to be doing the exact same thing in our country. Witness this headline from the odious Think Progress organization The US has failed Afghanistan and the Trump Administration isn’t helping. The article contains no new news and was written to stoke anti Trump feelings. I wrote about these jerks in 2011 after they swooped into Kabul to line their pockets with consulting fees while leaving behind a report that proved them to be masters of the obvious.
So we are staying in Afghanistan to see things through. I’ve got no problems with that but how are we going to make a difference? I’m not sure because the only way to mentor effectively is to fight with the men you’re mentoring. Secretary Mattis knows more about this topic than any man alive and if he’s backing the plan then I’m with him. How this renewed commitment will play out on the ground is something we will not be able to judge due to the lack of reporting coming out of the country.
This is why I’m trying so hard to get the funding required to go back and report from a country I really am passionate about. But my efforts are clearly not bearing fruit so I’m being forced to resort to more extreme measures like this:
The 300 Marines of Task Force Southwest (TF Southwest) are on their way back to the Helmand province of Afghanistan to help stabilize the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in that part of the country. Based on the mornings news from the front it would appear they will be too little, to late.
Last night the Taliban staged an attack on the biggest base in the North of the country, Mazar-i Sharif, killing 140 young recruits who were in the base mosque for Friday prayers. How is it that an army, mentored by international military units for the past 15 years, cannot protect its young recruits from being slaughtered on its largest base? This is the biggest question of the day and one we can anticipate will never asked by our corporate media or explained by the senior American generals in Kabul.
But it’s worse than that because Mazar is not in Pashtun lands and the Tajiks and Uzbeks who comprise a majority of the population up north fought the Taliban back in the 90’s as part of the Northern Alliance. The Taliban is a mainly Pashtun movement and seeing the franchise branch out into the Tajik and Uzbek communities is a sign that the momentum is not going our way. There have been individual northern tribal fighters in the Taliban before but if the non-Pashtun tribes are now majority anti government it would seem that the game clock is rapidly running out.
Into the fray the Marines now enter without supporting arms or other combat enablers. They are not going to fight; their mission is to advise and assist which identical to the German army mission that is on the very base in Mazar that was attacked last night. The Germans suffered no casualties because the international advise and assist teams are housed on secure FOBs inside the Afghan FOBs where un-vetted Afghan troops are not allowed to enter.
And therein lies the problem. Mentoring of foreign armed forces is best done with teams who both train and fight with them. Advising officers after mounting (literally) a combat patrol to take you from your office to their office is ridiculous. You cannot put lip stick on that pig. Can it work? Hard to see how at this point.
Which brings up the question of what could the commanding general, Army LtGen John Nicholson, (no relation to Marine Corps LtGen Larry Nicholson who has been featured in this blog several times) be thinking when he asked for a few thousand more troops to help train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)? That question was answered for me by BGen Roger Turner, the Commanding General of TF Southwest. He said the Afghan security forces in general and the Afghan army specifically have improved to the point where with a little extra mentoring and support they can turn to corner and become self sufficient.
General Turner, who I have known for a long time, is nobodies fool. He is a bright, tough and more importantly, intuitive combat leader. General Nicholson has been at his job for over a year and also has a stellar reputation. Both of these men have been handed tasks that, in my humble opinion, cannot be achieved. But I don’t know what they know and will give them the benefit of the doubt.
Mainstream press coverage of this deployment has been uniformly uninformed, as has has the normally more accurate alternative media. This story posted on Brietbart yesterday is a good example. Read it and think about what you know on the topic when you’re finished. Then scroll through any of the last 10 posts on this blog and you’ll see what I mean. Apples versus oranges.
There is no indication that the momentum in this conflict is shifting towards our side. It clearly belongs to the various groupings of Taliban, ISIS and the other armed opposition groups and drug running syndicates that flourish countrywide. And then there is the annoying fact that the picture being painted by the Resolute Support mission staff differs (dramatically) from reality. This backgrounder PDF released by NATO states the following about ANSF attrition:
Reducing attrition is essential for the long-term viability of the ANSF, especially with respect to retaining quality personnel. If total strength objectives are increased in the future, attrition must be reduced even further. Average monthly attrition rates are 2.6% in the ANA and 1.29% in the ANP. The ANSF’s goal is to reach an attrition rate of less than 1.4%. On average, the ANSF consistently gets 6,000-9,000 recruits every month
Those rates of attrition are (to be charitable) suspect. This week Steve Inskeep of NPR had an interview with the author of a new book, Our Latest Longest War, LtCol Arron O’Connell, USMC. This book may well be the best yet from the military perspective on the Afghan conflict and I cannot recommend it more highly. Here is a portion of the interview:
O’CONNELL: I believe we’ve been trying to help them out of the tragic story of Afghanistan for 15 years. Americans are big-hearted people. The United States is the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. But there is still space to reason what the appropriate amount of blood and treasure is to spend on a mission that seems to be in stalemate at best, backsliding at worst.
I think we have pretty good evidence now, both from Iraq and Afghanistan, that the massive assembly-line attempt to produce capable, professional national security forces has not worked well, and it’s been at tremendous cost. And for all those who say we should just keep doing what we’re doing in Afghanistan, let me explain why that’s not sustainable. Every year, between a quarter and a third of the Afghan army and the police desert. Now, these are people that we have armed and trained. We’ve given weapons to them. We’ve given them basic military training. And every year, a third of them disappear.
INSKEEP: With the guns.
O’CONNELL: With the guns. That’s not sustainable for us economically, and it’s certainly not sustainable for the Afghan people to just fill the hills with armed militias.
That sounds a little higher than 2.6% per month but 2.6 x 12 = 31 so the NATO brief is about right but looks better than the stats provided in the interview above. And this is why I feel it imperative to go back and cover this deployment. There is too much blood and treasure riding on this mission to condemn it to the mediocre coverage of the main stream media.
If you have the means and are interested in the truth regarding the situation in Afghanistan then please take the time to visit the Baba Tim Go Fund Me page and donate. We all deserve the truth about what is being done in our name and the only way to get it is to send someone over there who understands what he’s seeing and has the depth of knowledge to give context and background to his reporting.
After making a generous donation it would be appropriate to say a quiet prayer for the men and woman of TF Southwest. Their going need all the good karma in the world to pull this off. My money is still on them.
This year’s fighting season has started off with a whimper in Helmand Province. On May Day (as predicted) the only action was in Paktika Province where a child suicide bomber violated the latest Taliban public announcement by blowing himself up in a police station. The Taliban had just announced they would no longer allow beardless boys into their ranks and although the Pashtun are a hirsute people I’m not aware of any 12 year olds who can cultivate a beard. On the 7th of May the Taliban launched a two day siege in Kandahar which accomplished little; they didn’t even manage to inflict any casualties on ISAF or the Afghan security forces.
Defeating the Taliban in battle in downtown Kandahar is not a victory for the good guys because of the fact they were fighting in downtown Kandahar. The people of Kandahar are the prize for both ISAF and the Taliban; the real estate is meaningless so the fact that the Taliban even mounted this operation is bad news. There are additional reports that groups of Taliban fighters had “foreigners” embedded in them which may, or may not, be true.
The Taliban did spend 10 to 15 minutes warning local people near the government buildings to bug out ahead of the fighting which was appreciated by the local population. They then launched a spirited attack, gained a foothold in some government buildings, barricaded themselves inside those buildings and then sat around waiting for ANSF to come fight them which took a couple of days of deliberately cautious fighting. After the assassination of the Provincial Chief of Police, Khan Mohammed Mujaheed, and the jail break at Sarapoza prison, the locals have serious doubts about the ability of ISAF and ANSF to protect them. This summer is going to be the tipping point for somebody and now that the Taliban have reportedly imported foreigners to help them fight they have to fight or risk losing their foreign fighters piecemeal. JSOTF doesn’t take days off, they don’t sleep, they won’t stop and will not run out of money. They go after foreigners like white on rice and Afghans will sell out foreigners in a heartbeat (if the price is right) regardless of which side in this conflict they support. If there are that many foreigners here they have to fight or flee; going to ground in hopes of avoiding compromise by the locals is not going to work.
So where is the spring offensive? Looks like it’s in the north:
Here are a few recent security reports from last week (AGE =anti-government elements in UN security speak):
On 2 May, Balkh Province, Chahar Bolak District, Timurak Village, at approximately 1830hrs, reportedly 150 fully armed AGE entered to the village and overwhelmed the entire village.
On 6 May, Sari Pul Province, Sayyad District, Khwaja Chargonbat and Khwaja Yagana Villages, at approximately 1300hrs, AGE attacked ANSF within the above villages. There were firefights for three consecutive nights which forced the ANSF to withdraw from the village and AGE captured the mentioned villages. One ANA personnel and one local police were wounded.
On 7 May, Balkh Province, Chimtal District, Hotaki Village, at approximately 2005hrs, AGE fired 15 rounds of mortar towards ANP Posts. One of the mortars impacted on an ANP vehicle and as a result, the ANP vehicle was damaged.
Security in the northern portion of the country has been going down the tubes since 2008 with Taliban influence spreading into provinces that have little or no Pashtun population. Their gains came from a combination of ideology and religion with non-Pashtun peoples who have very few reasons to side with them. Actually they have only one reason to throw in with the Taliban which is this; the Taliban settle land disputes and other legal manners in a way which is perceived by all sides as fair and just. Two of the most experienced journalists working in Afghanistan, Antonio Giustozzi and Christoph Reuter, just released a 64 page report titled The Insurgents of the Afghan North which is a fascinating, detailed account about how the Taliban gained such a large foothold. But 150 armed Taliban running around Balkh Province? That is hard to believe.
In 2010 joint Afghan/American SF teams started in on the Taliban shadow government and Taliban leaders up North and they had a clean run with only one exception; the targeted killing of “a senior member” of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) Mohammed Amin. They did not get Mr. Amin but ended up killing a prominent former Taliban commander named Zabet Amanullah, who was out campaigning for his nephew’s parliament run. I remember this as being a big deal when it happened but didn’t know the story behind it until this recent post on The AfPak Channel by Kate Clark. Ms. Clark makes an interesting observation in her piece:
Dealing with the U.S. military, it has felt like we are from parallel worlds. Their Afghanistan, where knowledge is often driven largely by signals intelligence and reports provided by a very limited number of local informants, with a very narrow focus on insurgent behavior, and the normal, everyday world of Afghan politics. In the case of the Takhar attack, these two worlds simply did not connect.
This too has been my observation for many years however it is no longer true in the Helmand Province. The Marines are too active inside a population which is limited to the irrigated lands fed by the Helmand River. Their constant patrolling out of an ever expanding series of spartan combat outposts is paying off. They are gleaning the human intelligence that naturally flows from constant contact with local villagers. We don’t have that ability in the north and judging from both of the articles linked above we have done about all we can do.
The SF teams have run the JPEL up north and although the Taliban filled their vacancies, the old home grown local leaders have apparently been decimated. Their replacements are not from the local tribes and are overwhelmingly Pashtun. My prediction (and I’m on a roll with Egypt still up in the air) is that the North will be end up being the test case for the Karzai government and the Afghan Security Forces. With the Helmand on lock-down, our litmus test in the southern Pastun heartland remains in and around Kandahar. If the Taliban have really imported foreign fighters they have a problem. They’re running out of maneuver room and their foreign fighters are soon going start run out of time.
The killings in Mazar-i Sharif followed by rioting in Kandahar, Jalalabad and towns across the country are more than a little troubling. Joshua Foust posted on the topic expressing concern about the viability of internationals remaining outside the wire which makes me concerned too because Joshua isn’t one to cry wolf.. Registan.net then added a post by Joel Hafvenstein arguing that the insurgency is not targeting aid workers and the time to talk of pulling out has not been reached.
Kandahar, where protests broke out on Saturday was locked down until this morning by ISAF. We had our own scare today when a villain walking near the Governors compound spontaneously detonated (malfunctions are as predictable as rain with Afghan suicide bombers) and his partner immediately started running down a side street towards our compound. He was brought down in a spirited fusillade most of which seemed to snap over our compound walls. This meeting engagement in downtown Lash apparently disrupted crowds which were gathering in the surrounding neighborhoods for a Koran burning protest. We dispatched scouts to check out the city when we heard that but they reported the town to be locked down, streets empty and ANSF check points everywhere. There was a Koran burning protest across the river fronting the main Lashar Gah bazaar but the ANSF won’t let them into the city. The locals know that a large agitated mob would result in indiscriminate looting of the bazaar so the local elders were in the ANP HQ by the afternoon complaining bitterly about allowing crowds to form in the first place.
The violent protests in Kandahar left at least 8 Afghans dead and caused a complete lockdown of the city by ISAF ground combat units. I’m ignoring the attacks on the Kabul ISAF bases last Friday. Attacking them is a stupid, meaningless gesture which puts Afghan civilians caught in the crossfire at much greater risk then the international troops who guard the ECP’s. The rioting in Kandahar is not a big surprise given the powder keg nature of the city as ISAF and ANSF forces continue to put the screws to Taliban networks. The attack on a UN Compound in Mazar in which two of the Nepalese guards were reportedly beheaded is a little harder to explain.
The Wall Street Journal released the well researched article Inside the Massacre at Afghan Compound which gives a good account of what happened and why ISAF did not respond in time. Mazar-i Sharif has indeed always been considered one of the safest towns in the country for foreigners. Back in ’06 and ’07 when I frequently traveled to Mazar we considered the entire area to be benign and never carried rifles or body armor. Just as in Jalalabad, a town reportedly hit with Koran burning protests today, the security situation in Mazar deteriorated dramatically during 2010. I have heard from friends that the armed guards in the UN compound did surrendered their weapons without firing a shot. That is not a big surprise. Shooting into a crowd of unarmed people is not an easy thing to do.
Private Security Companies in Afghanistan are not allowed to have CS or any other kind of grenade (except smoke) in their inventory so the UN guards could not volley CS gas over the walls in an effort to drive the mob away. Nor could they volley frags and as you can see from the picture above gunfire would have been effective only if they started drilling a lot of people fast. Most folks in that situation will decide lethal force is an option which will most likely make the situation worse. Identifying the tipping point when lethal force would be appropriate would have been next to impossible last Friday. Trusting your fate to the mercy of the mob is a plan that could very likely go very wrong but most of us would probably go that route if the alternative is shooting massive numbers of unarmed people. But not now.
Reuters is reporting:
A senior interior ministry investigator said on Sunday the killers of the U.N. staff appear to have been “reintegrated” Taliban — fighters who had formally laid down arms — although the insurgents have denied any role in the attack.
Over 30 people have been arrested, from areas as far afield as southern Kandahar, western Herat and central Baghlan province, said Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
If all those bad actors converged on Mazar-i Sharif to start a riot it was most likely because Mazar has a reputation as being safe. It would be much harder to pull off a similar stunt in Lash and we saw how quickly the protests in Kandahar were locked down. The security forces in contested areas react much faster to large unruly crowds. In Mazar they were used to how things go in Mazar; they have never locked down the city nor have they ever had to deal with multiple Taliban complex attacks. It appears the Koran burning provided the perfect opportunity for an organization with motive, money and organization to whip a large crowd out of control. It would not surprise me if the killers were imported and paid too, but that is speculation on my part. I note with interest that the Taliban have not claimed responsibility.
I am seeing things the same way as Joel Hafvenstein regarding the Afghanistan Aid effort; I don’t know of any company out here slowing down operations or packing up to go home. The security situation deteriorated rapidly in the past 12 months except for in the Helmand and Kandahar Provinces where most population centers are solidly under ISAF/ANSF control. I still think this summer could be a tipping point if the Taliban continue to get shredded in their southern homeland but we’ll have to see. It may not prove to be decisive in the long term but then again who knows? It’s going to be an interesting summer.
The Godfather of Free Range International – the man who pioneered the techniques, tactics and procedures we use to travel in remote districts was executed last week in Badakhshan Province. Dan Terry was a good man. He was humble, self-effacing, and competent. He lived in Afghanistan with his family and spoke fluent Dari and Pashto. Despite knowing him for over 5 years, I don’t know really much more about himpther than he was a humble man who was not comfortable talking about himself. I met Dan in 2005 when he was in Kabul through a doctor friend. I learned later he was in town because he had brought in several children for free cleft palate surgery provided by the excellent CURE hospital in Kabul where they were his wife Seija heads the nursing department. Dan was a religious man who used his love of God as inner strength to help lift the conditions of those he chose to live among – and he didn’t need to tell stories about what he’d done.
When we were starting out in the security business he taught us how to operate safely, how easy it was to travel around the country (as long as you didn’t have big armored SUV’s) and how to seek food and shelter in remote districts if we ended up on foot for some reason. Dan taught how to operate as a westerner in Afghanistan; be true to your word, speak openly, greet warmly, and always smile.
The story about his loss broke yesterday after authorities recovered the remains of Dan and seven international doctors who had conducted an eye clinic in Nuristan Province. The team decided to take the longer, harder route back to Kabul through Badakshan Province because that part of the country is relatively free of Taliban gangs.
Press reports indicated that the local people warned Dan and Tom Little (team lead and another friend who’s been here for more than 3 decades) that the woods they were going to camp in were not safe but they went as planned telling the people they were doctors and that the Taliban would not molest them. That last fact has been true for many years in Afghanistan. Despite this precedent the Taliban claimed credit for this multiple murder but I find that hard to believe. Afghan Taliban groups don’t do that to western doctors who are traveling in harms way, unarmed and unafraid, to treat people in remote districts. At least they never have before.
Dan’s wife Seija is the director of nursing at CURE international and also makes long trips into the bad lands to bring modern midwife techniques to a population of women facing the highest childbirth mortality rate in the world. Dan and Seija, who raised their daughters in Afghanistan, worked for the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries which is an ecumenical NGO based in Central Asia.
There are few men as selfless, patient, kind or as good as Dan Terry. So often it seems in life and especially in war that the good go first. Dan wasn’t a young man, he had lived a long life but he was, to all who knew him, a good man.
Dan was exceptionally gifted at operating outside the wire in the most remote areas of Afghanistan. He was the Godfather of Free Rangers and now we are forced to determine if the deteriorating security situation is going to allow us to or operate in the open. Clearly Dan thought he had a solid plan to get in and out of Nuristan Province. This time the plan failed and the manner in which his team was murdered portends poorly. This is yet another indicator of how fast the security situation is changing in Afghanistan. If there is any indication that things will turn around soon I’m not seeing it. Goodbye and God Bless to Dan and his crew…we are better people for having known you.