23 Nov 2009 @ 12:34 PM 

What Does The Taliban Say…


…When they’ve killed 13 people and wounded 42 more in a botched rocket attack?

“We didn’t do it.”

We were cordially invited to stay at FOB Kutschbach for a few extra days by the rotary wing folks, who bumped our return flight to a day earlier than scheduled. So, as we had some extra time on the ground, we did a foot patrol with the French, the PMT and the ANP through the Tagab bazaar a couple of days after the attack. Being that there were two of us, and we each had an interpreter, we were able to talk with the people we ran into at the bazaar. That is, when we weren’t being hurried along.

While asking people what village they were from, if their village and/or family had suffered any casualties, and how they felt about the attack, the story the Taliban was telling came out. First, they insisted that only one rocket was fired… so the other round must have come from either the Americans or the French on the FOB. Right there they shucked off half of the responsibility. Secondly, they insisted that the rocket was not fired by a Talib. They had, they insisted, “arrested” the man who had fired the “single” rocket, and they were investigating to discover who had paid him to fire the rocket into the crowded bazaar.

“Really?” I asked the man who conveyed this. “They are really saying this?”

“Yes. This is what they say,” he asserted.

“They really think that you are so stupid that you would believe something so ridiculous?”

Blank stare. The man searched for something… something that wasn’t coming.

“I’ve been talking with you for several minutes. You are going to go to college in Jalalabad to be a lawyer. I know that you are too smart to believe such a ridiculous lie.” Clearly, he wasn’t; but it was beginning to work on his brain.

He stammered a bit… the corners of his mouth began to curl upwards a little. He was stuck.

“If a man kills someone and you ask him if he’s done it, he comes up with a stupid story about how it wasn’t him, right?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied, hesitantly.

“So that you won’t want to kill him,” I continued.

“Well…” he shifted uncomfortably.

“So then he thinks that if you believe him, then you are a fool. You would be foolish then, right?” I pressed.

“Yes, that would be foolish,” he agreed.

“But you are too smart to believe a foolish lie, aren’t you? You are smarter than that, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am smarter than that,” he agreed.

“The Taliban think you are very stupid people, but you are not so stupid, right?” I offered him a way out.

“Right. We are smarter than that.” The men gathered around began nodding their heads.

It’s not like I could undo the damage done after the Taliban IO (Information Operation) had time, unfettered, to respond to the catastrophe that they had caused among their neighbors. Their gaff was like a kid who throws rocks at a house and breaks a window and then runs away. If confronted by the homeowner later, he comes up with a creative story about someone else breaking the window. Except this rock-throwing nimrod was throwing rockets, and he had killed innocent people.

The French had found rocket fragments from two rockets. One was Chinese and the other of Russian manufacture. They did not get the word out immediately. In fact, the reaction of the French leadership was to cancel a mission that they had planned and “wait it out.” They did not hit the streets immediately, telling the story and showing the rocket fragments to everyone they could find. This gave the Taliban time to concoct a ludicrous lie that, in the absence of any information to the contrary, some people were believing.

The fact is that on the morning of the attack, we were informed that there was some intelligence to indicate that the Taliban were going to attack the District Center that day. The reason was that there was a French General who would be participating in a Shura with local elders and the Sub-governor of Tagab District. COL Z, the local ANP Chief who is much-hated by the Taliban, and the ANA commander would also be there. As with all intelligence, there are a lot of red herrings. The PMT joked about the odds of actually being attacked. But, at roughly 12:30, twin booms rang out from the nearby bazaar. The French quickly identified the site of the launch, a site that the Taliban frequently use to launch rockets at FOB Kutschbach… often missing. This time they missed their mark by a scant 200 meters… just enough to land them in the bazaar, crowded by shoppers stocking up for the Eid celebration on a market day.

The 107mm (4.2 inch) rocket is not a precision weapon system. When tube launched, it is an area weapon. You can get it into a general area, but you cannot ensure a precision hit. When launched Afghan-style… propped up on rocks… it is an order of magnitude less certain. To launch these weapons from four kilometers away at a site which is so close to the bazaar on a bazaar day is criminally negligent at best.
These weapons were fired with a total disregard for civilian lives. It was akin to firing high explosives into a mall during the Christmas shopping season.

The 107mm warhead packs a wallop, but it is notorious for its horrible fragmentation pattern. The warhead casing fragments unevenly, often throwing out very large fragments in a haphazard manner. This undoubtedly spared some while mutilating others. Civilians were torn asunder, some left in bloody heaps while others lost limbs instantly. Still others were injured by flying chunks of rock. One rocket impacted near the place where people shopped for livestock for their Eid feast, not unlike our Thanksgiving Dinner. Livestock and citizens alike were shredded by razor-sharp, white-hot fragments. The carnage was horrendous.

As the shocked survivors gathered themselves and the bazaar emptied in a frenzy, severely wounded shoppers dragged themselves away from the center of the disaster. Colonel Z sprinted out the gate of the District Center, four ANP running to keep pace as their Chief ran into the dust and smoke left on the wake of the high explosive warheads. The Colonel lifted injured people into vehicles and dispatched them to either the FOB or the District Center. Within minutes, casualties began to arrive for French and American medics to triage and treat. The Colonel helped retrieve six dead from the litter of blood and body parts. The families took their dead directly home. More would die later from their wounds. Few villages were left unscathed by the toll. Everyone I spoke with a couple of days later knew someone who had perished or been wounded.

“You notice,” Colonel Z mentioned later, “that no one took their casualties to the Taliban for medical treatment. They brought them to the FOB, or to the District Center. They depended on the government or its allies for help when they needed it.”

This is true. That’s what the people did.

There is a “Radio-in-a-box” setup at FOB Kutschbach, broadcasting to the people of the Tagab Valley. The local commander offered the elders an opportunity to come and denounce the attack on the radio. Only one man, Colonel Z, came and denounced the Taliban for their cowardly act. All the other elders declined. So, as they sat watching, the enemy began their damage-control campaign.

“We didn’t do it. We caught the man who did, but he only fired one rocket. The Americans or the French fired the other one. We didn’t do it…”

Tags Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Categories: Afghan National Police, Afghanistan, COIN
Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 23 Nov 2009 @ 12 34 PM


Responses to this post » (12 Total)

  1. coffeypot says:

    As long as the elders and the villagers refuse to talk or denounce atrocities like that, the Taliban keeps an upper hand. I feel that until the Afghans get a set, we will be beating you heads against a wall. Glad you got back okay, too.

  2. anan says:

    Old Blue, you might publish a map of Kapish with this story (Tagab being a district of Kapish):

    Why didn’t the NDS, ANP, ANA, Kapisha governor and Tagab sub-governor publicize that this was a Taliban attack with one Russian and one Chinese rocket? Isn’t it primarily their responsibility to manage IO (information operations)?

    If I could ask a related question, how many Kapisha locals think that ISAF is secretly backing the Taliban against them and their GIRoA/ANSF?

  3. dennis says:

    for me the Taliban are a strange lot. bully your way to win over the harts an mines of the folks. but when the afghans need help, they will have to come to us. because the Taliban can’t or won’t help. strange.

  4. Rosemary says:

    Those cowards. I hate them.

    I want you to know we have your troops and you in our prayers this Thanksgiving Day. God bless and protect you.

  5. OldSoldier54 says:

    Reading crap like this is depressing. I wonder who the idiot was who decided to wait two days to go and investigate. Are they TRYING to lose the war??!!

    It’s the old classic – “say a lie loud enough, long enough and people begin to believe it’s true.”

    Hopefully somebody learned from this mistake. I can only pray it is so.

  6. elf says:

    As long as you have a top heavy bureaucracy with dozens of nations (that answer back home to their home govt’s) then this kind of IO clusterfog will continue. The enemy on the other hand often has IO down to the cell level. That’s because they empower their subordinates. Our POG leadership is afraid to do so…nothing we do in the field is worth a potential negative on someones career.

    Of course Old Blue you know my feelings on the entire enterprise at this point. Stay low.

  7. elf says:

    Enjoy the speech. I am recording it, I will probably erase and just review the text later. Less stressful.

    Don’t keep fucking that chicken. In other words, don’t buy it. You’re on Pork Chop Hill, this is a Hudna in progress.

  8. OldSoldier54 says:

    The speech … I would not be surprised to see all cooperation from the locals dry up when they learn that we are out of there by 7/2011.

    That effectively means one fighting season to win right? March-April to what, September-October? About seven months, max? Christ have mercy.

  9. elf says:

    2011 C-YA: Well he may find it easier said than done. I think that was a sop to his base. It’s still unfortunate that he said it, because it does undercut the Hell out of the effort, and 2) It might be more accurate to say we’ll undertake a review over the next 12-18 mos to see where we are, which is what his peeps are pointing out.

    I think they are being given a year + to reverse the momentum the Talib had, then we re-evaluate and draw down/scale back.

    It will be enuf to put a hurting on the Talib, if they are stupid enuf to come out and play – which so far their rhetoric indicates they will. But they’d be stupid to put in more than economy of force. Just as we are. The Bush stratergy for Astan could probably be summed up as economy of force. As far as failed state – when was it a state? It’s a 3 decades old civil war that sucked in the Soviets – hastening the demise of the USSR (along with other factors), drew AQ and hence us, and has destablized the region. Which is inherently unstable anyway.

    The victory of Lawfare Jihad in NYC – which will rejuvenate AQ, from the point of near death – is far more important, and renders this moot.

    That and I am still convinced that NYC in particular is part of Bammy’s Hudna strategy, with NYC being sacrificed, and the US and it’s defenders being humiliated on the World Stage of Stages – NYC – as the real red meat on the table.

  10. Matt says:

    The Taliban have never been all that good with rockets and Kabul has the rubble to prove it.

  11. J says:

    I’ve been to Tagab before while on my deployment. Interesting story. I met Colonel Z once – he was a bad ass. And not surprising about the local reaction – I came into contact with that a lot while serving there. The locals want to believe both sides of the story – that’s why they’re always changing what they think really happened.

  12. Doug Moore says:

    I have recently finished a very good book that deals with our first responder strike team that was sent to Afghanistan a few short weeks following 911 – It, along with a great deal of other literature and blogs I have investigated, gives a powerfully base of for understanding the conflict there, who the Afghanistan people are, what they are up against, what we are up against, and ultimately who we are.


    I think a huge problem with the current generations that are living in America is a failure to understand “terror”, origins, motivations, goals, and its advocates.

    The advocates of Islam are telling us very specific things.
    The onus is on the Muslim nation to police its advocates and terrorist appendages.

    Just because we do not wish to believe what they are saying, does not make what they are saying less true.

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