Questionable Conduct

Shem Bot and I rolled out to recon another tanker attack last Thursday. Atmospheric collection is continuous; to get a sense of the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where and why) we often do our own BDA (battle damage assessment.)  I am most pleased to report that we do not believe the RPG mechanic had anything to do with this latest attack.   Looks to be yet another fuel theft which is a booming business these days in Afghan.

The Army had a four truck convoy stopped in the middle of the Jbad-Kabul Highway (Rt 1) but I saw no dismounts and have no idea what was up. They are just geting back in the road in this photo
The Army had a four truck convoy stopped in the middle of the Jbad-Kabul Highway (Rt 1) but I saw no dismounts and have no idea what was up. They are just geting back in the road in this photo

I’m going to give you a story board on the fuel tankers while highlighting something that may be a nasty problem for the U.S. Army concerning battle of Wanat which occurred over a year ago in Nuristan Province.

The ANP were sweeping the hill to the left in this picture - it looks like that is where the attack most likely originated
The ANP were sweeping the hill to the left in this picture – it looks like that is where the attack most likely originated

Tomorrow’s Washington Post will contain an article titled “Army Brass Conduct Before Afghan Attack Is Questioned” by Greg Jaffe.   Here is an extract from the article:

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and an Army historian are raising serious questions about the performance of Army commanders prior to an assault that killed nine U.S. soldiers at a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan last July.

Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) said he has asked the Pentagon’s inspector general to conduct a formal examination of the Taliban assault and suggested that the Army may have mishandled an investigation of the incident. He also cited the flawed investigation into the death of Army Cpl. Pat Tillman, a well-known football player who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004.

“The manner in which the Army mishandled the aftermath of Pat Tillman’s tragic death raised serious questions about the integrity of some who held high positions in its leadership structure,” Webb, who saw intense combat as a Marine platoon leader in Vietnam, said in an e-mailed statement. “This incident raises similar questions. Its importance is not merely to provide lessons learned for future operations. It speaks directly about the Army’s ability to speak honestly to itself and to the American public.”

I have met Jim Webb and once saw him give a speech at the Naval Academy which antagonized a Clinton Defense Department official so badly I thought they were going to get into a fist fight right there on stage. He he is no shrinking violet and his interest in this matter is not a good sign for the Army.

The cab has buckled in from the heat of the fire - no evidence of any other battle damage
The cab has buckled in from the heat of the fire – no evidence of any other battle damage

Wanat was a minor disaster – the Army lost 9 killed and over 20 wounded out of a force of 42 soldiers and 3 Marines. The only thing which saved the day for these warriors was their own tenacious resistance. Tom Ricks has written extensively on the battle and even has a book out on it. I went back and looked at the intel reports we were receiving back then – primarily from the UN.   Wanat is in Bargi Matal District which just fell to the gem smuggling branch of the Taliban last week. Here is a report on that district from the day before the battle for Wanat:

On 12 July, Nuristan Province, Bargi Matal District, unknown time, a group of AGE (approx 600 members) including foreigners has infiltrated into the area. The group is planning to take over the DAC and is currently engaged in an armed clash with the security forces in the area. The district authorities have requested the provincial government to send more reinforcement to help defend the DAC from the insurgents.  

DAC stands for District Administrative Center which is the only area under government control in Bargi Matal.

 One of the aspects in dispute from this battle is that the senior commanders were not paying attention to the situation in this remote province and sent too small a force on a mission which made little sense. These things happen in war – but it is always the cover up which causes problems and that is clearly what Senator Webb is focused on. One of the reasons the people in Bargi Matal were in no mood to host soldiers had to do with us killing all their doctors and nurses in one very stupid attack. Again I go back to UN reporting from a year ago:

The most notable incident during this reporting period was the killing of three INGO local staff members (along with approximately 13-18 other locals) and the wounding of a fourth by IMF on 4 July. The victims had been warned to evacuate the area by IMF ahead of an imminent operation and were in the process of departing the area when the incident occurred. The NGO staff was travelling in local transport when it was attacked by a helicopter.   IMF claimed the victims were AOG, a claim that was subsequently proven incorrect. The security situation in Nuristan has deteriorated rapidly since Governor Nuristani’s removal from office due to his perceived ineffectiveness with dealing with AOG.

AOG = armed opposition groups and IMF = international military forces in UN reporting.   This incident was a bad deal, no other way to describe it and the locals were in a state of high agitation about it too. Did you note the name of the Governor who had just been sacked by the Karzai government? Governor Nuristani who was obviously from Nuristan and, given the surname, a man of prominence. Want to bet the locals were steamed about that too?  One has to wonder what the plan for Wanat was and why we would send troops there given the amount of bad juju happening in such a  remote place. There are no American forces anywhere near this district today – it is now (and should always have been) a problem the Afghans have to deal with.

This is not enough to make a truck stop and when you see one planted into a retaining wall with only a few rounds in the tail - that is indicative of fuel theft
This is not enough to make a truck stop and when you see one planted into a retaining wall with only a few rounds in the tail – that is indicative of fuel theft

The Army apparently conducted a very weak investigation into this battle and then tried to put it sown the institutional rabbit hole by removing after action interviews from its Operational Leadership Interview series and issuing well deserved medals for bravery to surviving participants. It is not just ignoring the lessons from this unfortunate incident in question but how the Army fights the counterinsurgency battle.  The senior Generals are defending their plan by claiming they were executing current COIN (counterinsurgency) doctrine.  Yet it appears they were doing the exact opposite. The troops manning these small combat outposts have limited to no meaningful contact with the local people. They’re too busy defending themselves.

Inspirational senior battle leaders are hard to come by. Qualities which the services value in peace time commanders do not always translate well to combat command especially in counterinsurgency warfare. I do not believe Senator Webb is after the brigade commander directly responsible for the deployment of a under equipped platoon to Wanat last July. I think he has much bigger fish to fry. Maybe some good will come of all this, but that is not normally how these things turn out.

The rear of the truck with the only apparent battle damage
The rear of the truck with the only apparent battle damage
I'm no expert but that does not look like the signature fron 20,000 liters of buring fuel
I’m no expert but that does not look like the signature fron 20,000 liters of buring fuel
This is the front of the truck - on rte 1 looking east. The attack point looks to be the hill behind - at least that is where the ANP were patrolling when we arrived
This is the front of the truck – on rte 1 looking east. The attack point looks to be the hill behind – at least that is where the ANP were patrolling when we arrived

Contact

Yesterday was one of those days which cause friends and family concern but which have little to no impact on myself, my workers, or the conflict in Afghanistan.   There were multiple attacks in Gardez and Jalalabad which are the two cities in which I currently head work for cash projects. The suicide bomber who detonated himself outside of police station 1 in Gardez blew out the windows of my Gardez office which is across the street from the police station but fortunately my guys escaped unscathed. Once I determined we had everyone accounted for I sent terse messages instructing them to go get some damn pictures but they were not up for that saying the police would shoot them unless they a press pass. What a bunch of sissies; these guys are professional smugglers but can’t get me some damn pictures when I need them. The Shem Bot did little better when he went to evacuate his guys from their office which is about ¾ of a mile away from the Jalalabad Air Field. The Afghan Security Forces were still looking for a third active shooter and would not let him through their police cordon. Did the Bot get pictures of that?  Nope; “left me camera at work mate” which is like saying the dog ate your homework.

Press photo of yesterday's post incident police cordon
Press photo of yesterday’s post incident police cordon

Good help is hard to find but it must be harder for the bad guys because the two complex attacks which they tried to launch yesterday were poorly executed and  amateurish. At the cost of eight suicide bombers they killed three NDS intelligence officers and three ANP police officers. That is positive math for attrition warfare enthusiasts; at this rate we will run out of Taliban by 2037 if we can just hold on that long.

The enterance to the Jalalabad airport which is also home to both the Afghan and American Army base. The attackers were detected several hundred meters down the road behind me
The entrance to the Jalalabad airport which is also home to both the Afghan and American Army base. The attackers were detected several hundred meters down the road behind me

Having spent time this morning walking the ground where the Jalalabad attack went down it is hard to come up with any rational thought process which would have put two suicide vest wearing riflemen and an RPG gunner on foot, walking up the busiest road in the region to attack the front gate of the Jalalabad airport.   There was a VBIED discovered later in the day further down the road from the airport (not yet reported in the news) which was in an abandoned Alto sedan. It had ten 60mm mortar rounds, four 82mm mortar rounds and fifty pounds of additional explosives all rigged to explode with a typical VBIED trigger system.   The vehicle was discovered hours after the attack but it is safe to conclude that it was going to be used in some coordinated manner with the three stooges who attacked up the busiest road in Eastern Afghanistan.

This was taken this morning after exiting the air port - yesterday's incident occured a good 250 meters to my front. These three retards - or Taliban suicide attack force - whatever; were detected by the ANP as they tried manuver to the gate through the parked trucks. No doubt the sight of 200 truck drivers running for their lives was a good tiup off. The Army and their private guard force helped out the ANP with a spirited volley or two but it is hard for me to see how they could have had clear lines of sight or fire. Unless the attackers ran out into the open field off to the left in this phot - people tend to do stupid things in a gunfight and maybe that is what these clowns did.
This was taken this morning after exiting the airport – yesterday’s incident occurred a good 250 meters to my front. These three retards – or Taliban suicide attack force – whatever; were detected by the ANP as they tried maneuver to the gate through the parked trucks. No doubt the sight of 200 truck drivers running for their lives was a good tip off. The Army and their private guard force helped out the ANP with a spirited volley or two but it is hard for me to see how they could have had clear lines of sight or fire. Unless the attackers ran out into the open field off to the left in this photo – people tend to do stupid things in a gunfight and maybe that is what these clowns did.

Bill Roggio has the best write up on the incidents and he links these two attacks with a series of assaults against government targets going all the way back to the January 2008 attack on the Sernea Hotel. None of those attacks were carried off in an adroit manner – one of the factors which must be remembered in the dog days ahead is that when it comes to actual fighting the Taliban are just not that good. How six of them were uncovered, wearing Burka’s no less, and gunned down outside of the government compound in Gardez is again perplexing.

This is the government quater in Gardez City. Police Station 1 where the attackers were discovered and killed is directly behind me. Why try to get into here through a check point when you could just walk in un molested from any other direction?
This is the government quarter in Gardez City. Police Station 1 where the attackers were discovered and killed is directly behind me. Why try to get into here through a check point when you could just walk in unmolested from any other direction?

There are exceptions of course, and one of them is the RPG mechanic who was working the upper Tangi Valley in Kabul Province last summer. He could put the English on an RPG grenade consistently scoring first round hits on fuel tankers running up the valley to Kabul. Looks like he has found a new hide in the eastern end of the Tangi Valley of Kabul Province. Tangi means dam in the Dari language so every province with a dam has a “Tangi Valley.” On the Jalalabad – Kabul road the Tangi valley feeds you into the town of Surobi which is what we would term a ‘contested area.” Last year there were a series of attacks on fuel tankers east of Surobi by an RPG gunner who was talented so we started calling him The Mechanic. He consistently scored first round hits from a hide in the mountains overlooking the road. Once he started hitting trucks frequently the number of trucks getting hit on the road rose dramatically. Know why? Good cover for fuel thieving which is a cottage industry in Afghanistan.

We hadn’t scene any activity from The Mechanic for many moons and thought the French might have bagged him because they’ve been hard on the Taliban since the ambush.

It looks like the RPG Mechanic has found a sweet spot on the east end of the Tangi Valley. Once again - this is a technically diffiicult gunner sot executed perfectly. Hate to see this asshole back again - but the boy can shoot
It looks like the RPG Mechanic has found a sweet spot on the east end of the Tangi Valley. This was a technically difficult shot executed perfectly. Hate to see this asshole back again – but the boy can shoot

It is going to be a long frustrating summer.

Tainted Love

Last week the auntie of a local girl came from London to assist in her arranged wedding. The bride had little interest in the cousin to whom she had been engaged for the last 15 years but lots of interest in the boy next door so the English Auntie provided the age old remedy for situations like this; poison. It didn’t work but the Auntie made a clean getaway before her involvement was revealed and the young bride has gone missing as has the neighbor kid. The groom is reportedly recovering in Peshawar where the physicians have much experience treating this sort of problem. The crime of passion game is a dangerous one to play in Afghanistan. This kind of thing gets my local guys asking many many questions about us western folk. Tainted love is a bad deal everywhere but here the boys get the poisoning part but the concept of romantic love? That is confusing for them.

Shem Bot texting his girlie from the Gardez airport.
Shem Bot texting his girlie from the Gardez airport.

If you can’t think in real time you are worthless. That is a quote from a friend of mine who runs his own security company in Kabul. Thinking in real time is becoming a little difficult as we see instability and armed criminality rapidly spreading to parts of the country which were incident free for years. There was an attack last week on and ANA convoy driving the Kabul to Mazar-e-Sharif road. The last time there was an attack up there the the Afghan Army was fighting Soviets. The security situation in all the provinces is trending down; there are many more incidents occurring daily than are being reported. Staying on top of the local state of play has never been harder and to that we can add the upcoming elections which have the people’s attention. There was a helicopter shot down earlier this week in the south and the US Air Force lost an F-15E somewhere in the east of Afghanistan (probably means Kunar Province) and it appears that the crew was lost with the plane… bad news.

turns out there is a bunch of old ordinance in the freshwater central bazzar canal which we will have to get removed before we can finish our project.
Turns out there is a bunch of old ordinance in the freshwater central bazaar canal which we will have to get removed before we can finish our project.

There is not much good to report from Afghanistan at the moment. With armed criminality reaching epidemic proportions there is a flood of stories about the dismal state of the Afghan National Police (ANP). The Afghan police are not just ineffective they are despised by rural people who will take the hard tyranny of the Taliban over being preyed upon by the police. This article puts the blame for Afghanistan’s dysfunctional police force on the Germans but that is BS. The Department of State has spent over 10 BILLION on their cookie cutter law enforcement training program which I have written about before. There is only one way to get the police to perform and that is to live with them, mentor them daily, and make them perform. Mentor teams who live on FOB’s and commute to the job become targets because their routine is fixed and predictable. The civilian contractors who work out of the gigantic regional training centers are inflicting death by PowerPoint on their students on subjects Afghan police will never use. What can they teach an Afghan cop about being an Afghan cop? Afghanistan cops are functioning as a paramilitary organization and are trained, armed and deployed as such. But some, perhaps a great many have retained the thuggish ways of warlord sponsored foot soldiers and that is obviously not too good.

The Marines did not meet much resistance from Taliban fighters. Not hard to see why - these guys love to fight but that is not their mission now and my money is on the Marines coming up with innovative ways to accomplish the "hold and build" part of the mission.
The Marines did not meet much resistance from Taliban fighters. Not hard to see why – these guys love to fight but that is not their mission now and my money is on the Marines coming up with innovative ways to accomplish the “hold and build” part of the mission.

The Marines continue to hold all the area they claimed in their massive operation and they too are finding the Afghan security forces to be their biggest problem. But the Marines are serious about staying and are putting out a continuous series of RFP’s (request for proposals) to jump start the build portion of their operation. I was just chatting with Michael Yon about the Marines on Skype last night. He is in Kabul and had been chin wagging with some European  journalists who had just returned from a Marine embed. They could not say enough about how much they loved the Marines and how good they were to them and went out of their way to make things easier or more comfortable (very relative concept for Marines in the field). I occasionally pick up journalists at the Kabul airport and drop them off at Bagram Airbase for embeds with the Army. They all absolutely hate embedding with the Army because it is such a pain in the ass and they don’t get the attentive treatment the Marines are so good at providing. The Army should wise up on how they handle journalists – they have a story to tell too and the people back home would like to hear it. In fact here is a cool article about an Army patrol into no mans land and they should and could have more of this type of coverage if they would get a clue.

I don't remember seeing this last month and it looks like recent damage. This is maybe 200 meters away from the main Mosque in Gardez.
I don’t remember seeing this last month and it looks like recent damage. This is maybe 200 meters away from the main Mosque in Gardez.

We had a road trip to Gardez last Thursday and was able to bring the Bot along. We were moving the payroll so bringing all my friends with guns seemed like a good idea. My counterpart from Kandahar Tim of Panjwayi also came along for the same reason and we flew into the airport at around 1300. Gardez is not a happy place these days. The police average 3 to 4 IED finds a day. They don’t report them but instead detonate them with rifle fire. There are frequent attacks on the airport which are also not reported. The pilots seemed to know because we flew over the airport at about 20,000 feet; they pointed the left wing at the runway and spiraled down in about three evolution’s coming over the runway still turning righting the plane and slamming down like we were landing on an aircraft carrier. We felt G- force pushing us into the seats and the three of us were giggling like school kids. Our Afghan manager Hamid wasn’t too happy about the landing and got a little sick which bugged the hell out of him. Being a little slow I failed to have the camera ready. Taking off was pretty cool too we skimmed at rooftop level over the city and then through a notch in the mountains before climbing like a fighter up above 20,000 feet.

Any Afghan vets recognize this look? If this cat were driving a motorbike in Zabul Province he would be shot on sight. The bob haircut, moustache, dead eyes, and bracelets mark him as Taliban, a contract killer or both. Tim of Panjwayi made him instantly and spent a good 35 minutes trying to chat him up, shake his hand, in short let him know we know and think he's the punk. It pissed our man off good - amused the other Afghans but it is not like us to let a shitbird like this slide by.
Any Afghan vets recognize this look? If this cat were driving a motorbike in Zabul Province he would be shot on sight. It’s the haircut and the eyes – the man seemed a little Taliban like. Tim of Panjwayi made him instantly and spent a good 15 minutes trying to chat him up, shake his hand, and stuff but he was having none of it. Most unusual.

The Gardez project is going well. The city is now cleaned up and we are about to kick off a massive phase II which will clean and rehabilitate all the fresh water canals and Karez systems.   I have only around 300 workers doing the side canals and picking up garbage but apparently men came from 12 different districts and rented rooms to get on the project for 52 days of pay.   Many of the men are ill-numerate and had to get friends to verify their pay as they have never had so much money in their hands at one time. My project is making a positive impact in a critically important area but without follow up it will amount to very little. If you sent in guys like us and our Afghan teams we could start massive cash for work projects ahead of a military operation and tie up thousands of local men with better pay than the Taliban can give them for much less work and risk. But we are not even close to that kind of thought process yet and it might not work anyway – we’d have to recon the area first to determine the feasibility. Worth a shot though and we’d take it if asked.

No idea what is happening with this kid - i would bet his sisters got ahold of him and inflcited the finger nail polish and mascarea on him. He wasn't too happy about it.
No idea what is happening with this kid – i would bet his sisters got a hold of him and inflicted the finger nail polish and mascara on him. He wasn’t too happy about it.

This is a good deal for the city, its people and the program participants but it is not a long term solution.

Panjwayi Tim (cropped out on his request) rapping with some of the workers in Pashto. The locals are always happy to hear us trying their difficult language.
Panjwayi Tim (cropped out on his request) rapping with some of the workers in Pashto. The locals are always happy to hear us trying their difficult language.

We have to come up with a new strategy – better yet and exit strategy for Afghanistan. We are spending billions yet achieving very little. We need to set reasonable goals – meet them and go. The Afghan police problem is a problem which the Afghans must solve – adding more anti corruption PowerPoint classes taught by western contractors who never leave their little FOB’s is producing poor results and it’s expensive. I would bet all the security incidents which are not getting reported are the result of a Kabul initiative to improve reporting because the European mentors there use written reporting as an important benchmark of success. I might be wrong but I bet I’m not.

There is still time to salvage this effort but we have to get off the FOB’s out of the body armor and start working directly with and in the cities and towns we were sent here to protect. It is cheaper and safer to embed directly into the communities than it is to commute to the job. We need to pick the districts and provinces we want to improve – get in them and do the projects and go home. There is no good reason to stay unless the Afghan government starts supporting our efforts and works with us like a partner instead of a client state.

Heavy Weather

This past Thursday (9 July) the three things which popped up on our local radar. There was an ANP (Afghan National Police) ambush which killed four police and dozens of civilians in Logar Province. Nuristan lost the Bargi Matal district when the Taliban flag went up over the District Administrative Center (DAC). And at 1412 local we had a one round Tinian shot into the American combat outpost (COP) located at the Sirkanay DAC which blew up all their fuel stores and half of their vehicles. These incidents are part of a disturbing set of storm clouds on the horizon; we are heading into heavy weather when the storm breaks we could start losing people and losing them fast.

The Tiki Bar was rocking at the Taj last night
The Tiki Bar was rocking at the Taj last night

The ANP ambush in Logar Province was noteworthy because it involved a ruse which added to the destructiveness of the bomb creating a very high body count.   They bad guys tipped over a Jingo truck full of wood simulating a traffic accident ahead of a large convoy of ANP vehicles.  A crowd gathered, wood is the most common fuel for both heating and cooking and is a valuable commodity in Afghanistan and locals will come for miles around if they think there is an arm load of wood to be had for free. When the ANP tried to navigate through this mess the bad guys blew the truck and it apparently contained tons of explosives. With the truck on its side the blast wave shoot out horizontally instead vertically like it would if the truck were upright. It also creates more shrapnel by throwing bits of the engine, transmission, undercarriage etc sideways. The civilians must have been standing on the undercarriage side of the truck which is why so many were killed. This incident an indicator that the bad guys are gaining proficiency at setting up ambushes. It is also typical that most of the casualties are civilians; it seems the Taliban can kill as many civilians as they like without incurring harsh denunciations from the current Afghan President or international press.

Chatting with my friend Jeremy who works a security gig Lashka Gar. Jeremy and I worked together at the American Embassy in 2005. He controls the planes come into and out of the new Lashka Gar civilian airport which is not what he is supposed to be doing. Private Security Companies have received very little positive press but there are guys out here like Jeremy who take on important tasks becasue they are the only ones who can do it even though it is not remotly connected to the job they are being paid to do. But it is not a good sign that we build and airport for the Afghans and then have to staff the things with internationals who are picking up the slack because they are mission oriented people.
Chatting with my friend Jeremy who works a security gig Lashkar Gah. Jeremy and I worked together at the American Embassy in 2005. He controls the planes come into and out of the new Lashkar Gah civilian airport which is not what he is supposed to be doing. Private Security Companies have received very little positive press but there are guys out here like Jeremy who take on important tasks because they are the only ones who can do it even though it is not remotely connected to the job they are being paid to do. But it is not a good sign that we build and airport for the Afghans and then have to staff the things with internationals who are picking up the slack because they are mission oriented people.

A Tinian Shot is an old sea story in the Marines used to describe a single lucky round which takes out something critical to the enemy. One story has it that the 75mm pack howitzer which was used to signal the landing craft to open fire as the first assault wave churned toward Tinian had the good fortune to see its signaling round disappear down an air shaft into a Japanese ammo dump. The term could also be referring to an impressive one shot kill by a U.S. Navy destroyer who caught a Japanese ship trying to slip away off the coast of Tinian. Whatever the origins if you can launch a single mortar round into a base and blow up half the vehicles and all the fuel that’s a Tinian shot.  The bad guys in Kunar Province finally scored one on the American COP outside Sirkanay after six years of trying. Was it luck or skill?  Who knows but it is bad karma stuff which portends nothing positive.

It turns out that when you climb aboard a small fixed wing plane for the trip from Camp Leatherneck to Lashka Gar and the South African crew tells you "we are going to fly low and fast" they mean exactly that. Note the people in the upper right corner of the photo looking up at us as we scream past
It turns out that when you climb aboard a small fixed wing plane for the trip from Camp Leatherneck to Lashkar Gah and the South African crew tells you “we are going to fly low and fast” they mean exactly that. Note the people in the upper right corner of the photo looking up at us as we scream past

Then we have something not yet in the press and that is the loss of Bargi Matal district in Nuristan Province. The US Army has been pulling out of eastern Nuristan and had nobody in the area. This is a good thing in my humble opinion we have no business in Nuristan Province and should leave it for the Afghans to deal with. The fight for Bargi Matal was between the ANA and the Taliban (work for pay type Taliban in this case) and the fall of the DAC means the ANA  cannot call for or control ISAF close air support. There is no way the Taliban can mass 300 men to take a DAC if our Tac Air is in the fight.  Eight years into this war and we do not appear to have ISAF qualified close air support controllers in the Afghan Army. I could care less about the Bargi Matal district of Nuristan Province – it is controlled by gem smuggling syndicates comprised of Pashtun and Punjab families from the Pakistan side of the border. Gem merchants in Afghanistan are taxed at around 51% – in Peshawar 15% and on both sides of the border that percentage is reduced with proper bribes. Our forces cannot be everywhere and should focus on areas and people who want our help and the tribes of Nuristan do not. The Soviets were putting an Afghan Cosmonaut in space eight years into their Afghan adventure yet we cannot train up FAC’s?

Exiting the Latabad Pass on the Kabul side - no traffic, no people and no security checkpoints from Surobi to downtown Kabul
Exiting the Latabad Pass on the Kabul side – no traffic, no people and no security checkpoints from Surobi to downtown Kabul

Speaking of not good the Bot and I took a little Recee over the back way into Kabul; the bone jarring Latabad Pass. We have not used that route since the main road was repaired and Shem needed to look the route over for his company. It was in good shape and completely deserted. No security forces, no local traffic, nothing – all the way into Kabul. Not one checkpoint – we just drove through like we were in the desert of the American southwest. With all the concern over security during the elections it is hard to believe that the back route from Surobi to Kabul is wide open with no evidence of any security forces monitoring it.

Some boys in Jalalabad working out in the shade (104 during the day now) - guess what their Dad does for a living?
Some boys in Jalalabad working out in the shade (104 during the day now) – guess what their Dad does for a living?

 

There is a civilian surge of sorts which I understand is mostly going to the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT’s).  The PRT concept is a sound theory that is not paying the dividends required to keep this place under control. This article which concerns my local PRT is a good example of what I am talking about.   Jalalabad is a moderately safe area with lots of internationals doing good deeds daily but we do not work or coordinate with the PRT. It is not that the people manning the PRT are the problem they aren’t and they want to get out and work. But their ability to do the mission is crippled by stringent force protection rules. Placing more civilians in these bases will do nothing to increase the amount of sorties or assistance. The constraint is the requirement for robust security detachments and MRAP seats and both those are impediments to providing meaningful aid.

This is rapid reconstruction of its finest. The Mayor of Jalabad has provided the stone, cement, engineers and heavy equipment. My project provides the manpower, hand tools, vehicle fuel and worker supervision. We are building side ditches which will channel water out of the city inb order to reduce flooding and employing over 800 men from the poorest of the poor in Nangarhar Province. Combing American project monies with the municipal budget to allows the rapid completion of projects which are important to the Afghans.
This is rapid reconstruction. The Mayor of Jalalabad has provided the stone, cement, engineers and heavy equipment. My project provides the manpower, hand tools, vehicle fuel and worker supervision. We are building side ditches which will channel water out of the city in order to reduce flooding while employing over 800 men from the poorest of the poor in Nangarhar Province. Combing American project monies with the municipal budget allows the rapid completion of projects which are important to the Afghans.

 

Michael Yon has been in country and hanging out in remote Ghor Province and recently wrote a great piece . The Belmont club picked up on the post and Richard Hernandez (one of my personal favorites) wrote this comment:

“The current plan for Afghanistan campaign has implicitly assumed that the goal of creating a society able to resist al-Qaeda like groups can be reached with the time and resources available. There’s no reason to believe why this must be true beyond the assertion that it is. If Michael Yon’s insight is correct, then the assertion is not proved; and we may be trying to solve an problem of exponential complexity with a polynomial time algorithm; that is to say trying to attain a strategic goal unreachable by the tactical means at our disposal.”

We need a polynomial time algorithm to solve a problem of exponential complexity… I like the way it sounds which is why I read the Belmont Club first thing every morning. Michael’s observations are spot on; this is a big country full of people who have not concept of modernity. We do not have the time or resources to fix all that is broken the key is setting reasonable goals in critical areas where the people want our help and then leaving.  Just say no to polynominal time algorithms they have no place in our strategic or tactical thinking.

The Apostle

Today a new book by my good friend and New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor hits the book stores and man is it a good read. I was sent a draft last month and loved it. In fact I couldn’t put it down; there is a reason he is one of the best thriller writers in the business.

Brad Thor on the Baba deck of FOB Taj
Brad Thor on the Baba Deck of the Taj

I got to meet Brad when he came to Afghanistan in the winter of 08 with some of some special guys who are friends. He is a great guy to chat up and his meticulous research paid off in a spell binding tale. Experienced Afghan hands will recognize the authenticity in the details he uses to paint the backdrop of this excellent work.

This is the book all the cool kids will be reading this summer. Dont be a dork and wait for the paperback version - it is worth every penny to get the hard back now.
This is the book all the cool kids will be reading this summer. Don’t be a dork and wait for the paperback version – it is worth every penny to get the hard back now.

But I have to put in a quick word in defense of Baba G.  Baba G  a fictional character in the Apostle who is based on Baba T (bloggers who turn up as characters in a thriller invariably start to refer to themselves in the third person). But if he truly had Baba T like savvy and drank 11 beers in one night there is no way he would let Brad find all empties in his shit can.   Baba G would spread them around like frigging Easter eggs so no one guy could get the evidence and put 2 and 2 together. But I can see how that worked out in the plot line and I’m telling you this reads true about operating outside the wire in Afghanistan. Free Range awards it 5 stars and cannot recommend it more highly.