Why America Needs To Send Its Own Reporter To Afghanistan: Updated

There was another Green on Blue attack in Afghanistan over the weekend which is obviously bad news. But, as is often the case these days, when you start reading through the various press reports there is nothing but confusion about who was involved and where the incident occurred.

The story broke early Monday morning when this article appeared on Yahoo news stating that three American soldiers had been shot at Camp Antonik which they reported to be in the “Washer” district of Helmand province. Washer is wrong – the district is Washir and Washir district has been under Taliban control ever since the Taliban returned. If there were American soldiers in Washir district last Sunday they were Special Forces….it is inconceivable that these guys belonged to the 100-man Task Force Forge who are based out of Lashkar Gah. But the story had also talked about the upcoming deployment of Task Force Southwest which implied the soldiers who were wounded were from the unit the Marines are scheduled to replace.

In a series of email between friends of mine with Afghanistan experience I immediately asserted these could not be soldiers from the train and assist mission for the reasons outlined above. A short time later one of them sent this story from Bill Roggio (consistently the best informed writer on Afghanistan for the past 17 years) which adds to the confusion. Bill had found these additional details on the incident in Tolo News:

The assault was carried out by an Afghan National Army officer from the 215 Maiwand Army Corps “during a military training exercise,” TOLONews reported. US troops reportedly killed the Afghan soldier. The 215 Maiwand Army Corps is based in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, which is heavily contested by the Taliban.

The best Afghanistan observer in media, Bill Roggio and I in Kabul, June 2006. We took a drive to Qualat together where I had to swap out project managers and I believe his wife insisted that trip was his last trip when he showed up back home with video of Taliban in the open on Route 1. Despite the Taliban the trip was a reasonably un-risky thing to do back then. By mid 2007 a trip down route 1 in a low profile rig would have been suicidal.

If the three soldiers reportedly shot the day before had been at a live fire training exercise in Laskar Gah then they would most certainly be members of Task Force Forge.

Then this mornings inbox had a press release announcing the death of Sgt. 1st Class Robert R. Boniface, 34, of San Luis Obispo, California, a Special Forces operator from the 7th Group. The announcement said he was injured on March 19, in Logar Province, Afghanistan, in a “non-combat” related incident. The date and description correlate to the insider attack last Sunday. Or not; SFC Boniface could have been involved in a training or motor vehicle accident for that was unrelated to the green on blue shootings for all we know.

Were I one of the 8000 plus families with loved ones in Afghanistan I’d be getting a little worried, as this story continues to morph, about getting a knock on the front door by men wearing dress uniforms. This amount of confusion about casualties from a high risk combat deployment to a country we have been fighting in for sixteen years is unacceptable. And why I feel it imperative to go back and cover our continued involvement in Afghanistan in detail.

UPDATE: The New York Times just printed an article about a VBIED (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device) that also sums up what is known about the shooting on 19 March as well as other bad news from Afghanistan.  This is their report on the shooting:

The soldier who mistakenly shot was loyal and brave and has fought successfully against the enemy,” said Shakil Ahmad, a spokesman for the Afghan corps.

He said that the commando, from the northern province of Balkh, had been guarding the tower when he fired accidentally and that there had been no dispute before the episode. He was wounded when American soldiers returned fire and died at a hospital.

If this report is true then we can attribute this unfortunate accidental shooting to the fog of war. I don’t know what happened last Sunday but do know we remain engaged. Secretary of Defense Mattis had much to say during his confirmation hearings regarding the deployment of military forces without a rational  plan, measurable goals and a clear end-state.

I’m guessing he hasn’t worked down his list of crisis’s left him by Obama to get to Afghanistan.  When he does I sure hope we see an indication that this time we are fighting the right guys for the right reasons. That would be a welcomed change from business as usual for America in Afghanistan.

I cannot make this trip without your support so please visit the Baba Tim Go Fund Me Page to donate. The men and women currently serving in harms way in Afghanistan deserve to have their story told and I intend to do just that.

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