• What Happened in Afghanistan?

    March 18, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    Serious this one. The recent massacre (tragically, most recent massacre in Afghanistan) raises many questions that need answering to allow us to answer a more important question: is this indeed another sad, isolated incident or is it an ugly sign of a system in breakdown, the Army?

    Let’s stick with the official version of things for argument’s sake: a single soldier left his base, killed 16 people, set their bodies on fire and then returned to that base. An areostat (balloon) was overhead and some images were recorded. So…

    The uber question is should this soldier have deployed at all? Did his PTSD, injuries or previous experiences make him unfit to be sent out again and did the system fail him?

    On the ground, bases, even small bases in rural Afghanistan, are surrounded by walls, wire, towers and sensors. While we don’t know exactly what was out there that night, how did this guy bypass it all and just leave without being seen? Nobody watching?

    Every soldier has an assigned “battle buddy.” No soldier is supposed to walk around alone, with kidnap threats and who knows what else. Where was this guy’s battle buddy? Your buddy is also supposed to watch out for you, watch your mood, contact someone when things turn dark. In one instance I personally know from Iraq, a battle buddy took the bolt out of the rifle of another soldier who was talking suicide.

    Did no one notice anything about the guy in the days/hours/minutes leading up to the attack? Can someone appear fully “normal” outwardly and then turn into a monster in a flash? Soldiers live very close in the field, physically and emotionally. There is no privacy. You eat together, sleep with a roomate(s) and are around each other constantly. This wasn’t the TV cliche of some guy sitting in his basement alone brooding, sharpening his knife. Nobody saw nothing? Nobody did nothing?

    If the shooter had been drinking, where/how did he get the hooch? Drinking is illegal for soldiers in Afghanistan. In Iraq, the units I was with enforced that rule ruthlessly. Were others drinking? Was there a discipline problem?

    The areostat and whatever else was flying that night have optics that work day and night, maybe thermal and sound imaging, motion detectors and lots of other tech stuff, watched 24/7. How did none of the activity get picked up? Does more video exist? If it was picked up, why didn’t anyone react to it?

    The site of the killings was not far from the base. Every soldier knows the difference in sound between his US rifle’s sound and the sound of the weapons the bad guys use. Knowing that difference saves your life every day. It is very dark and very quiet at night in rural Afghanistan. Lots of people heard lots of shots. Why was there no response? Every base has a group of soldiers on immediate standby, a rapid reaction force, for such things. A lot of shooting nearby should attract a lot of attention.

    How did the shooter get back on to the base? Someone must have been alerted by the noise, by sensors, by guards in the towers. Walking up to an alerted base with a weapon in your hand at night is a very dangerous thing to do. Was no one watching, or was the base alerted and knew it was somehow an American outside the wire?

    We’ll possibly learn more about what really happened, but the underlying question is this. Did the safeguards break down? Did no one see the change in the shooter? Did none of the people who were supposed to be watching the perimeter see anything? Are there discipline problems, leadership problems, command and control problems exposed here? And are those problems isolated, or are they signs of an Army that is tired from eleven years of war and needs to be pulled back home before it starts eating itself again– Vietnam.

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    Posted in Afghanistan, Military