If you have just arrived at The Library in Purgatory, the first chapter is here.

"I never found the girl, I never got rich. Follow me."

~Leonard Cohen

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Chapter VI.4

Warning: Objects in Mirror May Appear Afghani

"All that is needed for true satisfaction is to sit by the river and wait for your enemy's body to float by." (alleged Pashtun saying)

“I cannot but congratulate you on quitting this country for, mark my words, it will not be long before there is here some signal catastrophe.” -Gen. John Keane to Lt. Henry Durand

Help Me Help Myself

Dyn. Sheesh. I don’t know who put the program/contracts together for protecting Karzai and training PPS, both allegedly State’s flagship operations. Likely, if it’s like anything else I’ve seen around here, it was a half-assed, ad hoc response to government demands and deadlines that had no basis in reality, at least reality in Afghanistan, a place known for being notoriously hard on the thing and those who don’t understand or plan accordingly.

Dyn took over the protection of Karzai from the SEALs, becoming KPD— Karzai Protection Detail— and a different company was awarded the contract for training the PPS. The schisms between the two have been insurmountable and with few exceptions I have almost nothing good to say about Dyn and have never seen a greater lack of professionalism. You pay peanuts you get monkeys; so the dictum goes and it would seem that it still holds true, even in Afghanistan.

I was talking to one of the Dyn upgunners on a CAT Humvee, asking him why he had a huge afro for a beard and the worst haircut you’ve ever seen— Alice in Chains’ roadies looked more respectable. He replied that he wanted to blend in, look like a local. I asked him how many Afghans he thought were riding around in Humvees. He thought about it for a second and then replied, not that many. I opined that there were probably zero. It reminded me of the old western movies where the Indians were all played by whites in red paint. Why bother with ground truth when you can just make it up as you go along?

They point to DynCorp, a Virginia-based contractor that got nearly $1 billion in 2006 to train Afghan police.

What they got from DynCorp was a bunch of highly paid American "advisors" who were unqualified and knew nothing about the country. Some 70,000 police were to be trained, but less than half that number actually went through the ridiculous eight-week program, which included no field training.

A 2006 U.S. report on the DynCorp trainees deemed them to be "incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work." Meanwhile, no one knows how many of the trainees ever reported for duty, or what happened to thousands of missing trucks and other pieces of police equipment that had been issued for the training. The punch line of this joke is that DynCorp got another contract ($317 million) last August to "continue training civilian police forces in Afghanistan." “

Karzai Protection Detail

The Intimidating Face of America[1]

The American behind the machine gun on top of the tan Humvee was not interested in discussion.

''Go back to your vehicles, now!'' he bellowed at the gates of the presidential palace here.

A handful of French and German officers, members of the NATO peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan, tried to explain that the group of journalists with them had come at the invitation of the French defense minister, who was meeting inside with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.

The journalists had arrived in NATO armored personnel carriers, looking like middle-aged Gomer Pyles in mismatched flak jackets and helmets. The president's Afghan security guards had already ushered the group through metal detectors and identity checks.

But the American security detail, outsized men in civilian clothes, some carrying M-16's, were not in a mood to listen. With wraparound sunglasses, longish auburn hair, mustache and ''soul patch'' -- a tuft of beard below his lower lip -- the man atop the Humvee was no United States soldier. He wore no identification on his black T-shirt. He offered none, either.

Cowed, the European officers, delicate by comparison in their insignia-flecked uniforms and navy blue berets, turned meekly and led the journalists away.

''I am a soldier and normally I don't take orders from civilians, but they have machine guns, which are a better argument,'' said Capt. Georg Auer, a German officer escorting the journalists.

Left to guess, he surmised that the men were employees of DynCorp, a private security firm hired by the United States State Department to protect President Karzai.

The ambiguousness is not incidental, but goes to the core of America's relations with its allies in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the public face that the United States projects.

A century or so ago, American missionaries fanned out across the globe to spread not just their religion but Western ways to the ''uncivilized'' masses. Then came the Peace Corps, which sent idealistic young Americans to build schools and dig wells and show the world how good the United States could be. These days, though, belligerent men with sunglasses and guns are America's most visible civilian representatives in some parts of the world.

The United States has hired private contractors to perform functions like palace security and even interrogations both here and in Iraq, where they were implicated in the prison abuse scandals. A C.I.A. contractor in Afghanistan has been charged in connection with the death of an Afghan man in custody in June 2003. Their relationship to the American military is sometimes unclear even to Americans, let alone to their allies.

Captain Auer and Western diplomats complain that the American government's use of such ambiguous forces has sown confusion and resentment in Kabul.

So murky are the lines of authority, Captain Auer said, that it sometimes seems any American with enough muscles and guns can pose as a representative of the United States government. He gave the example of Jonathan K. Idema, recently convicted by an Afghan court on charges of detaining and torturing Afghans as part of an apparently private hunt for terrorists.

Even NATO's International Security Assistance Force thought Mr. Idema was working for the United States, and on three occasions responded to his calls for backup. So overwhelming is American force these days that NATO officers ostensibly in charge of Kabul's security do not challenge the authority of Americans, even those out of uniform.

Contractors do not live by the same constraints as active-duty soldiers. At best, they reinforce the stereotype of Americans as brawny and boorish. At worst, their blurring of the military-civilian line serves as a reminder that military discipline not only keeps up morale, but encourages moral behavior.

DynCorp is the same company whose employees hired child prostitutes while working in Bosnia a few years ago, until some people started complaining. Rather than face local justice or courts-martial, the perpetrators were simply sent home.

One of the whistleblowers, a DynCorp employee named Ben Johnston, lost his job for speaking out. He later told Congress, ''DynCorp is the worst diplomat our country could ever want overseas.''

Texas-based DynCorp's parent, CSC, declined to comment on any of these incidents, saying that it is ''constrained'' from doing so by its contracts with the State Department.

But the United States Embassy in Kabul is aware of the problem and has moved to curb the aggressive behavior of the DynCorp guards who accompany Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, according to one embassy staff member.

''Their behavior is unacceptable,'' said one European diplomat in Kabul, adding that their brusque manner did more harm than good. ''We've all had experiences like that at the presidential palace.''

He suggested that a bombing outside DynCorp's Kabul headquarters in August, in which 10 people died, including 3 Americans, ''specifically targeted the special presidential guard, which is odious.''

After the bombing, DynCorp blocked off a street to protect a second residence, but neighbors are now demanding that the company move out of residential areas to the edge of the city, near the American and NATO military bases.

No one denies the need for extraordinarily tight security in Afghanistan, especially for President Karzai, who has escaped at least two assassination attempts. But allies in Kabul say that America would do well to act a little gentler, particularly as it presses the same NATO allies to come up with men, money and matériel for the tedious reconstruction work needed to stabilize Iraq and keep Afghanistan from unraveling into a dangerous narco-state. The private security forces, they warn, only breed resentment among allied soldiers engaged in the unglamorous work of peacekeeping -- not to speak of Afghans.

They can also undercut part of that mission. Diplomats point out that the presence of peacekeeping troops is meant not only to keep troublemakers at bay but also to put a friendly face on the foreign military presence in the country.

The French defense minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, said the incident at the presidential palace so irritated her that she asked some of those present to send her a report on what had occurred. The journalists' presence at her meeting with President Karzai, she said, had been cleared with his office in advance.

''It gives a very bad impression,'' she said.

30SEP05 (Journal)

Crazy need for drinking tonight— just predisposed to it…and the ghosts start calling from back when, where.

What a fucking shitty, dream-crushing week. Good god, have half a mind to pack it up and go home.

I came done here as an embed 08SEP05 to fill a manning shortage and after about four or five days started to get a grasp on the big picture— KPD was leaving, there were some really good guys in PPS and what a colossal chance to run with them till they reached their potential and the handover of duties in late OCT. I volunteered to move down here as well as move my leave date back to help out. I was excited.

However, some three weeks after getting down here, I have come to see the “even bigger picture” and it has just crushed me. The system on the US DoS side has been so fucking mismanaged and incompetent as to blow my mind. I saw parts of it at Campy W. but what I have seen down here has just clinched it— DC is a pack of assholes.

Within PPS itself, there are some guys who are so rock-solid that I would go to Iraq with them. No shit, they could cut it on any detail anywhere. These are guys who, if things went south here, would risk their lives to save mine and spare no effort in getting me out of the country. Of this I have no doubt. These are the guys I want to work with and help. The flip side of course, is that there are guys who, if they thought they could get away with it, would not hesitate to shoot or stab me or any of the other expats here in the back.

But the system, on the US side, is criminally inept and on the Afghan side, increasingly corrupt. Nxxx and his two assistant directors, XXXXX and XXXXX (all NSC guys) seem to have little interest in anything outside of increasing their own powerbase. Jimmy, Z-man, and others are just the same. Shah was no angel but he didn’t deserve what he got, people were out for him and he gave them the opening they were looking for—tribal politics.

Panj said it best— PPS is a company that got its startup money from the US and never turned a profit…till the day the president dies.

You want so much to make a difference! You may have taken the job for a paycheck, but when you get here, you want your time to count. And at the other end of the day, you will have counted, at best, with only a handful of guys and it breaks your heart.

06OCT05 (Journal)

Up about 0300 this morning to fetch the president at the airport whose plane was, naturally, an hour late. Got back and had just enough time to grab some scrambled eggs and a cup of coffee before Karzai met with the head of NATO, Van der Something and other dignitaries. After the meeting, Karzai and Van der Something gave a joint press conference. Van der Something talked about increasing the synergy between US and ISAF forces, of new ROE, and that NATO members currently in ‘Astan would be increasing their troop commitments by 13 – 14,000 as well as pushing down into the south, Kandahar being mentioned specifically. In and of itself, this doesn’t sound like much, but when taken in with the considerations below, the conclusions are somewhat shocking.

Karzai has previously asked DC for yea/nay authority on major US offensive operations, what with Afghanistan being a sovereign nation, allegedly, and all that. Every time the US bombs another village chock full of insurgents, allegedly, it reflects badly on him and shows him up for the puppet he is. Naturally, bush told him no and the US won’t stop killing civilians any time soon as it is the only way it knows how to fight.

A day or two before today, there were a number of news reports in which Karzai stated that he wanted ALL coalition forces under a unified NATO command. Naturally, the US military will never agree to this, unless they command it. NATO partners are planning on increasing their troop levels almost exactly by the number of troops, give or take, which the US has in ‘Astan— 16 – 18,000.

Bush needs to bring some troops home prior to the mid-term elections next year, and he will; only they won’t be from Iraq, unless we’ve been run out of there by then. The troops will be brought back from ‘Astan, with the NATO leadership being the sticking point and primary reason. Of course they will mention elections and all that crap but that won’t be the real reason.

I’m sure we’ve bought off Karzai and likely NATO partners as well, though for the latter, with what I’m not sure. We possibly continue to foot the lion’s share of the bill. And the bottom line is that the US taxpayer will foot the bill while NATO troops are killed so bush can offer the Republican Party some hope of hanging onto the majority in Congress.

07OCT05 (Journal)

The first night I spent in Baghdad, down in the room in the basement of the palace where six of us slept, I woke up in the middle of the night— pitch black— and did not know where I was. I don’t mean groggy, I mean, I had no idea where I was at all, looking for that first thought to follow the chain back to something I knew/remembered and finding nothing, nothing at all, just a big blank. It happened again to me that first night in the Khanzad Hotel in Erbil.

I cannot even begin to describe how strange the feeling was, to suddenly be sitting up in the dark, unable to even see my hand in front of me and having no idea where, literally, in the world I was. As best I can remember, I just sat there until finally something came back, took shape in the void and the pieces started to come back.

I have woken up before, from a very deep sleep and not known what day it is— the sleep and lingering unease following you as you try to get back up to speed. But even that doesn’t being to compare to waking up in total darkness and not knowing, having no idea where you are, or even who you are (of lesser importance at the moment in question)— brain trying like hell to find a thought chain to follow back to a point where you knew where you were at…Theseus lost in the Minotaur’s labyrinth with no string.

14OCT05 (Journal)

Wed— Rice showed up, big deal. We got rocketed because of it. Reno banging on my door, Red running around in boxers with his M4 asking where the fuck we were going. I went back to bed. I heard the impacts and by the time the alarm sounded, it was almost fifteen minutes later. Fucking amateur hour.

Later in the day the President of Lithuania showed up. It was in the evening, dusk, cooler. We were standing around to watch the agents do their thing when a taxi cab pulled up, and a guy got out by himself and walked in. No detail, no siren-screaming Suburbans and Expeditions, just this one guy by himself. Red kept asking when the Lithuanian President was going to show up and we kept saying, that was him man. He didn’t believe us. The whole thing was one of the damndest things I’ve ever seen. I loved it.

None of that is the point though. Have been feeling, in spots, on and off but most strongly that evening standing outside the gate in the palace— I can’t wait and need to be here when the snows return.

Got no clue. I did arrive in FEB, when there was plenty of snow but have always been pretty much anti-winter. This though, I could see the snow on the grounds of the palace, on the trees, reflecting the lights in the dark, the stillness and quiet, Afghan flag silhouetted and blown straight towards the west over the tower ramparts. There was such a feeling of anticipation, of impending magic that I can’t explain it other than as a sensical/nonsensical imperative to be here again during the winter months.


Home for a month. Went to visit my parents and attended a local World Affairs Council panel lecture by two former CIA officers: Burton Gerber (former chief of Soviet Operations (CIA)) and John Brennan, former head and organizational architect of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and its predecessor organization the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) on Intelligence Reform.

The night before the lecture a handful of WAC members were invited to a private function where the two CIA officers were the guests of honor. Both spoke briefly to the group as a whole during the evening and both Gary Berntsen’s Jawbreaker and Gary Schroen’s First In were mentioned as they talked about the incredible job that the CIA had done in routing the Taliban with the help of the Northern Alliance, an assload of cash, a handful of SF teams with laser designators, and a ton of close air support. In essence, it was unprecedented in the history of warfare, and they weren’t wrong.

However, I pointed out that the very seeds for the US’s strategic defeat had been planted in the unprecedented tactical victory. The CIA’s victory, while brilliant, was done on the cheap. Rather than use the US military they paid off every non-Taliban warlord and criminal they could find who would, or might, fight the Taliban and basically, through force of cash, held together what remained of the Northern Alliance in the wake of Shah Massoud’s assassination, which had always been heavily fragmented but held together largely by the glue of Massoud and his organization. As such, no single army, united in purpose and leadership, defeated the Taliban, who largely retired from the battlefield on their own rather than die in the near-continuous airstrikes, but a loose band of ethnic and sectarian factions united under the slogan “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

There was no single victor and no conquering army marched into Kabul with the singular goal of rebuilding and running the country. Instead there was a mishmash of competing warlords, returning Afghan expats, ethnic minorities, and criminal elements who began to carve up what the Taliban left behind into their own personal fiefdoms as they consolidated their personal power. In effect, the country had reverted to its state after the Russian withdrawal in 1989 when the various Mujahideen factions spent as much time fighting amongst themselves as they did the Afghan communist government with the end result that no one person or group was able to seize and consolidate enough power to unite or subjugate the country.

While the Taliban had been marginalized and driven from the field of battle and the seat of government, there was no one conqueror, no one victor who could unite the fragmented country under his leadership or force of will/arms. Without a clear-cut victor, and maybe more importantly, a clear-cut loser, there can be no peace. Tactically, the CIA had driven the Taliban from the battlefield with an unprecedented minimal use of traditional military force. However, strategically, the country was in worse condition than it was under the Taliban as it immediately began refragmenting along old fault lines without the legitimacy and precedent of a singular victor, democratic, despotic, or otherwise.

Some four years on there is no single, monolithic, united enemy force facing the US and its allies in Afghanistan with which to negotiate or even fight. The Taliban have morphed into the generic ACF, anti-coalition forces, which now consist of old-school Taliban, neo-Taliban, warlords, drug lords, smugglers, criminals, anti-foreigner Mujahideen, pissed off locals, foreign fighters, and Al Qaeda holdouts and/or newcomers; all of whom resent the US’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and/or have a vested (economic) interest in maintaining the status quo.

Yet, the military (and the politicians) continue to talk about the “Taliban” as if they were the only force opposing the US, and democracy, in Afghanistan. It may be a fine distinction but this inability to correctly understand and articulate what the US is facing in Afghanistan precludes properly understanding or addressing the issue. The clearest example of this was the inability to distinguish between the Taliban, a nationalist, xenophobic, regressive, rightwing, reactionary movement against the prolific abuses and criminality of the warlords within Afghanistan with no ability to project force beyond Afghanistan’s borders; and Al Qaeda, an international, non-state, extremist, terrorist organization with the ability and will to attack nation-states. The two are not the same or even similar and the US’s inability to fully realize these differences and understand the cultural forces underpinning the region have led to gross mishandling of the situation as a whole.

The US demanded that the Taliban, admittedly, largely not nice people, hand over bin Ladin and his cohorts who, while guests, were not Afghan or Pashtun. Pashtuns live by a strict code of honor, Pashtunwali, described below, and to have simply handed over bin Ladin publicly would have been to violate that code of honor, a fate worse than death for them. There were ways in which this could have been handled so the Taliban would not be seen to be violating this code of honor but these were not pursued, if it was even known or understood, and instead, strident and absolute demands were made which forced the Taliban to choose between their honor and the might of the US. Rightly or wrongly, they chose to remain true to their honor.

It’s indicative of just how strongly this code of honor underpins Afghan society in that it was this same sense of honor which kept alive the only surviving member of a SEAL team that was ambushed near Asadabad in June 2005. The SEAL was taken in by a local Afghan who risked his life and that of his family to protect the man, because his tribal code of honor demanded it of him, until Coalition Forces were able to mount a rescue, some 17 more dying in the initial rescue attempt.


“Most Afghans try to live up to their code of honour— Pushtunwali. Aside from courage there are two aspects of this code— vengeance and hospitality. ‘Badal’ is the Pushtu world for vengeance. The need to secure revenge for any slight, any insult, has been a part of the Afghan’s life throughout his history. Blood feuds between individuals, between families, and between clans or tribes are endemic. The Afghan will never turn the other cheek, a killing must be avenged by a killing, and so it goes on from generation to generation. A family will never forget a debt of honour. Revenge may not be swift, the injured party may bide his time for years if need be, until at the right moment he strikes. A son must kill his father’s murder. In many instances his mother will insist he does so, otherwise she will disown him and he will be disgraced. If the murderer himself is dead, then his son, or his brother, or his uncle, must die. Thus is the feud perpetuated. Even a Jehad does not stop badal.

Sometimes hospitality clashes with vengeance. To refuse a person shelter, or sanctuary, is unthinkable to an Afghan. Even if the person seeking hospitality is a bitter enemy he cannot be refused. While in that man’s house he is absolutely safe; his host would fight to protect him, give him the choicest food, and treat him as a member of his close family. In an Afghan’s home, even the poorest one, a guest will receive the best. If this entails killing an only sheep, so be it; no effort or sacrifice is spared. A stranger, particularly a foreigner, sitting down to eat with a group of Afghans from the large communal pot will get the meatiest portions handed to him without hesitation.”[2]

The Taliban were willing to risk the wrath of a wounded United States rather than violate the Pashtunwali code, one man was willing to risk his own death and that of his family to protect a SEAL, likely his enemy, because his code of honor demanded it. These ideas are not well understood in the US, particularly by those whose ability to make fine distinctions is suspect.

In our inability to differentiate between a tribal movement and an international terrorist group the US has involved itself in a region of the world that, while being successfully invaded throughout history, has never been successfully occupied, going back to the time of Alexander the Great. The defeat of the Russians was impressive, but possibly more telling is the British’s retreat from Kabul to Jalalabad in the winter of 1842:

“The 44th Foot, with sappers, two cavalry squadrons, and three guns, formed the advance guard. In the center were three more regiments, Anderson’s Horse, and two guns; in the rear were the last four guns, the 54th Native Regiment, and the 5th Cavalry. In between the 4,500 fighting troops were over 12,000 Indian camp followers and their families as well as 2,000 horses, camels, and cattle.”[3]

Of those who marched from Kabul, only one rode into Jalalabad alive, Dr. William Brydon, spared to tell the tale of what had taken place.

Tactical successes at the expense of strategic objectives, while making great headlines, almost inevitably carry the seeds for potential future disaster. Time will tell if this will indeed be the case for the US in Afghanistan. Currently, things are not looking well.

07DEC05 (Journal)

Lying in bed this AM— not wanting to get up. Thinking randomly about things. Was supposed to write tonight but have completely forgotten what I was supposed to convey.

So another year— most of it spent in ‘Astan— its own story. And I have to wonder…where am I any closer to? Which begs the question, was I even going anywhere this year? Because, as Panj has pointed out, if you don’t know where you’re going, ANY road will do.

Don’t remember what I did last year. Year before that Dubai. ’01, working in Co. Springs with Tripp. ’99, the Denver zoo with Tom; ’98, the Jax zoo. ’97, crazy what’s her name? Jen, sheesh. ’93, listening to Bob Marley, coming back from snorkeling, Gitmo I think.

It’s funny in a way, I guess, I felt so alive that birthday (’93), like I was learning, growing, spiritual, around the corner from my soul mate. And now, I am living beyond my dreams— the stuff books are written about— I feel wiser, and yet, somehow, stupider. Like somewhere between Cuba and Denver I grew weary along the road and lost some of my spark, spontaneity. My feelings of connection to the Great Tao, the Eternal Divine Mystery is less than it once was, by a fair bit; and my soul mate seems further off than ever

From: "Gwen"

Date: Friday, December 9, 2005 10:09 PM

Hey Recondo,

What's with the plane and the drink and the shoving??? Eh??? I'm blonde. Help me!

My mobile number is xxxxxxxxxxx.

:) G

The above was in response to an email sent after the better part of a night spent drinking, a Friday morning. I called her, somewhat nervously, late Saturday morning, sitting out on my balcony drinking coffee. It was the first time I’d spoken to her in some three years, and may as well have been six or more.

It seemed we picked right up without a hitch, as if it’d only been weeks rather than years since we last talked. I couldn’t believe it. We talked for damn near eight hours (my phone started to die), about all kinds of crap, but not too much about the past. Towards the end, with a buzz, I worked up the courage and said I’d fly out that night to see her if she wanted. She wasn’t opposed. I wasn’t able to find a decent flight that would actually get me out there that night and since I was leaving to return to Kabul in four days there just wasn’t time— aarrrggghhh. We agreed I’d come out when I returned. I couldn’t believe anything that had just happened and went to bed quite happy.

19DEC05 (Journal)

Kabul— got back into town the 15th and realized just how tired I was. It struck me, if not immediately, then pretty damn quickly that I didn’t want to be here, not now— would rather be fishing or chasing Gwen.

The team dynamic here has changed. I knew it would but somehow it didn’t sink it. The dynamic with PPS has changed also …and I would say that the vibe has gotten worse, more hostile, and on top of that our mission has changed dramatically, becoming more nebulous, less defined, and quite honestly, harder. The focus used to be training. Now we are not supposed to do any of that. What else can you do in a day?

It all points to a very long three months. Part of me wants to go home now, but I can’t. First, not much of a quitter; secondly, it would be bad both professionally as well as financially. The last couple of days I’ve woken up with a sense of dread like APR-MAY04 in Baghdad and have gone to bed hoping that sleep would offer some sense of relief from the “waking nightmare.”

This AM though, following a lost Hobbit and Rookie through the near empty streets of Kabul trying to get to the Parliament building, watching the first rays light the snows on the peaks of the Hindu Kush, a bit of fun that I remembered returned.

XX was hard before and I was tired then, felt like I wasn’t giving them everything they deserved, needed. I realize I’m still tired, not much motivated and it has gotten that much more difficult because of our new (limiting) “mission statement.” The fact is, I need to do this. Until I become a danger to myself or others. I need to dig deep, find my sources of strength and do a job that I will be proud of when I go home.


Couple of days ago woke up early, still adjusting to the time change, and Good Will Hunting was on. I wish I could remember the thing that Robin Williams said when describing his wife/soul mate— because everyone of those was true of Gwen before I went to Co Springs in December of ’99 (I think). And I wonder now if they are still true.

That first night Shane was down while I was home on leave, I ended up telling him about Gwen, the whole long of it, or at least as much as I though he or I could stand. He told me to call her and go see her, that whatever happens I should enjoy myself. I realized that was the part I had forgotten, that somehow along the way it had become too serious and not fun at all.

The question needs to be asked— where, when, why, how did I become so romantically defensive?

From: Recondo
Sent: Monday, December 19, 2005 10:46 PM
To: the team leader@hotmail.com
Subject: It could have been worse, I guess

See below:

Simple ceremony heralds new era for Afghanistan

After Mr Cheney entered the parliament chaotic scenes erupted when Afghan security guards insisted on searching the Americans' bags - including a briefcase containing America's secret nuclear bomb codes. An angry White House official ordered the guards to "open the gate now", an AP reporter said. "These are the vice-president's military aides."

The Afghans, who were trained by the US security contractor Dyncorps, allowed the aides through but insisted on a thorough body search of the rest of the party.

From: Panj@aol.com
Sent: Monday, December 19, 2005 5:02 AM
To: reCONdo@hotmail.com
Subject: (no subject)


I guess you have made it to the cold spot by now and I can honestly say I can't wish I were with you - at least there! Although some funny and good memories at CW and especially just sitting around a fire playing name that tune! I hope you had some good time at home. Sure it was rushed like most and 30 days is like nothing. That is unpack time and repack time and out the door. Not to ever worry about others back in the rear though because it is all about money and everyone is there for the same reason. Glad you got back. 3-4 months will be like nothing to you!

Waiting for new contract awards and hopefully not all in Iraq or there. And hopefully (again) the mission is something to grab hold of - but figure the odds. Good mission there but just not for me anymore. Let me go check my horoscope and see if today is that "day!" But more like a horrorscope I'm sure. Write when you get a chance. Enjoy the time and your pod! Have a Merry Christmas despite the geography. Do you still get mail at Phoenix? Send you some things before long. Keep me in mind for new road tunes. I want my M-T-V - European that is!

Talk soon.


21DEC05 (Journal)

Imperial Hubris—

Dumsfeld flew in today, no doubt to berate Karzai for this or that. He and Karzai held a joint press conference at the King’s palace and I lost count of the times that Dumsfeld lied to the press, and by extension, the American public.

At one point, a female Afghan, whom Karzai had called upon, asked a question, in what I suppose was Dari. During the question Dumsfeld interrupts her to say that his translation (headphones) is so garbled as to be meaningless. Some Afghan press lackey runs him up another set and Dumsfeld gives the universal good-to-go sign— thumbs up. At that point he looks over at Karzai like he’s Jerry Lewis to his Dean Martin:

“What did she say,” he quips?

“It was a bad question,” Karzai replies.

“Then I probably shouldn’t answer it,” Dumsfeld returns.

By this time the translator has caught up (if he was ever behind) and Dumsfeld goes, “Secret prisons?”

“To which Karzai jests, “Tell her there aren’t any.”

Not to be outdone, Dumsfeld volleys with, “If they were secret…I couldn’t tell you about them.”

By this time, the laughter from the FAUX News section is almost overwhelming and Dumsfeld closes with an almost convincing, “Not to my knowledge.” Not having said enough though, he comes back to this one after another question by saying that there are 19,500 (15,500 actually) US troops in Afghanistan who are risking their lives for Afghanis (leaves out the fact that this is largely not a humanitarian mission; it’s not rice the AF is dropping on wedding parties around the country) who are missing the holidays with their families and he likes to visit these brave souls (who went to war with the Army they had, not the one they wanted) from time to time.

In addition, he danced around the question of US troops under ISAF control in the south and east by giving a non-answer and then stated with a straight face that the US didn’t support nations that violated human rights. One could almost believe that Dumsfeld actually believed what he was saying, except that you could see the delight in his face in “putting one over on the world”. Mark Twain said that there are lies and damn lies and Dumsfeld is a damn liar. There are special places in Hell reserved for such people, not nice places.

From: Recondo
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2005
To: PanJ0@aol.com
Subject: (no subject)


Hit the ground and damn near instantly realized how tired I was- 30 days just wasn’t enough. Spent the first three days waking up thinking, “I don’t want to be here now,” and, “how the hell am I going to get through the next 90 days with my sanity and professionalism intact?” Everyday though, it gets a little easier to get up and I smile a little more a little sooner in the day.

The vibe here has changed dramatically in the 30 days I was gone, particularly in regards to PPS (at least to me). I sense a great deal of resentment that we (the white devils) are still around, and in some cases barely constrained hostility. Although many of the guys are still happy to see me (being at CW, we had a better relationship with these guys) it just doesn’t feel the same. It could be me, but I just have a hard time seeing that much change in only thirty days; although part of it could be due to the fact that several KPD guys have been brought aboard. In some ways, I expect that this is logical, like growing kids; PPS needs to grow and become more independent. However, these guys are still a ways from hitting all the notes on time.

The team has expanded to 11 dudes and Full-Metal is the only one, besides myself, who was here before the transition. Lenny is back for EOD and has his own relationship with them since he has been in and out since something like ‘02. I am amazed at how many stories have been lost in the transition to this new team. None of these guys have been handed down the stories about the students or even what was going on two months ago. I find myself piping up in our meetings about guys in other sections because there isn’t the continuity. I hate it because I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all.

Anyway, I am an idealist and am back for the $. On top of that, I still, honestly, don’t know that I deserved to be or be back here now and wanted another wack at it. However, Bill D has now made it even crazier with a new mission statement in which the embeds ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO ANY TRAINING…that is what CW is for. XX was hard enough when I couldn’t watch them, now that I can’t do any training…WTF? It gets better; muster is now at 1000; by the time that finishes it’s only an hour till lunch and a power-nap. Blows my mind. And forget about shift-change. Three days out of eight (including a Friday) are damn near wasted. Nxxxx, finally, is getting fed up and has asked for another PPS course so he can start sacking people and maintain manning levels.

Panj, you ain’t like most the guys I have worked with…and the easiest way I can describe it, and all that it encompasses is that you don’t buy into fox propaganda (er, news). I’ve only met one other American of a similar mindset in this line of work. I know what you mean by finding that job that means something and when you find it, let me know because I am in. Don’t give up buddy.

Mail address is still the same at Phoenix. Didn’t get a chance this go round but next time home, will get you the jewel cases for Iraq Road Trip 1 and 2 as well as the complete 3 and the Mujahideen Road Trip.

Let me know how things go.

Happy holidays and all that,


“A former government minister from the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan says the United States can throw as many soldiers into the country as it wants, they will just meet the same fate as all previous "foreign invaders."”

Excerpts from The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War by Ali Ahmad Jalali and Lester W. Grau

Vignette 5 from Chapter 14: Urban Combat

Attack on the Ministry of Defense

By Mohammad Humayun Shahin

Attack on the Ministry of Defense

In November 1982, some 60 Mujahideen from the Islamic Party of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar (HIH) and Mohseni’s Harakat-e Islami launched a night attack on the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) Ministry of Defense located in the Darulaman Palace. The security in the area was very tight and the area between the Darulaman Palace and the Tajbeg Palace (headquarters of the Soviet 40th Army) was heavily patrolled. We decided to limit the attack to a short-range Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) attack. The HIH group was armed with AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles, while the Mohseni group had British Sten guns (a 9mm World War II submachine gun. It has a 32 round magazine and a rate of fire of 540 rounds per minute) and other weapons. The Mohseni had the RPG-7 we used in the attack. Both sides provided ammunition for the RPG.

We assembled in the staging area at Char Qala in the late afternoon. Char Qala is about three kilometers north of the target. From there, we moved south in-groups to the intermediate villages of Qala-e Pakhchak, Qala-e Bahadur Khan and Qala-e Bakhtiar. Our attack position was a water mill outside the Juvenile Penitentiary close to the Darulaman Palace. As we moved, we dropped off security elements. Most of the men in the group were assigned to provide security during movement to and from the target area. Security elements were positioned at key locations, which facilitated our infiltration and withdrawal. Once our forward security elements secured the firing area, the RPG-7 gunner Saadat (from the Mohseni faction) took his position. He was about 250 meters from the target. He fired two rockets at the building. The enemy response was immediate. Guards from around the palace filled the night with heavy small-arms fire. We did not return their fire. Instead, we immediately began retracing our steps and pulled out along the route held by our security detail. We then scattered into hiding places and safe houses in the villages of Chardehi. Some years later, a prison inmate who was on the DRA side during the night attack told a Mujahideen contact that about 20 people were killed or injured in our attack.

Author’s Commentary

The Mujahideen urban warfare tactics were low-level and fairly unsophisticated. Their actions were usually limited to a single strike followed by an immediate withdrawal to avoid decisive engagement with a better- armed and supported regular force. Survival dictated the tactics, but the impact on the war effort was political and psychological rather than military. The work and risk that the urban guerillas accepted was great and the results were often minimal or not immediately evident.

Mujahideen success in the urban areas was due primarily to the support of the local population and the lack of DRA/Soviet influence/control outside the areas that they physically controlled. The cities were under nighttime curfew, but the patrols enforcing the curfew could hardly move safely off the main city roads. The Mujahideen had great freedom of action outside the main thoroughfares and in the suburbs. However, they could not fully exploit this advantage due to insufficient training, poor organizational structure, a lack of modern weapons and equipment, an ineffective command and control system and a lack of tactical cohesiveness among the various Mujahideen combatant groups. Lack of communications equipment, particularly in the early days of the war, severely hampered the Mujahideen.

“The Taliban are everywhere the soldiers are not, the saying goes in the southern part of the country.”

Excerpt from The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan: The Frunze Military Academy Lessons Learned in Afghanistan

Edited By Lester W. Grau - FMSO and NDU

Vignette 28 from Chapter 4

Organizing a Security Outpost in the Suburbs of Kabul

By Major S. V. Mos'kin


Major S. V. Mos’kin served in the Limited Soviet Contingent in Afghanistan (OKSVA) from September 1980 through November 1982 as a platoon leader.

Organizing a Security Outpost in the Suburbs of Kabul

At the end of May 1982, enemy diversionary/reconnaissance groups conducted actions against Soviet Army base camps. In particular, they fired directly on the 40th Army Headquarters. The leadership of the guerilla forces announced that they would destroy the headquarters in the near future. Therefore, the high command decided to upgrade the defense and security of the army headquarters.

As a result, Major Avramenko, my battalion commander, decided to establish a new security post, which would be manned by my motorized rifle platoon, which had three BTR-70s and 28 men. (Editor’s Note: The 2nd Platoon, 2nd Company, 1st Motorized Rifle Battalion, 180th Motorized Rifle Regiment of the 108th Motorized Rifle Division. The 1st and 2nd Battalions were mounted on BTRs while the 3rd Battalion was mounted on BMPs – endnote). My platoon was reinforced with two AGS-17s and three PK machine guns with night sights. We also received some night vision devices for night observation. An engineer excavator came to the site and within 72 hours, dug the primary and reserve fighting positions for my BTRs and men and then connected all the positions with deep fighting trenches. We dug secret forward redoubts on the flanks of the security outposts for our machine gun crews.

We also built an observation post for a long-range field of vision over our area. We established visual communications between the secret dugouts and the observation post to assist in coordinating fires. We built two barbed wire fences all around the security perimeter. Between the two rows of barbed wire fence, we put in an antipersonnel minefield (pressure and tension-release mines). On the far side of the wire, we laid in trip flares. A landline was installed to give us telephone communications with the battalion commander, a neighboring tank platoon and the duty officer at army headquarters. I organized my post to have two-thirds of my men manning their posts at night and one third during the day. Every soldier had his combat crew assignment and instructions in case of an alert.

In September 1982, we intercepted an attempt by an enemy reconnaissance/diversionary group to penetrate the army headquarters. The Mujahideen preceded this provocation by shelling our positions with mortars and launch bombs. On the day before the attempt, they did a reconnaissance of our obstacles by driving a large flock of sheep into our minefield. On the next night, the Mujahideen attempted to penetrate to the army headquarters using a dry river bed and irrigation canal. We killed two of these who wandered into our mines. We recovered weapons and documents from their bodies.

Frunze Commentary

Following repeated, unsuccessful Mujahideen attempts on the army headquarters, future attempts by their reconnaissance/diversionary groups were thwarted by thorough, well-thought out measures to protect the army headquarters including the establishment of a new security outpost on the enemy approach route.

Editor’s Commentary

Due to the preeminence of the offense in Soviet military training, the Soviets rarely trained for the defense. There seems to be a hunker-down-and-wait mentality in their defenses, whereas one would expect to see patrols, moving ambushes, mechanical ambushes, and aggressive reconnaissance. This is particularly true at night. The Afghan police conduct the only night patrols done in this vignette. After a unit has gone to ground so thoroughly, it is hard to imagine putting it into aggressive action without some serious readjustments and retraining. The unit seems to have a bunker mentality.

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