Amateur Hour

The attack on Kabul yesterday was yet another demonstration of how inept the Taliban are at the planning and execution of a simple raid.   The attack has been described in the press as “audacious” and “brazen” which is true.   All their attacks in downtown Kabul are conceptually bold military moves; but they accomplish nothing.   A better description of their performance would be incompetent. Seven heavily armed attackers – one in a bomb-rigged ambulance killed three policemen and two civilians, one of them a child.   They failed to make it onto their objective retreating instead into the most popular market in downtown Kabul which they then destroyed.   That is a dismal performance by a raid force which had gained complete surprise when they unmasked themselves in Pashtunistan Square.   Dismal isn’t even strong enough to describe how poorly the Taliban executed the raid – how about “more stupid, incompetent and wasteful of personal time then a Nancy Pelosi press conference?”   That doesn’t really roll of the tongue but you get the idea inshallah.

Chim Chim sent this photo of the attack taken from the Presidential compound.  There was zero chance of the seven attackers getting anywhere near this copound yesterday
Chim Chim sent this photo of the attack, taken from the Presidential compound. There was zero chance of the seven attackers getting anywhere near this compound yesterday.

The best chronology of yesterday’s attack was filed by Dexter Filkins of the New York Times.   As an aside, he filed an excellent outside-the-wire style piece on his efforts to help the schoolgirls who were attacked by men on motorcycles throwing acid in their faces last year.   It is a long story with an ending so typical for Afghanistan, that it is iconic in my book.   I have mentioned Mr. Filkins once in a previous post where I took the piss out of him for reporting from inside the US Military security bubble.   After reading A School Bus for Shamsia, I take it all back.   He is developing a sense for this conflict which few dedicated reporters have developed.   He could develop into the main stream media’s Michael Yon if he invested the time required to develop his own situational awareness.

View from inside the Presidential Compound.  The mobile security team from the compound had joined the fight in the opening moments.
View from inside the Presidential Compound. The mobile security team from the compound had joined the fight in the opening moments.

In military tactical terms, yesterday’s attack is classified as a raid.   Raids are designed to attack soft targets which are not prepared for and do not expect direct attack.   Getting onto the objective without being discovered is the easy part of most raids.   The hard part is withdrawing your force back to friendly lines – a problem which was not relevant to the Taliban attackers who had no plan or intent to escape once they committed to the attack.    The execution of a successful raid  requires meticulous planning and preparation, including multiple, detailed rehearsals in order to condition men in contact to function with speed and purpose and ultimately, achieve the difficult task of  getting back across friendly lines.

The attackers had no supporting arms to coordinate, no aircraft, no inter-squad communication, no higher headquarters communication, and apparently, no real plan.   One of them gets shot trying to bum rush the guards outside the Central Bank and detonates himself; a cluster of 3 to 5 invade the Faroshga Market, tell the locals to leave and barricade themselves on the upper floors where they are eventually killed; and then an ambulance, which has slipped through the security cordon, detonates in Malik Asghar Square inflicting the only KIA’s during the entire event.   So the big raid ends up destroying the new market downtown, which the people of Kabul are proud of because it is resembles modern shopping stores like they see on TV.   The seven man Taliban raid force could have done dozens of walk through rehearsals on the very objective they were going to attack to tighten their assault plan time-line down to the second.   But they didn’t because when it comes to military tactical proficiency they suck which indicates that they do not have organizational strength expected from a third rate High School football program.   I’m talking about American football here folks – football which requires players to use their   opposing digits – and a third rate High School team would be expected to learn something about the game after 8 years of playing it.   The frigging Taliban are as stupid as the day is long.

The days attacks started in Jalalabad not Kabul with a single rocket launch towards the Jalalabad Airport.  I hit tree branches just after launch detonating next to a local famers house.
The day's attacks started in Jalalabad, not Kabul, with a single rocket launch towards the Jalalabad Airport. It hit tree branches just after launch, detonating next to a local farmer's house. This is the fuse and motor nozzle.
Damage caused by the air burst which occured due to gunner error - hitting trees - morons I swear...
Damage caused by the air burst, which was due to gunner error - hitting trees with a 107mm rocket - morons I swear...
The usual victims - a small farming family just trying to get by.  The Taliban ineptitude with modern weapons increases the risk for normal Afghans who normally would not be tartgeted or affected by the war.
The usual victims - a small farming family just trying to get by. The Taliban's ineptitude with modern weapons increases the risk for normal Afghans who normally would not be targeted or affected by the war.

Continuing with the day’s theme of “stupid Taliban attacks” we headed east to an ambush site near the Torkham border.   If this were in fact an insurgent attack it would be very bad news for us reconstruction types.   There are places known for Taliban attacks and places where we expect no Taliban activity due to the number of tribal inhabitants who will not allow fighting Taliban into their areas of influence.   We had several Reports that a fuel tanker had been hit in an ambush in an area where we expect zero Taliban activity so we needed to go talk with the locals around the ambush site to figure out what was up?

This truck was hit by an RPG but only after it was drained of fuel.
This truck was hit by an RPG, but only after it was drained of fuel.
The RPG went straight through the empty tanker the warhead did not arm because the shooter was too close.  You can see the fuse imprint clearly where the rocket punched out of the tank
The RPG went straight through the empty tanker. The warhead did not arm because the shooter was too close. You can see the fuse imprint clearly where the rocket punched out of the tank.

Turns out one quick look at the truck and we did not need to talk to anybody.   As is the case in over 60% of fuel tanker attacks in Afghanistan this was a case of fuel theft.   We ran into some Pakistani’s who work for the trucking company and were also investigating the reported ambush.   They said they had not heard one word from or about their driver and his assistant.   Fuel thieves – they are as stupid as the Taliban completely unable to come up with a good plan and execute it.

The raid in Kabul yesterday was meaningless.   It will have minimal impact on the Kabul government and the internationals who work with them in the various ministries.   It was just one of the many security incidents which are a normal part of the daily landscape in the contested portions of the country.

The day which started with a poor rocket shot, followed by a key stone cops style raid, and a blatant fuel theft ended with the report of a large bomb located on private property just outside of Jalalabad:

More stupidity - a homemade bomb which failed to function
More stupidity - a homemade bomb which failed to function

It was HME (home made explosive) which was mixed so poorly it could not be detonated.   The blasting cap blew, but the bomb was a dud. ISAF tried to blow the bomb in place – but it still did not go – just a low order “poof.”   Amateurs.     It appeared to be directed at local people and no doubt, the latest shot in an ongoing land dispute.

The Taliban have been fighting us for over eight years and yesterday’s raid was the best they could do, given their vast combat experience?   That raid was a fiasco, which indicates to me we have time… a lot of time to get this thing right.   All we need is the will.

20 Replies to “Amateur Hour”

  1. Baba Tim, I am not sure which side you are referring when you say amateur hour? Could you be referring to the supposedly trained Afghan forces who the US half-ass stands beside out of convenience and then allows them to go into such incursions half-cocked? Granted those who have trained and work along side the Afghans know of the duplicity and complexity that they face but let’s not forget the ‘hurry up and get the next group through’ process that we subject these guys who have limited education and no practical experience. Let me put it to you this way, would you provide a US 5th grader with limited training and a gun and send him on his way to confront a committed or paid foe? Then why do we continually do it here. Many so-called ‘trainers’ are only here in AF for a paycheck and not to assist the Afghans, who will be on their own in a couple of years, the patience and insight and supposed value of experience that is indicated on their resume. I was less than 400 meters from this incident and it was AMAZING how many indiscriminate thousands of rounds that were fired at the mall facility that eventually caught on fire. Most Afghans exhibited a ‘victim’ mentality and posture and I deem this as a training issue. Commandos being bestowed with an honor of duty???? Are you kidding me? ISAF should be embarrassed as to the response portrayed by this supposed ‘highly trained elite force’. If the Taliban or whomever was responsible only knew what damage they could induce with the minimal amount of effort, the USG employees would be pulled out of here in droves. But just wait folks, that is exactly what is in store when the current, guy who sits in the white house not the commander in chief by any stretch of any imagination, this is what will ensue when re-election time rolls around. Don’t be duped into thinking that the current administration has an inkling of resolve nor genuine interest in assisting this Afghan government or people. Oh yeah, the major problem here in AF is corruption and that doesn’t exist back in the US… My @$$. We are dooming these people to fail because we as a nation have lost our resolve and commitment to helping those in need. Oh yeah, Haiti couldn’t have come along at a better time… now N0bama doesn’t have to contend with replacing his CIA director for being a complete, hand-picked, incompetent, with no intelligence background BOOB. Oh wait, this attack that spawned all of this can still be blamed on the former president. Keep keeping it real Baba Time!!!! The masses need a clear perspective of the environment and not one paid for by lobbyists…. oh yeah, that is legal in the US, paying for votes.

  2. The raid was a tactical failure just like the Panty Bomber. Unfortunately even a tactical failure can result in strategic success. The fruit of the boom imbecile will cause billions in costs and lost income to western airlines and governments at the cost to AQ of one idiot, maybe (if he didn’t pay his own way) a few thousand in airline tickets, six bucks worth of PETN and about 30 minutes training.

    The “Raid on Kabul” gang generated lots of anxiety, good press for the cause ( the phrase “Commando Attack” was actually used in our media), may deter NGOs etc from coming to or staying in Afghanistan and will probably lead to further hardening of central Kabul at great expense and considerable inconvenience to normal Afghans. If the Taliban are lucky more ANSF and NATO resources will be drawn from the countryside to reinforce Kabul allowing them to strengthen their shadow governments. Of course the civilian “surge” folks will need more security and be even less able to interact with Afghans. Not a bad return on the investment of seven stooges.

    And speaking of cost effectiveness on the battlefield. What do you suppose it costs NATO to do in a Talib? $8 million? $10 million? $25 million?

    1. I can see your point and agree about the goal of grand strategy. What I don’t see is a direct connection between the constant low level nuisance raids and the amount of money being spent on Afghanistan. The Taliban is inflicting a steady stream of casualties on ISAF units in the south, east and southwest which is where the US is focusing all of its military effort.

      There is no question that we cannot sustain this level of effort indefinitely which is why I rant incessantly about approaching this conflict with novel – cost effective solutions. Not only I rant about possible solutions my colleagues and I are demonstrating exactly how to do it. We have thousands of local people working on various projects in Khandahar, Helmand, Farah and Nimroz Provinces with project management supplied by small teams of internationals on the ground outside the wire. We are not the only ones doing this – there are a handful of other companies proving you can get the people working and projects accomplished without lavish compounds, armored vehicles and rifle toting international security escort. A small team of South Africans working the dangerous Farah Province warrant specific mention because they are damn slick and accomplishing a ton of work.

      Were it up to the Marines they would be expanding our projects by 100 fold to free up their rifle companies in the towns and district centers they took last summer. But it is not up to the Marines – there are large bureaucracies in charge of development; Department of State, US AID, the Pentagon. These organizations are not inclined to let contractors come in and do what they are supposed to do no matter how many millions of dollars saved. They are also not capable of operating low profile – they need lavish secure compounds, food flown in from Dubai, armored vehicles with tier one PSD teams, international or TCN static guards, secure communications, and frequent rotations.

      There is where the money is going and it goes quick when you start seeding the south with these expensive government teams. Not a penny of the surge money is going into securing Kabul – that is not even an American AO, it belongs to ISAF. As I have observed before these periodic Taliban raids will not be stopped until we put mentors on post with the Afghans – and nobody is planning to do anything like that.

  3. You don’t get it. Sure it failed tactically, and that was entirely expected, I’m sure. But this was a “win” on every other level, including the far more important political and strategic levels. Remember Tet? That also “failed” tactically, but it won them the war.

    1. Yeah I do get it. Tet was a massive offensive which forced the military to send large units into the fight piece meal where they destroyed their adversaries with firepower because that is what we do when we catch infantry in the open. It was declared a loss by our main stream press and is one of the reasons why our main stream media is held in such high contempt by us “little people” in fly over land. . Tet may well have been tactically successful for the North Vietnamese because it decimated their southern communist cadres saving them the time and trouble of summarily executing cadre members after the war which is a standard play in the communist system.

      Yesterday’s raid was a piss poor tactical evolution pulled off by incompetents and means absolutely nothing in the big scheme of things.

      What are the political or strategic implications of yesterday’s raid? or the last one at the UN Guesthouse? or the one before that targeting the Heetal Motel? or the one before that targeting the Serenia? Or the one before that which hit the Interior ministry? Or the car bombs which kill ISAF soldiers every six or so months? What are the implications? There are none because the foe we are fighting is pathetic and we have a President in office who the media adores so guess what? The Taliban can launch all the raids they want into Kabul and it will never translate into important political or strategic anything – the press won’t let it become an issue now the George Bush is back on his ranch. Besides what political or strategic goals or grievances do the Pashtun Taliban have anyway? They want the foreigners to go so they can enforce sharia law and plunge the country back into as 14th century feudal society. The rest of the country wants the foreigners to stay and help bring them into modernity. There is no compelling story line here for the MSM to milk – it is good vs evil – right vs wrong – it is that simple.

  4. Here’s the strategic implication. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said NATO was losing due to it’s failure to stop these pinpricks. As a result of his and other’s worries over the increasing numbers of these small scale attacks Obama signed off on spending over $40 billion EXTRA per year up front and about $190 billion per year in total costs from now until ?…and it’s all borrowed money.

    The Coindinistas talk of five-ten-fifteen more years of armed nation building. That’s at least a trillion dollars the US doesn’t have. And that’s before the coalition starts to unravel in 2010 and the US has to pick up more of the cost.

    Grand strategy is about preserving and increasing national power and the Taliban efforts, no matter how incompetent, serve to bait the US into weakening itself further.

  5. Tim,

    I tend to agree with J Harlan on his points. You are correct from a tactical “on the ground” perspective the attack in Kabul meant very little tactically. However, to the uninformed American taxpayer, who receives 99% of their information on the world around them from either a 30 second news sound bite on some cable news entertainment channel or from a quick glance on Yahoo prior to checking their emails, it can mean everything!

    I am no fan of the press and for as long as politicians are reliant on the media to get re-elected they will never confront them deliberately. President Bush did a horrible job of getting his message to the American people in a consistent manner, so instead we were served up daily doses of “the sky is falling” in Iraq during 2004-2007. Well now the cameras are turned to Afghanistan and nothing attracts viewers more than sensationalism and so this administration will face it’s own battles with the MSM (main stream media), especially as the Taliban continue to conduct what we call “sensational attacks”. These attacks serve no real overarching strategic goal or purpose but they do get noticed from global media outlets and from there every newsroom editor in the world can spin the story how they feel fit. Tim, you should know from your personal experiences the liberal left (especially the MSM) despise the military and so any chance they can to spin a story of how the military is failing or any “war is bad” they will do it!!

    On an economic front, I won’t give the Taliban too much credit only because they are not that bright, however this attack will cost someone somewhere some money. As J Harlan aptly points out Al Qaeda has long claimed their strategic goal of bankrupting the United States and they are good at it. For whatever they spent to brainwash some idiot Nigerian to put explosives in his underwear they cost the U.S. taxpayers millions, if not billions in that failed attempt. Some analysts even claim the success or failure of the mission wasn’t even the intent but to cause panic and alarm for the U.S. administration to deal with….end result lots of money spent as our inept and skill-less political leaders call for investigations, inquiries, and hearings that at the end of the day will result in very little except to get these @ssholes in front of a camera for 30 seconds on the evening news.

    Winning these types of wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) requires not only tactical skill but skill in the War on Perceptions. If this President fails to do what the last didn’t and that is get in front of the MSM and tell his version of the story then he will allow the MSM to tell it for him. This President will lose it doesn’t matter what the ground truth is on the battlefield it’s how the MSM spins it on the television for the sheople of the world who are too lazy to truly research information about an issue. That is the truth and unfortunately I don’t see this administration taking charge of this war in a manner that will allow the truth to come forward.

    Take care out there and stay safe!!

  6. Not Tet, not even Hue City. North Hollywood bank robbers, with explosives.


    WW1 was all borrowed money. WW2 was all borrowed money – and a lot of armed nation-building all over the planet. Korea was all borrowed money – and half a nation built. Vietnam was all borrowed money – and nothing gained.

    The lesson here is that it doesn’t matter how much you borrow, if you win the war.

    That’s win, as opposed to “end.”


  7. I see where Tim is going with this. Bart is giving them way too much credit. Wait 30 days and then ask anyone in the States about this attack and you’ll probably draw a blank stare and a vague shrug, so from the perspective of influencing the American people, this attack was a FAIL. Having been to Kabul recently, I can see that it would be pretty difficult to harden any more than they already have and the city is saturated with ANSF. And, unlike the attack on the UN guesthouse (which I think WAS very effective…but I’ll get to that below), internationals were not the target, nor did any get caught in the crossfire, so I don’t see NGO’s, etc. doing any long-term increase to their force pro posture either. So if they were trying to force a long-term increase in security posture within the city, they FAIL. These inept attacks are becoming quite routine, so routine in fact, that I don’t think they really faze either the local or the international populations. I was down the street the day they hit the Indian Embassy (which resulted in much larger loss of life than the “commando” raid) this October and things were back to normal by that afternoon. It’s just business as usual, so if they were trying to disrupt life in Kabul, I’d say it was mostly a FAIL. Because I’ll tell you this, everyone in Afghanistan still wants to move to Kabul because it’s one of the only places in the whole country where there are jobs and an economy that supports upward mobility. For economic reasons, the people of the city will put up with an awful lot of inconvenience and instability as long as they keep making money. My point is that I really don’t think these guys have thought out their strategy too well. If I was Terry Taliban, I would keep hitting soft targets as they did in the abovementioned UN guest house attack, using the best fighters I had in order to do what J Harlan suggested, which is to scare the bejeezus out of the NGO’s, UN, etc. and force them into creating their own Baghdad-style Green Zone. Sure, they held media attention for a day, but this attack will soon be nothing more than another bullet on the’s sidebar list of “Recent Attacks in Kabul.”

  8. Render,

    Some where around Vietnam our economic standing on the globe started to transition from producer to consumer. Today our nation’s economic strength lies in how much we consume. Not to enter into an economic’s discussion but you’re comparing apples to rocks…A LOT has changed in this country when borrowing money didn’t have the same implications as it does today. We cannot continue with our current economic model and remain strong. We are weakening each decade as nothing is fixed yet our government still spends and spends and spends….

  9. well, whoever suckered these guys to go see Alla, you can bet was having a doughnut an coffee and watching from a safe place. or i may give them more credit than i should.

  10. Pretty gut-wrenchingly honest discussion. At the risk of being overly optimistic, maybe, just maybe, the empty suit and his leg-tingling MSM are on the brink of exposure. Massachusetts just woke up and fired a shot, but will it be heard around the world? It can’t hurt to have a NG JAG LTC going to DC. He’s pretty blunt about “lawyering up” the fruit of the boom jihadist et al. Then again, Sen Elect Brown didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to dispute his opponent’s claim that T-ban and AQ had left A’gan. Time to WAKE UP AMERICA!

  11. Tim often when people leave out details that I know I wonder why they do so ? Tim how long were they able to hold the market ? You only say that eventually they were all killed. How many HOURS did it take ? I don’t know anyone who ever thought that the Taliban were well trained, that was never one of their strengths. But they are a strong and determined enemy who has done BETTER than hold their own against everything we have thrown at them. And Bilbo what could possibly go wrong by having 3 long wars and not raising taxes ?

    1. John,

      I try to avoid too much political discussion in Tim’s blog site but you make a great point. The former and even current President aren’t doing us any favors keeping taxes low, but that is what gets politicians elected and re-elected — appeasing the masses. This point actually reflects the core problem of our economy — Americans seem to think there is little problem with spending money we don’t have or won’t have in the near or long term!! This mentality is why many Americans are in deep debt and our economy is weak. The rest of the world, especially China, depends on American consumers to keep buying their goods even if there is no expendable income to buy those goods…. Sadly, economics, politics, and military matters are all inter-woven into a cacophony of government corruption and ineptness that is driven my winning votes!! Of course, the more savvy politicians don’t want the average American paying attention to what they do because if they did they might actually vote and demamd some real changes from their government. Anyway, now I’ve gone and spewed my political diatribe across Tim’s blog site…apologies for that 🙂

  12. Yup it is the 1 million dollar per year “pros” ($3000 per day) against the 10 dollar a day amateurs

  13. They also wounded about 70 so all in all I think that the Taliban would consider the attack to have been worth the cost

  14. Good article, Tim. And thanks for the heads up on Filkin’s latest book. He does a good turn of the pen. Whether or not he’ll mount up as the MSM Michael Yon is pretty much up to the NY Times. Either they’re going to fire him due to dwindling sales (like they’ve done to many of their reporters), or they’ll let him stay on. We’ll have to see.
    Shot up trees, fuel theft, destruction of local property and a dud bomb, no matter how inept, it’s enough to reinforce fear in the locals, which I think is their aim.

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