Spiking The Ball

Last night I was coming back from the La Taverna du Liban, Kabul’s best Lebanese Restaurant, located in the Wazar Akbar Khan section of Kabul.  Back in the day it had a full bar and open patio and was packed with expat customers. Most of the expats back then had at least a pistol on them and senior diplomat types had heavily armed, high end expat guards sitting at the table next to them. Those days are long gone; now you have to walk down a long blast proof hallway through a series of locked doors and that’s after being searched for weapons curbside. The La Taverna du Liban, like most of the restaurants in Kabul, no longer allows armed Expats. The Afghan government and UN say the lack of armed westerners makes everyone safer. I say it makes them sitting ducks but I still go to the Taverna cause I love the place and the owner is a friend.

They still serve great food and have a good double apple shesha mix but now when the waiter takes your order he’ll wink and ask if would you like the red chai?   That’s code for red wine and it arrives in a teapot with tea mugs.  The days of having an open bar are behind us in Kabul restaurants too. When my Afghan friend Cartman and I were coming home last night we saw a dozens of riot police from the ANP cutting the road to the interior ministry and Serena Hotel. The cops didn’t have riot helmets or shields but they did have their batons which is a hint to their mission that night.  The only way Afghan drivers will pay attention to the police is if they believe failure to comply will result in a wood shampoo. Last night it was clear the cops were ready to administer wood shampoos to anyone ignoring their road block and that is most unusual.

Cartman’s phone rings and I hear the voice of an international reporter, attractive female type, who I don’t know that well.

“Boss, she wants to know if Obama is coming to talk to Karzai” asked Cartman.

“Tell her it is a gross breach of etiquette for her to talk to an Afghan male who is not a member of her immediate family.”

“She said your blog sucks and to shut up because she’s not asking you”.

The question sure put what I was seeing in context. The local cops don’t come out at night and cut roads unless something big is up.

It turns out the Commander in Chief was on the ground for a secret visit that obviously wasn’t too secret and one has to wonder if we might want to think of re-branding the Secret Service because they can’t keep a damn thing secret anymore.

The president was on the ground in Bagram Air Base pumping up the troops but (according to NPR) not spiking the ball on the one-year anniversary of his “gutsy” call to send a crew of hardened sailors into Pakistan to whack OBL.  Recently that gutsy call has been in the news…something about Mitt wouldn’t have made it and I guess there is a MSM video of the VP making an ass out of himself describing how the difficult decision was made. Mitt batted the sleazy allegations leveled at him out of the park and then the real story behind the decision to whack OBL came out and it looks to me like our POTUS came as close to voting present as is possible with a presidential finding.

Next thing you know we have a not so secret, secret visit where the Prez pumps up the troops and then last night sneaks into Kabul to ink a really, really, great deal with President Karzai. But none of this had anything to do with the anniversary of killing OBL because the president said so himself .

The Taliban decided that they too were not going to not observe the one year anniversary of OBL’s demise by conducting another well planned, poorly executed, attack inside the Kabul Ring of Steel (my guys call it the Ring of Steal).  The tactics were standard; a VBIED at the gate, followed by a ground assault by gunmen disguised by burkas. The target a bit ambitious, it’s called Green Village and is a privately owned FOB (Forward Operating Base) designed to provide ISAF level security to internationals who are not living on one of the military FOB’s. The results were predictable; the attackers rapidly isolated, this time rapidly dispatched, their intended targets unscathed and a bunch of innocent civilians  (mostly children) killed or injured.

Most international guesthouses in Afghanistan meet the UN Minimum Occupational Safety Standards (UN MOSS) but Green Village far exceeds UN MOSS because its intended clientele is the US Government not stingy, tight wad NGO’s. Opened in 2008 the place has never stopped growing. It is always at 100% occupancy, has great food, a decent gym, racquetball courts, a bar, pool, and all sorts of kiosks selling local goods and other stuff. I don’t care for the place myself because its pre-fabricated high-end feel combines everything that is wrong about our efforts in Afghanistan and confines it in a small artificially nice place. We have called it Menopause Manor for years because of the unending stream of reporting (mostly generated by the residents) saying the Taliban are targeting them.

This morning the Taliban were not able to talk their way past the gate guards so they blew their VBIED on the road at exactly the time when one would expect 200 to 300 school children to be walking by.

This is a picture from 2005 of kids waiting for their school bus on the corner of Jalalabad Road and the Green Village road. There are hundreds more children walking to schools along that road every morning now. At least one of those killed and many of the wounded today were school children.
This is a picture from 2005 of kids waiting for their school bus on the corner of Jalalabad Road and the Green Village road. There are hundreds more children walking to schools along that road every morning now. At least one of those killed and many of the wounded today were school children.

The VBIED was followed up by three-man assault force who approached their objective wearing burkas and started battling with the Serbs and Nepalese guards from the Green Village guard force.

One of the three attackers blew himself up, another was gunned down and the third made it into the laundry building which is still well outside the blast walls of the main camp. The Kabul PD Critical Response Unit took the last one out soon after arriving on the scene. This was a typical Taliban attack – good planning, excellent operational security, poor execution coupled to a complete disregard for collateral damage.

The planning was pretty impressive because Green Village is the only privately run FOB in the country that houses ISAF contractors and troops. It would be, by far, the easiest ISAF FOB in the country to attack but only if you could sneak a rifle company into Kabul. One VBIED and three suicide bombers is not really an attack; it’s a statement. Like the last attack in Kabul it was successful only because it happened. The tactical failure of the assault force is, as it always is here, irrelevant.

Here are (in my humble opinion) the lessons learned from this latest attack.

The President’s schedule was compromised to the mainstream media. The planning for his visit was excellent; in around 2000 out by 0400; which allowed the downtown to be cleared and the President to meet with Karzai while causing minimal disruption to local residents. But I knew he was coming before he arrived because the MSM phone call put what I was witnessing downtown into context. It appears I wasn’t the only one in on the secret.

This dispatch came in from Taliban central on twitter today:

Al Farouq spring offensive will be launched on May 3 all over Afghanistan.  The Taliban said the code name came from Islam’s second caliph, Omar al Farouq known for his military advances in Asia and the Arab world during the seventh century.

The announcement comes hours after Taliban insurgents armed with guns, suicide vests and a bomb-laden car attacked a heavily fortified compound used by Westerners in Kabul, killing seven people and wounding more than a dozen.

The militants claimed the attack in defiance of US President Barack Obama’s call that the war was ending during a visit to Afghanistan on the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death on Wednesday.”

Did the Taliban launched one of their pre-planned attacks a day early because they discovered that Obama was in Kabul? The attack happened two hours after the POTUS left and that means two hours after all the elite police units in the capitol went off duty after being up all night because he was here. That’s a pretty impressive reaction time by the Taliban and it demonstrates the danger of allowing administration operatives to leak details of Presidential trips to preferred members of the MSM.

The reaction to today’s attack by the people inside Green Village was also impressive when compared to the attack on the ISAF HQ last fall.  None of the residents, many of whom are EUPOL police officers or ISAF troops and therefore have weapons, ran out to the walls to start shooting wildly in the general direction of attack. They let the guard force do its work which, I understand, is a drilled SOP at Green Village. This reinforces the point that there is nothing, not one damn thing, big government can do more efficiently and effectively then the private sector and that includes repelling ineffective insurgent attacks on FOB’s hosting government troops.

The Afghans are hosed; the agreement Obama came into Kabul to sign last night is long on promises but short on specifics. The level of funding for ANSF he is promising has to be approved every year by congress and what are the chances that they decide to cut it at some point in the future?

Our involvement in Afghanistan is not going to end well. I predict we will pull all of our military out in 2014 just like we did Iraq in 2011.  There will be no “force enablers” and, unlike Iraq, there will be no massive international Private Security Company presence to enable continued reconstruction.We will pull all our forces out and with them will go the reconstruction piece and when that happens the world bank will no longer support the Afghani. The Afghani will then free fall just like the Zimbabwean dollar while the country erupts in civil war.

I have made many grim predictions on this blog over the years (my take on the so called Arab spring comes immediately to mind) and I always use the caveat that I hope I’m wrong.  So, I hope I’m wrong about Afghanistan’s future but I doubt it.