Atrocity in Afghanistan

Yesterday news broke of what appears to be a cold blooded shooting  by a US soldier of an Afghan truck driver. The story was first reported by politico and the short segment featured below was apparently part of a 3 minute video titled  “Happy Few Ordnance Symphony,” that was briefly posted to Youtube this week.

Speculation in the press is this incident occurred recently in Nangarhar province which is the only part of Afghanistan where US forces are operating outside the wire. I don’t think that’s the case as it is very rare to have snow in Nangarhar province and the portions that do see some snow would by in the Spin Ghar mountains where there are not any good hard ball roads.

If I were to hazard a guess I would say that this film was made on the ring road between Kabul and Ghazni….probably in Wardak province. That would mean the tape was shot before 2014.

I have written dozens of times about the unnecessary deaths US and NATO forces inflicted on civilians due to their tendency to shoot up cars that come too close to their convoys. This force protection measure was an attempt to stop SVBIED’s; the vehicle variant of the suicide bomber phenomenon.  This post on the Raven 23 travesty contains several links to my previous posts on this topic.

The press always points to Raven 23 (the Nissor Square shootings) as the behavior of trigger happy contractors while studiously ignoring the hundreds if not thousands of examples of military convoys doing the exact same thing. Having had two vehicles shot out from under me, one by the British Army and one by the American Army (both incidents happened in Kabul) I am very touchy on this topic.

But what happened in all the examples I cite above and what you see in the video pasted above are two different things. The video depicts a gratuitous assault (and possibly a murder) on the part of an American serviceman. The problem is that there are anomalies in the video which are difficult to account for.

The weapon used in this shooting is an M4 Benelli tactical shotgun. That is a semiautomatic shotgun and when fired it should automatically eject the spent shell. In the video we see some gas escaping the barrel as it is apparently fired into the cab of an Afghan truck. What we don’t see is any recoil or the automatic extraction of the spent shotgun shell. That’s a little strange and I’m not able to explain why that happened.

It could be a non lethal round was fired at the Afghan driver which may account for the light recoil but I thought even non lethal rounds generated enough energy to cycle the action. I could be wrong but if that is the case then we are not witnessing a cold blooded murder but a really stupid assault on an innocent civilian. I hope that proves the be the case.  If that kid fired buck shot from the M4 he killed that driver. You can see where the round impacted on the drivers window; there is no question buck shot would have resulted in a fatal wound.

My problem with the force protection measures used by ISAF military units in Afghanistan was that they not only killed civilians but they were also poor tactics. The gunners in those incidents could not have identified a threat, oriented on it and put enough fire on those vehicles to be effective. It was an OODA loop issue. I also think the Blackwater guys involved in the Nissor Square shootings reacted with excessive force. My problem there was they were prosecuted for doing exactly what the military did in similar circumstances.

When you’re operating in Afghanistan or Iraq where the battlefield is full of non combatants sometimes you have to suck up incoming, hunker down and drive like hell to get off the X. It;’s not fun and I’ve done it often enough to know what a raw deal it is. But it is what it is; I would not shoot at random civilians anymore than I would shoot at ISAF soldiers who fired on me. It’s not a rational response or legal option.

One of the reasons I’m an advocate of the PMC model is that contractors, despite the common perception of the media, are much less likely to drop the hammer on people than the military. Contractors don’t have the protection afforded military personnel by status of forces agreements. They are on their own and have to answer to host nation authorities when they use deadly force.

What we see in the video above has nothing to do with force protection. It is a straight up atrocity, an unlawful use of force and the soldiers involved should face the full force of the law for their criminal action. It is also a huge setback to America in our effort to get Afghanistan under control so we can leave. The prize now, as it has been all along, is the Afghan people. And the Afghan people are not going to forget this video anytime soon.


5 Replies to “Atrocity in Afghanistan”

  1. There’s a British documentary film of the activities of a Canadian rifle company in Kandahar in 2006. Unfortunately I can’t find a link for it. If someone has it please post it.

    It’s tremendous gong show made even greater by a voice of reason in the background explaining throughout the video why the current plan is stupid. After establishing their FOB they go to the local village to do good deeds. They decide to provide the villagers new spark plugs so their small generators will work (the voice of reason points out that there are no MAMs in the village and that’s a clue that “hearts and minds” are misguided but he, like Cassandra, is always ignored).

    Rather than send a local on his motor bike to get the plugs the company commander sees this as an opportunity for an “op”. Off they go in LAV llls to buy spark plugs. Along the way they shoot at at least three different vehicles foolish enough to use the same road. They then drive up to within one yard of the vehicles (now stopped), with troops exposed in every hatch, that supposedly might have been VBIEDs. End result. They had to call in a CH-47 to airlift out the innocent people they had shot and the local gas station was out of plugs. They gave the unrepared generators back to the bewildered villagers who were told to come to the FOB for a health day. The locals trudged the three miles to the FOB and on arrival were yelled at by an officer “Go home we don’t have any medical supplies”. The film ends with the company Civil Affairs officer sitting on the ground crying.

    Another great Canadian op was the killing of Hamid Karai’s primary school teacher. He was coming to see the President and had passed through the outer security cordon on his bicycle (As I recall he was 96 years old!). As he peddled forward he was shot in the chest by a Canadian soldier. The soldiers explanation was he had fired a warning shot which had ricocheted into exactly the spot he had aimed at if he meant to shoot the old man. Case closed.

    There are many more stories like this so is it a wonder many Afghans went on the war path? I would.

    1. I posted a story about that Canadian film with an embedded youtube video too. It was one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever seen and I was amazed it had been posted to YouTube. It was taken down years ago and I think I deleted my post because without the video it made no sense. I remember writing something like “you know how we go about getting a spark plug? I find Haji jan and ask him to drive into town and pick us up a spark plug.”

      The OIC on that op was a female Captain as I recall – nice looking too if memory serves but clearly she was incapable of operating outside the base without adult supervision. I wonder how many times over the years similar things happened? I remember taking a senior intel guy for a trip outside the wire in Jbad and we causing the side streets when all of a sudden a water bottle smashes into my windshield. I was driving the War Pig (Toyota Hi Lux with internal bolt on armor) and visibility on the pig was limited. I jam on the breaks as an MRAP comes flying by in the opposite direction with a really pissed off bearded SF guy yelling at me and pointing a pistol at us. I laughed at him and turned to my guest who was a highly regarded former SF officer and said “what did I tell you. Winning hearts and minds my ass…you need to get Gant back here or we’re going to lose”. He let out a heavy sigh and said “The general (McChrystal) is not like hearing about this bullshit”. When Gant showed back up this same cat spent a lot of time in Kunar with him…he’s one of the few SF guys I respect and admire (Gant, Jason Amerine and every Delta dude I’ve ever met being the others on that short list).

  2. I think that company (the commander would have been a major) took a lot of casualties later in Op Medusa. That recently came up as the current Defence Minister said he’d been the “architect” of the highly successful operation. He was a CA major at the time so that was nonsense and as more details came out it turned out that NATO analysis of the operation indicated it didn’t do much despite Canadian claims of killing thousands of Taliban and saving the country.

    The most ludicrous part of it was that NATO HQs was all concerned that it started on time and pushed for it to begin before all the Afghan and NATO units were married up. Typical. they treated a real war like some dog and pony show.

  3. I should have added that perhaps the video came down because so many of the people in it were killed later on. The video tarnishing their memory etc.

    1. Now that I did not know. I thought the people who posted it finally realized how ridiculous it made them look. Interesting how all this stuff works itself out isn’t it?

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