The Dog Days of Summer

I am overdue on updating all of you on local atmospherics in the rapidly destabilizing Nangarhar Province.

I also recently did another episode of The Aloyna Show where I took a SWAG at who I think is responsible for the murders of the international medical team headed by Dan Terry and Tom Little – the interview is below:

I think it is fair to say that I did not have much more to say on that topic because I remain stunned at what happened to my friends. And the bad news just keeps getting worse….The villains set up and took a shot at The Skipper last week and damn near got him.

 

They lured The Skipper and his boys across the bridge into Kunar Province with this fake bomb - it was full of sand and rocks.
They lured The Skipper and his boys across the bridge into Kunar Province with this fake bomb – it was full of sand and rocks.

 

Then they blew a remote controlled IED (RCIED) under his truck. It was in a plastic jug like the fake bomb the energy from the blast when 360 degrees doing little damage to the Skippers ride.
Then they blew a remote controlled IED (RCIED) under his truck. It was in a plastic jug like the fake bomb the energy from the blast went 360 degrees doing little damage to the Skippers ride.

 

The local militia and ANP showed up - everyone was vbery upset that The Skipper was attacked and nobody could imagine how such a device was planted right there next to the bridge. No idea
The local militia and ANP showed up – everyone was very upset that The Skipper was attacked and nobody could imagine how such a device was planted next to the bridge.

The Skipper wasn’t injured in this blast –  nobody was which would make one think that maybe it was a warning. But for those of us who live with this shit daily it is impossible to figure out what is going on. They could have set that bomb for The Skipper expecting it to blow him to kingdom come, they could have set it up to just make noise because he’s The Skipper and they want to warn him he is no longer welcome. They could have screwed up the HME (home made explosives) recipe. There is no Taliban proficiency matrix with which to judge attacks because of the wide disparity in competence between various Taliban units. Look at this article from The Atlantic; even the Lib media is figuring out that we are fighting a bunch of clowns. Of course that brings the real question to mind which is why aren’t we beating the snot out of them but I’m going to leave that alone for now.  From the Atlantic article linked above:

“Nowhere is the gap between sinister stereotype and ridiculous reality more apparent than in Afghanistan, where its fair to say that the Taliban employ the world’s worst suicide bombers: one in two manages to kill only himself. And this success rate hasn’t improved at all in the five years they’ve been using suicide bombers, despite the experience of hundreds of attacks or attempted attacks. In Afghanistan, as in many cultures, a manly embrace is a time-honored tradition for warriors before they go off to face death. Thus, many suicide bombers never even make it out of their training camp or safe house, as the pressure from these group hugs triggers the explosives in suicide vests. According to several sources at the United Nations, as many as six would-be suicide bombers died last July after one such embrace in Paktika.”

There was an attack on the safe-house of one of the security firms in Kabul last week involving two suicide bombers. They popped up well inside the new Kabul “Ring of Steel” checkpoint system (which seems designed to harass internationals) and opened fire on the exterior guards in front of the Hart Security compound. The Hart guards returned fire for a second or two and locked themselves inside the compound as did the exterior guards outside the gates of every other compound on that street. The attackers ran up to the Hart gate and one positioned himself to blow the gate while the other moved back about 20 feet. When bad guy number one blew down the gate, bad guy two also perished because 20 feet of stand-off is inadequate for powerful suicide vests. Almost funny right?

As the fighting season continues the good guys are losing more land and population to the various insurgent groups operating in the country. Teams of doctors are being murdered in the remote provinces, attacks are launched inside the ANP “Ring of Steel” (or Ring of Steal as JD and Haji jan call it) and where is the focus of the Afghan government?  On private security companies of course… yes why not?

Now is exactly not the right time to make all PSC’s illegal and let the ANP and ministry of the interior (MOI) provide security to convoy’s, military bases and internationals working in the reconstruction sector.  There are not enough men in the Afghan security forces to go around and their proficiency in preforming these tasks is suspect (to put it politely). But forget that – the real question is how much is this going to cost. We already pay for the ANP and ANA – if they are going to provide mobile and static security then I guess the millions of dollars being paid to private companies will no longer be needed right?  Wrong. The MOI is planning to charge PMC rates to augment the millions given them by donor nations. One can predict with 100% certainty what will happen if President Karzai goes through with this crazy scheme. The logistics pipeline will start to rapidly dry up, internationals will be unable to move without their (mandated by their insurance) expat security teams and their projects will ground to a halt. Military operations will have to be suspended because there will not be enough Afghan Security Forces to both fight and provide theater wide static and mobile security support.

For companies working outside the wire in the reconstruction sector the absence of international PSD teams will also impact their ability to get insurance (required by contract law) for internationals at reasonable rates.  At exactly the time that internationals operating outside the wire need to be armed the laws are changing to make it illegal for internationals to be armed. How are we supposed to operate now?

I’ll leave you with a translation of the new presidential decree on PSC’s so you too can puzzle at it’s meaning with the rest of us:

Decree Translation
President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan About dissolution of Private Security Companies
# 65
17.08.2010

Article 1:
Based on point 3,4 article 64 and 66 of Afghan constitution in order to fight the corruption, provision of security for all citizen, avoiding the public disorder and misusing the weapon, uniform and military equipment by private security companies which causes the tragic incidents. After legal and necessary assessment about dissolution of internal and external private security companies within four months I approve the following points.  

Article 2:
Individual volunteer members of private security companies, if they are qualified can be reintegrated with or without weapon, ammunition, vehicles and other on-hand equipment after registration into the police lines and ministry of interior affair is assigned to complete the reintegration of abovementioned companies and finalize it according to the timeline.  

Article 3:
The supplies and equipments of foreign private security companies which have already been registered in ministry of interior in case of transportation in initial signed protocol should not belong to government. After agreement of companies MoI, MoD and NDS should purchase the supplies and equipment and the residential visa of companies’ personnel should be cancelled.  

Article 4:
In case the companies do not agree to sale the equipment their residential visa’s should be cancelled and they can take their supplies and equipments with them out of country.

Article 5:
The internal and external private security companies that are not registered in MoI and established arbitrary, should be abort as illegal security companies and their supplies and military equipments to be confiscated in accordance to the law.

Article 6:
Embassies in Kabul, foreign consulates in provinces also international organizations, NGOs and economic organizations that are active around the country can have their self belonged private security inside their compounds, that should not be allowed to move outside the relevant compound and the size will be determined and registered by MoI.  

Article 7:
Ministry of Interior is assigned to provide external security for all embassies and International organizations, NGO in Kabul and in provinces, provide necessary facilities in registration and issuing license for weapons and equipment individuals private security organizations as mentioned in article five of this decree and provide security for all logistical transportations of international troops from province to Kabul, districts and vice-versa in cooperation with MoD and NDS.  

Article 8:
This decree is valid from the issuance date and the implementation is MoI responsibility.  

Hamid Karzai
President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

The Good Don’t Always Die Young

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.

om right to left Dan Terry, Dr. Keith Rose, and one of Dan's Drivers. This photo is a few years old and taken in front of the CURE hospital. Dr. Rose is one of those self funded doctors (in his case a plastic surgeon who fixes cleft palates and builds ears and noses for kids who had theirs removed by the Taliban) volunteering at the CURE hospital in Afghanistan.
One of the volunteer surgeons and Dan Terry outside the CURE hospital in 2006.

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.

Getting After It

One of the Chim Chim’s dropped in for a visit last month.  He was on some sort of ISAF  inspection team which I didn’t ask too much about and told us that every-time he asked officers from the unit he was looking at what they were doing the reply was “getting after it.” They were getting after it by doing daily presence patrols and stopping every now and then to talk with the local villagers.  They then return to the FOB for the night. General Petraeus is getting ready to release a revision of the rules of engagement and early reports say he has included “you can’t commute to the battle” guidance just as he did in Iraq. That is sound tactical advice when the bad guys aren’t commuting to fight – they’re here, right now and exerting more influence then we have seen in the past.

The Taliban have been getting after the lucrative and popular DVD and CD shops all summer. This one was destroyed by about 3lbs of explosives which went off around midnight when it was empty.
The Taliban have been getting after the lucrative and popular DVD and CD shops all summer. This one was destroyed by about 3lbs of explosives which went off around midnight when it was empty.

 

As of three days ago every DVD and CD shop in Jalalabad closed their doors. These shops generate a lot of income and were very popular. Closing them all down is a big deal and the local people, as they are prone to do, blame the government and ISAF for not protecting them.

colatteral damage from the DVD shop blast - this barber shop was destroyed too.
Collateral damage from the DVD shop blast – this barber shop was destroyed too.

I know I have said this too many times before but the fact remains you can’t project security to any segment of the population from a FOB.  You cannot even protect the population living right outside the fence next to the FOB as the Taliban demonstrated last night when they plastered night letters all over the village of Base Ekmalati. A village right behind the large ISAF base in Jalalabad and the same village that I wrote about in this post about the floods.

Page one of the Base Ekmalati night letter
Page one of the Base Ekmalati night letter

Here is what the night letter said:

Military Commission of Nangarhar Province

Message of Islamic Emirates Mujahedeen’s to the brave and Mujahid Nation of Nangarhar Province

 

Allah the great has said lots of realities through his messenger Mohammad that you won’t make these Non-Muslims happy unless you convert to their religion. Every one has eye witnessed the current, devil Supper power, with of Christianity and Jewish fanaticism, thirsty of innocent blood, has invaded the Islamic land of Afghanistan, and trying to reach their hungry and starving goals, by killing innocent people, widowing thousands of women, and orphaned thousands of kids, killings tens of brides and grooms during their wedding nights, bombed/destroyed tens of Madrasas and Masjids, searching our personal belongings in our house looking Usama and Al Qaeda, but few sensation less faces who always sold their Muslim brothers blood for few Dollars are accompanying, and chanting slogans that whatever they, but long life to us.

Still Afghani sensation is alive, still there are lions, in the mountains and Jangles, however a number Mujahedeen’s has died, and wounded, but this has more reinforced Muhedeen’s moral, jailing and difficulties has convinced them more to fight for freedom, and now this feared enemy who was looking at the ground but to the sky, and the slogan for the Muslims they had was either arrest them or kill them, but now with success of Jihad, they are running around the world and seeking an escape route.

Since the enemy is facing their sure defeat, now they are trying to sparate the nation from the Mujaheddens, and discredited Mujahedeens in all different ways.

The Islamic Emirate is informing the nation that we are the guards of Islamic soil and the guard’s life and property, and with the cost of our blood we consider this our religious duty.

The brave nation be awake and remember that the enemy is in escaping position, do not let them to mislead you, and do not let them blame you as the thieves and the abductors.

Islamic Emirate Is Informing the Nation of the necessary things as follows

 

The Islamic Emirates inform the nation from the following matters.

  1. Those who abducting local and Tribal elders, and charging locals for all the different types of taxations/charities, they are not Taliban indeed, but American agents. The Islamic Emirate is seriously looking into this issue, whoever again faces the mentioned problems they should contact and inform the local Mujahedeens in there are of their problems, in case they can not reach the local Mujahedeens, they can contact the local elders or scholars, so that they can reach the Military Commission, the criminal will face severe consequences.
  2. If any one, welling to pay   charity to the Islamic Emirate, he should contact three people District Military commission and at the same time three people from Province Military commission.
  3. The Islamic Emirate is having different commission for, natural resources, Mines, NGOs, those who are working in the mentioned sectors has to refer to them, and if any one is asking them for money they are not Taliban, but the American agents, and Insha’Allah they will face the same consequences as the Americans.

To the Authorities

  1. Those who are working with the ANA/ANP, Parliament, Provincial counsel and other governmental organizations for few dollars they should immediately quite their jobs, and promise Allah that they won’t do it in the future. This will be the last warning of Mujahedeens of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan for them.
  2. Those conscienceless spies, who are spying about Muslims for few dollars we have a list of them and very soon we will publish their details, and for sure they will face severe consequences.
  3. Some slave type people who are trying to establish tribal Arbakia forces or to convince others to join these forces, the Islamic Emirate is not differentiating them from the Americans.

To The Scholars and Mullahs

  1. Dear, you are the leaders of the tribe, and the representatives of Mohammad, you better know that most Quranic verses and Adiths is ordering to stay away from non Muslims and tells to fight them, this is your Islamic duty and responsibility that you implement this order of Allah.

Those of you who know a thing or two about night letters will note that this one lacks a seal of either the commander or the organization who released it. But the abrupt closing of all the DVD shops in town indicates the bad guys have established a foothold inside the city.

I wish I could see some evidence that the American Army is getting after it too but so far, with the exception of a brief, effective offensive in Kunar I see nishta.  The Army is setting itself up for more scathing criticism like this article.  An example from the linked article:

Yet even as I was filling my notebook with details of their delusionary schemes, the base commander told me he had already been forced to put aside development. He had his hands full facing a Taliban onslaught he hadn’t expected. Throughout Afghanistan, insurgent attacks have gone up 51 percent since the official adoption of  COIN as the strategy  du jour. On this eastern front, where the commander had served six years earlier, he now faces a surge of intimidation, assassination, suicide attacks, roadside bombs, and fighters with greater technical capability than he has ever seen in Afghanistan.

The only reason we are not seeing more stories like this is the media narrative remains squarely with the Obama administration and they are not going to release too many stories ridiculing our (his) efforts on the ground. How much longer will that paradigm hold?  Saying you are focused on bringing security to the population while doing little in the way of securing the population is obviously not going to work much longer. Had the reporter (Ms. Jones) been a little more savvy about things military she may have asked the one question nobody can honestly answer and that is if you are not going to secure the population then why are all these people here and shouldn’t they be sent home?

The Taliban are out in the open, trying to tax the people, running shadow governments, putting up night letters to intimidate the people living 100 meters outside the wire of a major regional base. There is only one thing the military can do given current ground truths and one need look no further than Herschel Smith at the Captains Journal to find the yellow (school solution.)

They need to look into the eyes of every inhabitant, be inside every home, take every fingerprint and scan every iris.   Their patrols need to be ubiquitous, day and night, and they don’t need to wait on the ANA or send them into the homes first.   They need to proceed with door kicking in the middle of the night if that’s what it takes, they need to project force, and they need to do it beginning now and carrying on until every last insurgent has been captured or killed.   Killed is better than captured given the poor state of the Afghanistan system of justice (i.e., catch and release).

It is just that simple but we seem to be light-years away from doing this. Now everything hangs in the balance, all the work we have done, all the programs we are currently running, all of that is now in play and the bad guys are setting the agenda, have the initiative, and dictating the terms of the fight.  They’re the ones who are getting after it.