Death in the Morning

Yesterday morning started with an event so senseless and evil that it is hard to describe.   An American army patrol was moving through downtown Jalalabad when the villains detonated a bicycle mounted IED.   This IED had no chance of even denting the paint job on an MRAP, but it did throw out a bunch of shrapnel, which killed one of the best diesel engine mechanics in town and wounded another 15 civilians – mostly children.

Mastafyat Square in Jalalabad City the abandoned bicycle explode in the area marked (upper left quadrant) - there is a large school directly behind this area.  At 0845 there are hundreds of elementary aged school children funneling down that road to school
Mastafyat Square in Jalalabad City; the abandoned bicycle explode in the area marked (upper left quadrant) - there is a large school directly behind this area. At 0845 there are hundreds of elementary aged school children funneling down that road to school.

I drove up behind the convoy a few minutes after the attack.   They had stopped, dismounted and were treating the injured.   I walked up to the rear vehicle turret gunner and asked if I could cut through the convoy and head into the downtown area.   He pointed over to the scene and said they were treating a bunch of school kids and I could not get through the circle yet.   I had thought that the IED had gone off much further down the street, where there’s a stretch of road with very little pedestrian activity.   Once I saw where the bomb had gone off I was stunned – the traffic circle is full of children at that time of the day.   I asked if they were OK and he said yes, but there were a lot of injured school kids; he was visibly upset about the children.   I could see soldiers working on the kids about 50 yards further down the street and can only imagine how upset they were.

The point of origin about 6 hours after the attack throughout the day local people came to see  what had happened
The point of origin about 6 hours after the attack throughout the day local people came to see what had happened.

It is hard to determine exactly what an attack of this nature was supposed to accomplish.   There  was zero chance that the bomb would damage an American convoy.   We are told again and again that careless use of firepower by ISAF is generating more fighters determined to get revenge for the deaths of family members.   If that is true one would suspect the Taliban would also not conduct meaningless attacks which kill and injure innocents; there are conflicting reports, one says the Taliban claimed credit for the attack, another says they specifically denied any involvement.

The evening after the IED attack crowds were still gathered at the point of origin
It does not take a very large blast to knock down local brick walls - bike bombs most often contain explosives externally disguised to look like some sort of cargo.

Bicycle borne IED’s are anti-personal weapons which are not very powerful and not effective against vehicles – especially armored vehicles.   They can cause a lot of casualties among unprotected civilians, which is exactly what happened yesterday.   So what was the point?   That is impossible to say, but here are some things to mull over.   In the last three weeks or so there have been a series of very minor rocket strikes and IED attacks.   This started around Nowruz, which is the Persian New Year (it is 1389 now by that calender) and was celebrated on the 19th of March.   There were reportedly warnings by the Taliban to local people not to celebrate Nowruz, which were dismissed out of hand.   Pashtunistan square in the downtown area was crammed with people (male people anyway) during the evening of Nowruz.   During the early morning hours a single 107mm rocket landed in the eastern end of the city  and two small IED’s went off near Pashtunistan square.   Even on New Year’s the streets are empty by 0100 so these three attacks caused no casualties and little damage.   They caused no reaction from the local people other than annoyance.   There have been several single 107 rocket shots which have landed in local housing areas since Nowruz which have caused little damage and only one casualty.   The bike attack yesterday seems to be a tipping point; it has the locals attention – they are upset and angry.

The day after the bike IED attack local school children exam the scene
The day after the bike IED attack local school children exam the scene.

One of the factors in play with our efforts in Afghanistan is the absolute disgust local Afghans harbor for the various factions who conduct attacks of this nature or try to intimidate them into not celebrating traditional Persian holidays because the Wahhabi school of Islam does not recognize them.   They are fed up with this kind of incredibly reckless use of weapons which are targeting them.   Hezb-e-Islami Gullbuddin (HIG), the Taliban sort of affiliate party run by Gullbuddin Heckmatyar, has announced a suspension of operations while they talk with the Karzai Government and has even been fighting with Taliban formations in both the northern part of the country and in Kunar Province.   HIG is responsible for much of the mayhem in the region and it could be that withdrawing their fighters created a power vacuum which has been filled by amateurs of the religious extremist type.   They will not be able to hide inside the local population for long if they are so stupid that they shoot rockets at the biggest public park in Jalalabad during Nowruz and cook off anti personnel IED’s around crowds of school children. When the local security apparatus gets wound up and on the trail of cells operating in urban areas like Jalalabad they can be very effective.   Somebody is going to answer for the bike attack, but even if they roll up the entire cell it will not have a meaningful or lasting impact in the overall provincial security situation.   The only meaningful measurement of progress is economic.   When the unemployment is reasonable and opportunity for a living wage widely available to all Afghans, then  the little bands of psychos who set off bombs around school children will never be able to survive inside the population.   We have a long way to go before we reach such an aggressive milestone and until we do, we are going to see more senseless attacks of this nature.

14 Replies to “Death in the Morning”

  1. Cowards simple cowards!. The lowest form of islam. Baba what are the Chances the evildoers can be found.?

  2. thanks for the post babaT ! I hope you are right about the people helping to find these cockbags ! senseless is right.

  3. Assuming that HiG can be trusted and has full control over all of its various members?

    We’ve seen recent video of HiG members admitting (or claiming) that they have al-Q/TTP types embedded with them, I think that was in Konar (or Kondoz).


    Always defer to the man on the scene…


  4. Had this been the US military that fired, it would have been all over the news, and world leaders, possibly even member of Congress would have rushed to condemn it.

    So I am feverishly searching the news for Hamid Karzai condemning this bombing, or any US government figure, from President Obama to any senior member of Congress.

    I wonder how long I will have to search?

    And thank you for the photographs.

  5. Your thoughts on the economic realities shine a light on how our political leaders have failed in their duties while our fighters and Afghans have died and/or become injured for life. I have no, zero, nada, confidence in this administration nor those who live within our Pentagon creating ROEs and Peace Corps solutions for this war in this country. Nor did I favor those choices Bush’s people made.

    I would abandon this Afghan war, sooner rather than later. Not that our fighting men and women have not nor are not ready to do the work to create a victory…no, this war is lost due to poor leadership and insightful thinking from the get-go, in my humble opinion.

    For people who wipe their ass with their left hand and eat with the right, for a war taking more than 8 years; yet we are not able to destroy the leadership of Al Qaeda nor stop the Taliban (Mullah Omar for example), nor contain those who come across the borders into this squalid country, all these issues wherein our leadership, so narcissisticly bright from their learning in law schools, yet so ignorant of real history and true warfare, we bleed and rob our treasury for what purpose, to what end?

    So Obama and his pals can order up more Wagyu beef for a party back home? So General Casey can offer up his spiel on “diversity” while millions are spent protecting Major Hasan until his trial? So Admiral Mullen can crouch while tilting his head as he sneaks up to answering a question with another non-answer?

    Let’s get those kids of these American politicians and those true believers of Obama into uniforms and ship them over to such countries, fighting those who wish to destroy our way of life. Walk the walk time! I heard all the “talk the talk” I need to know who can protect us and who won’t lift a real finger.

  6. The Taliban are poorly educated, badly trained and prone to reckless behavior.

    NATO is just now investigating a case in Kandahar today of 22 people on a bus being shot by ISAF. Four are reported to have been killed. What is NATO’s excuse?

    Of course ISAF is held to a higher standard than the Taliban. It should be, just as more should be expected from your local police than the neighborhood gang bangers.

  7. I have every confidence that this cell will be rolled up. The people in J-Bad will deal with this. It will be wet and it will be nasty.

  8. Initial thoughts on low-level (low yield) attacks are either for harrassment purposes or for testing coalition responses. For example, the bicycle IED brought forth a reaction from the troops as they stopped to render aid. Next attack is another low yield attack which causes civilian casualties, the coalition patrol stops, dismounts and renders aid, and then a second IED is detonated and the result is dead civilians and now dead troops.

    From a bad guy perspective 10 dead civilians to kill three infidels is a reasonable ratio in their attack calculus. Mullah Omar and senior crew in Pakistan can talk about keeping civilian casualties low, but in the end game they want to bleed the Americans, and although civilian casualties are loathed they are not shunned outright. There is also a civilian influence piece to the bad guys and their type of warfare. They want to make it appear that violence and coalition presence go hand-in-hand whether the weapons are detonated by Taliban or U.S. hands matters not just that violence and insecurity go hand-in-hand when there are Americans around.

    Back in 2005-06 in Iraq they were a lot of Iraqi civilians who loathed the Americans for the simple fact that IEDs and associated violence seemed to prevail when they were present. There was never much discussion of who was doing the killing (foreigners and criminal types) but the blame seemed to rest on the Americans for being simply being there. I don’t advocate this is the complete answer but something to ponder as we look to expand operations in Kandahar this summer. I think the warmer months are going to bring a bloody summer for the boys forward doing the fighting there! It ain’t easy winning the hearts and minds and I am pessimistic that our future success resides in the hands of a guy like Karazai as President.

  9. @jHarlan, yeah saw that this morning.A rear turret gunner got-em. 🙁 Do they tell are guys how the afghans drive.?

  10. How Afghans drive? You mean on their roads at about half or one-third the average speed of US highway traffic? Or talking with the passengers and listening to music?

  11. Re: the bus shooting in Kandarhar – last time I checked, suicide bombers don’t generally take an entire busload of people along with them when they hit a U.S. convoy. WTF was that gunner thinking? Where is the leadership on this? I drill it into my soldiers’ brains on a regular basis to stop and think about what they perceive to be “weird” or “threatening” driving patterns out on the road – in my experience, it’s often just jackass young males driving while stoned. I remind them that a turret gunner has not killed even one would-be suicide bomber in years out here, but we have killed a ridiculous amount of civilians for getting too close to our convoys. Maybe it’s time we put the big red “stay away from the convoy” signs (that McCrystal ordered removed last summer) back on the trucks.

    For an alternate take on the Jbad bike bomb, perhaps it was done as a “f-ck you” at GOV Sherzai. It’s pretty well known that he hates it when anything goes boom in Jbad and he’s got plenty of enemies throughout Nangarhar with an axe to grind.

  12. I was there a couple years back. Correct me if I’m wrong, that’s “The Globe” rotary correct? If so, I know the school you’re talking about, and you’re right, the place is a mob scene when school gets out around noon or so (I think?) and it takes a couple hours for it to clear out. Kids run wild everywhere and finally an ANP usually starts hitting them all with a stick to chase them home.

    There’s a government building across the street that perhaps may have been the target? Possibly get a few ANP officials when they’re walking out? Who knows. Not sure what the American presence is like there now. We used to go that building alot, and I would usually just wonder over across the street to give candy and stuff out to the kids, maybe buy a kebab or something to kill time. Perhaps thats what they were going for.

  13. Afghanis are like Americans in that they will tolerate their own killing them but really get pissed when foreigners come in and doit. In the USA we have 14-18000 murders each year if 1% of those were from foreign muslim terrorists we would have already gone nuclear on someone

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