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.

14 Replies to “Spiking The Ball”

  1. baba T, the mother Jones link doesnt get you there. no big deal.. Did we really expect someone who voted 130 times to change? I love how we have taken the term “gutsy call” and made it a synonym for “no-brainer”.

    How is it the civillian FOB has weapons to protect itself? I thought they outlawed that stuff. One of these days you will reply to my email.. be safe.

  2. I used this piece in my morning news synopsis. There’s a critique following:

    A firsthand from someone in-theatre, and a critique of the underlying semantic:

    […]Most international guesthouses in Afghanistan meet the UN Minimum Occupational Safety Standards (UN MOSS) but Green Village far exceeds MOSS because its intended clientele is the US Government, not stingy tight wad NGO’s. Opened in 2008 the place has never stopped growing, always at 100% occupancy it 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 and confines it in a small, artificially nice place. We have called it menopause manor for years because of the unending stream of reporting, generated by the residents, saying the Taliban is targeting them. This morning the Taliban were not able to talk their way past the gate guards so they blew their VBIED (babatim @ Free Range International][…]

    Remember folks… As horrible and against-their-own-interest it appears to be, overall, even horrid incidents like this play into the indigenous COUNTER-insurgent’s hands because the net effect is for the locals to further isolate themselves from the foreigners leaving the foreigners even more exposed to attack, or in bunkers.

    Indeed, the West has assuredly lost the war on Afghanistan, it’s people, and it’s culture.

    The people of Afghanistan will dry their eyes, heal their wounds, forgive their neighbors…

    But they will NEVER forgive US for being the ONLY ROOT CAUSATION of such horrible things as the caught-in-the-crossfire deaths of Afghan children going to school. Indeed such things would have never occurred without the ISAF’s presence.

    Source: http://archive.org/details/tth_120502-1

    1. Ray,

      You are both correct and incorrect. Without the US in the region, children waiting to go to school wouldn’t be subjected to such violence because they wouldn’t be waiting to go to school.

      The Afghans will not forgive their neighbors; it isn’t in their way. Instead, they will begrudginly accept whatever peace is offered to them until a means for revenge is within their means.

      And, despite your assertion that the US is the root cause of all violence in the region, the fact remains that violence has been an underlying theme in Afghan history since the beginning of recorded time. Instead, the US had the opportunity to give the Afghans a shot at lasting peace and prosperity, and we took it. Unfortunately, we took it blindfolded by political correctness, off-balance from shaky leadership, and into the darkness created by overwhelming ignorance of Afghan culture.

      When politics, political correctness, and attention to propper PPE replaced “victory” as our objective, the battle was instantly and wholly lost.

      Some Afghans will certainly hate us for what we’ve done; maybe even most of them, depending on how the next few years shake out… but there will also be an abundance of Afghan citizens who remember the US as good-intentioned but inept, as optimistic but impatient.

      Much blood has been spilled in this war; we’ve done a disservice to the fallen for letting their sacrifices become in vain.

  3. The Obama “Hello, I must be Going” tour. The speech in the hangar with the MRAPs in the backgroung reminded of the scenes of the Vogons in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The perfect metaphor.

    The most useless vehicles in Christendom. An empty hangar. And complete BS in the speech.

  4. You don’t like MRAPs? I think they’re dandy for long drives on paved roads. Roomy in the back. My favorite, of course, is the uparmored Humvee GIB position-it’s basically the definition of big balla-but the MRAP is not too bad. Of course, trying to go off road or in a city is a mess, but they have their niches.

  5. As you and your buds put Kleenex to your noses and eyes, we at home American citizens walk about worried over gas prices, food costs, and lost potential…where is this country you talk about?

    Just what else did you expect from these clowns we elected? What have I been writing these years in my posts?

    The real insult is when you look at your fellow warriors and realize that we are all alone besides that “lip service” given via those who seek something…like political power.

    Time to bring back the draft boys and girls…and remember to make sure all those kids of our elected politicians get to wear a real American military uniform and be subjected to being “called up” during their time of service.

    Gutsy call…yea, our marxist pres has big balls…all mean and virile.

    Joe Biden’s on point…feel safe? Obama does, that’s for sure…

    Now, just where is he? Karzai already has his bug out plans in place…too! Remember, we elected these people…

  6. Ed, legal it is. Just like armed guards in the states, people there are allowed to carry weapons if the correct paperwork has been filled out.

    Razer Ray, first off I’d like to thank you for being brave enough to post a comment. Obviously you’ve never been to Afghanistan, for if you had you would know that ISAF is anything but the “ONLY ROOT CAUSATION of such horrible things”. With this logic you could say “Americans caused 9/11, if we all would have given up our way of life and lived Islamic law those poor “freedom fighters” wouldn’t have had to kill thousands of Americans”. Some things are worth standing up for, though I fear you will never know what those things are.

    RJ, It is a sad day when a citizen looks to its countries leaders and say “give me, give me, why can’t you hand me a high paying job?” Once upon a time people made their own way though life. They acquired skills that were pertinent to the market and they literally made there own way. Sadly you are right when you say “where is this country you talk about?” for our nation is slowly losing its patriotism, its sense of unity and hard work. It brakes my heart to hear that you are in our armed forces. You know nothing of the code real Soldiers live by.

    Finally, thank you to the author. Though I don’t agree with all of your points, the article was well written and insightful.

    1. Bill:

      “It brakes my heart to hear that you are in our armed forces. You know nothing of the code real Soldiers live by.”

      What in the Hell are you talking about? Your perspective is at best less than 60 degrees.

      My comments in the above post were directed to those who are in our military suggesting that we have been undermined by our political leaders and have lost the direct support of America’s working citizens through ignorance in choosing our elected, national representatives.

      How you can extrapolate from there to conclude I am presently in our armed forces, and then further to state my ignorance of a “code real Soldiers live by” escapes me.

      Perhaps you are a State Department employee working on “social justice” (nee Peace Corps) somewhere overseas and have injested too much local weed to note your sense of reality just might be distorted.

      I have had many encounters with those (now silver haired) educators and politicians who have done their work ever since they shouted “Hell no, we won’t go” to whoever would listen, all of which has resulted in two wars taking more than 10 years with no “victory” in sight…nor intended.

      My generation is one contaminated with a malignant narcissism run rampant.

      Take a walk with me at my local VA hospital and then again suggest I know nothing of a “Soldier’s code” bright boy!

  7. Ayup.

    We can hear the flushing sound from here.

    The only real question in the script is who will star in the Bob Roberts/Boris Gromov role when the toilet lid slams down.


  8. Weird! Extremely ghastly deed!! The violence of war is affecting the civil citizen and the kids, too what is absolutely not supported. The government should ensure the safety of common people and of course should stop the terrorism initially. Hope authority will conscious to stop the tragedy. Good luck.

  9. I’m a student at MIT, and I’m working with my professor, Mark Jarzombek (web.mit.edu/mmj4/www/) on a book on global architecture. I’m interested in this photograph of yours to use in our book: http://h1cc.net/~babatim/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/irrigation-rig.jpg. It may seem strange that we want a photograph of a dam, but Mark really likes this photo. The photo will be used in a survey history of art and architecture, and you would receive full attribution. I’m not sure yet how many copies will be printed, maybe a run of 8,000 or something like that – global distribution. If you are interested, please email me at ahw@mit.edu.


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