Air Strike in Kunduz

by Joshua Foust on 9/4/2009 · 30 comments

ISAF says it found hijacked fuel tankers near Kunduz, with no civilians around, so it bombed the two tankers. There are, however, reports of civilian casualties.

There are some disturbing angles to this: supposedly, after McChrystal’s new rules of engagement, if pilots have any doubt about the presence of civilians, they are meant to hold their fire. It’s frustrated the Marines fighting in the south, but the intent is at least a good one. The Reuters story on the air strike, however, is disappointing:

“After observing that only insurgents were in the area, the local ISAF commander ordered air strikes which destroyed the fuel trucks and killed a large number of insurgents,” she said.

“The strike was against insurgents. That’s who we believe was killed. But we are absolutely investigating” reports of civilian deaths, she said.

Asked how pilots could know whether a crowd around the trucks included civilians, she said: “Based on information available at the scene, the commanders believed they were insurgents.”

I really hope they didn’t just assume the crowd around the tankers was all insurgent, and bomb them based on that assumption. Normally much more foresight and review goes into non-critical air strikes.

Then there’s this bit from the BBC:

Kunduz province Governor Mohammad Omar said most of the dead were Taliban fighters – some of whom were Chechens – although other sources say many villagers had been killed while collecting fuel from the tankers.

Seriously burned people are crowding a hospital in Kunduz, AFP reported.

Witness Mohammad Daud, 32, told AFP the militants had been trying to transport the tankers across a river to villages in Angorbagh.

“They managed to take one of the tankers over the river. The second got stuck so they told villagers to come and take the diesel,” he said.

“Villagers rushed to the fuel tanker with any available container that they had, including water buckets and pots for cooking oil.

“There were 10 to 15 Taliban on top of the tanker. This was when they were bombed. Everyone around the fuel tanker died.”

Oh, I see, we have no idea who died, except that they were insurgents, and oh yeah there were Chechens, too? Gimme a break people. Uzbeks, I would believe—there are actual Uzbeks in the area, and IMU is rumored to be making a comeback of sorts. But Chechens? Puleez.

Meanwhile, the obvious caveats apply: we still don’t know what happened, but it looks bad right now. If there were 40 civilians at the tankers getting fuel when those pilots bombed it, this is a disaster. It would tell me—again—that for all his hifalutin’ talk about caring about the population, we’re just doing the same old thing, only with progressively worse consequences as time goes on.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1849 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 30 comments }

JamesG September 4, 2009 at 6:52 am

I’ve been in that area recently (like last week). I can’t go into detail, but its a bad area. There are Pashtu Taliban and Chechens there. Do you know how much a tanker of diesel is worth? What they could do with it? Do you know how hard it is to see people on the ground at 30K ft much less ID the difference between “civilians” stealing from a stranded truck and “insurgents” pilfering enemy supplies?
Sucks for the dead and wounded, but it sends a strong message, “Don’t steal from ISAF.”

Joshua Foust September 4, 2009 at 7:03 am

James, there are Chechens everywhere, didn’t you know? If you went by unit intel, there are Chechens across Kandahar, Zabul, Paktika, Khost, Laghman, Kunar, Nuristan, Takhar, and Kunduz. Do you really find those reports credible? There hasn’t been a single named Chechen in Afghanistan since Khattab got mentioned a few times in 2001.

As for the fuel tankers, lots of them get stolen all the time. It’s routine for fuel tankers to be stolen, emptied, and then firebombed along the Jalalabad-Kabul road. Down near Khost, an appalling number of tankers never make it to the bases where they’re meant to deliver their fuel. Tankers get interdicted all the damned time: why did this case warrant bombing them?

You’re point: “Do you know how hard it is to see people on the ground at 30K ft much less ID the difference between “civilians” stealing from a stranded truck and “insurgents” pilfering enemy supplies?” Is exactly right on… which is why General McChrystal told them to stop doing it.

I don’t get what the issue is.

doug fuller September 4, 2009 at 12:18 pm

I think the airstrike sends exactly the right message – Stop stealing the tankers! Stay away from stolen tankers, because they will be bombed!

anan September 4, 2009 at 1:33 pm

“If you went by unit intel, there are Chechens across Kandahar, Zabul, Paktika, Khost, Laghman, Kunar, Nuristan, Takhar, and Kunduz. Do you really find those reports credible?” Yes. There were a lot of Chechens in Afghanistan before 9/11. This is one reason Putin nearly invaded Afghanistan in 1999 and 2001.

However it is also probably true that the Afghans are calling North Caucasians (Ingush and Dagestanis) and Uzbeks “Chechans” in some cases because they are fair skinned.

One major challenge is that the ANA and ANP often claim that the people they are fighting or “foreigners” or “Pakistanis,” even when this isn’t true. It is possible that the ANA and ANP genuinely believe the people they are fighting are foreigners even if they are really Afghans.

Positroll September 4, 2009 at 8:02 am

According to the BBC:
“The Taliban decided to empty the tankers and local people arrived to take some of the fuel, he said. At this point, a Nato air strike hit the tankers causing a huge explosion.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8237287.stm
So when the airstrike was ordered, no civilians were in sight. The thiefs turned up last second at night outside of the settled area – tough luck, but I won’t shed a tear (except for any kids that were made to go along) …

Fuel from tankers can be used to build bombs, fuel Taliban motorcycle etc … Imo we should bomb abducted tankers whenever this is possible without too much collateral damage. And there were 50 Taliban around. While this may not sound like much to you, for the Kunduz area in the North it represents a good part of the Taliban figthing forces. Probably it was the core of the Taliban forces, including their regional commander. Taking them out should help a lot towards stabilizing the area, if ANA follows up.
Also, the German reaction has been critizised as too weak all the time, including by the local Afghans. Maybe now they’ll get taken seriously …

AJK September 4, 2009 at 1:37 pm

My response to you, Doug’s, and James’ belief about the message this sends is that I’m not sure you take into account the Afghanistanis’ reaction to this. The Taliban were giving out oil to all comers, providing a service, when the air strike came in and killed everyone. The ISAF makes themselves out to be the bad guys in the hearts and minds of the folks they’re supposed to win over.
If the Taliban is providing services that the government isn’t, the problem goes well above and beyond just killing as many Taliban as possible. And as mentioned, stealing tankers is a problem, but its a corruption problem much moreso than a military problem.
ISAF is not in an arms race with the insurgents. The cost to the ISAF of letting the tanker go through is not nearly as severe as killing some innocents who were benefiting from the Taliban’s (forced) largess.
My question is, if the ISAF located the stolen tanker, why did they decide to go in with an airstrike? I can’t imagine that getting someone to interdict a oil tanker driven by Taliban is a popular thing to do, but there had to be some way to get around fuzzy air strikes, yes?

BruceR September 4, 2009 at 8:23 am

“Probably it was the core of the Taliban forces, including their regional commander…”

And probably the planes didn’t actually drop bombs, but ponies…

Nice crowd you’ve got here, Josh.

M Shannon September 4, 2009 at 9:21 am

Clearly a problem McCrystal will have is getting his forces to actually follow his intent and obey lawful orders. Dropping bombs on a large group to protect property doesn’t seem to fall into his guidelines. You would think since the safety of NATO troops or ANSF wasn’t at question the commander would have opted for caution unless he was given incorrect info on the situation at the scene which opens up questions on what the FAC and pilots saw and reported.

The “Taliban” will now be able to say; “See the US rules are a charade made for their public’s consumption”. This is not something we need, especially in light of the fiasco of the election. You’d think the people in control of strike aircraft would be more cognizant of the importance of not killing civilians.

Albert September 4, 2009 at 10:06 am

I actually believe there are North Caucasians in Afghanistan, not just Chechens, but Ingush and Dagestanis as well. Canadians soldiers I know have said they are the best fighters the insurgency in Afghanistan has.

DE Teodoru September 4, 2009 at 11:21 am

As I read Mr. Foust’s incredulity to the pilots’ account, I recall the tactical vs. strategic issues faced by pilots flying fully armed over the sight of people milling around in other wars I lived through. Well, here we are in Afghanistan as in Vietnam: WE’RE SO CALUALTIES CONSCIOUS ABOUT OUR PEOPLE THAT WE KILL “THIEIR” PEOPLE ALMOST BLINDLY. All supporters of the Viet Cong were “Vietnamese”: all supporters of Saigon were “gooks.” The former Americans respected because they could kill us; the latter Americans despised because they are the reason US troops were there. In principle, when you go in intel blind, language deaf and culture dumb– especially trained by the updated Israeli version of the Weimacht for whom only a “dead Arab is a good Arab,” you bias to the tactical bomb over the strategic concequences to COIN Ops. That’s why we lost Vietnam, Iraq and are losing Afghanistan. We kept killing them and they made vengeful commitments. Of course, until you’re there in the thick of the sweating shakes of men in battle you really don’t have much of a grasp of their perspective. Nevertheless, no one had better presented the Iraq War from Iraqi perspectives than Nir Rosen. He payed a price for that that few Americans would (maybe Peter Bergen or the Ausie Micheael Ware, but they too are blind, deaf and dumb as above). Rosen has been at the mercy of the other side teneously protected by lettre de pasee from others. As such, he presented us with a picture that is not as maybe yes, maybe no….as Mr. Foust’s. Nevertheless, Mr. Foust chose to be quite categorical is calling Rosen a “liar” with little to argue the alleged crime of intent (Registrant.net 10/18/08). The current post by Foust, I hope, reminds him of the not so categorical approach that one safe at home blogging should take relative to the sacrifice made by another inside the jaws of the beast for the sake of understanding. Strong language usually comes from those watching a cartoon of reality, not documenting it. Where Rosen is wrong, argue the case, don’t just slander thinking that if you kill him you can seem a bit taller by standing on his corpse.

DE Teodoru September 4, 2009 at 11:29 am

SPELL CHECKED VERSION

As I read Mr. Foust’s incredulity to the pilots’ account, I recall the tactical vs. strategic issues faced by pilots flying fully armed over the sight of people milling around in other wars I lived through. Well, here we are in Afghanistan as in Vietnam: WE’RE SO CASUALTIES CONSCIOUS ABOUT OUR PEOPLE THAT WE KILL “THEIR” PEOPLE ALMOST BLINDLY. All supporters of the Viet Cong were “Vietnamese”: all supporters of Saigon were “gooks.” The former Americans respected because they could kill us; the latter Americans despised because they are the reason US troops were there. In principle, when you go in intel blind, language deaf and culture dumb– especially trained by the updated Israeli version of the Wehrmacht for whom only a “dead Arab is a good Arab,” you bias to the tactical bomb over the strategic consequences to COIN Ops. That’s why we lost Vietnam, Iraq and are losing Afghanistan. We kept killing them and they made vengeful commitments. Of course, until you’re there in the thick of the sweating shakes of men in battle you really don’t have much of a grasp of their perspective. Nevertheless, no one had better presented the Iraq War from Iraqi perspectives than Nir Rosen. He payed a price for that that few Americans would (maybe Peter Bergen or the Aussie Michael Ware, but they too are blind, deaf and dumb as above). Rosen has been at the mercy of the other side tenuously protected by lettre de pasee from others. As such, he presented us with a picture that is not as maybe yes, maybe no….as Mr. Foust’s. Nevertheless, Mr. Foust chose to be quite categorical is calling Rosen a “liar” with little to argue the alleged crime of intent (Registrant.net 10/18/08). The current post by Foust, I hope, reminds him of the not so categorical approach that one safe at home blogging should take relative to the sacrifice made by another inside the jaws of the beast for the sake of understanding. Strong language usually comes from those watching a cartoon of reality, not documenting it. Where Rosen is wrong, argue the case, don’t just slander thinking that if you kill him you can seem a bit taller by standing on his corpse.

Positroll September 4, 2009 at 11:55 am

Update: Der Spiegel reports that the German officer in charge ordered the attack on the fueltrucks because they had cause to believe that the local Taliban intended to use them as rolling bombs against the German base in Kunduz.
http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,647081,00.html
(in German)

Brian September 4, 2009 at 1:30 pm

DE Teodoru I just have one thing to say.

You need to include Anthony Shadid in your group of reporters doing incredible work in Iraq. Nir Rosen does, a Foust has said, have his problems. He is a bit too close to the source at times, lacking in overall depth and clarity at others.

For example in the past he has been willing to speak eloquently about the diffferences within the Iraqi “Arab” community, while positing that “all Kurds” want X. He fails to clarify that there are multiple distinctions and differences within the Iraqi “Kurdish” community. There are separate ethnic distinctions within “Kurdistan” despite our willingness to see them monolithically.

This is not to detract from Mr. Rosen’s reporting, but I do feel he has received undue praise that others have not. Zaki Chehab also comes to mind who’s coverage of the resistance was more encompassing and earlier than Nir Rosen’s. Nir Rosen has done good work and should be commended for that, but we all have our failings.

Anthony Shadid’s Night Draws Near should be essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the early phase of the recent Iraq conflict.

FreeDem September 4, 2009 at 2:48 pm

What I do not understand is why there seems to be almost no thoughtful use of the technology that is the American’s only real advantage. There is some use of drones, formerly only for visual intelligence, now seemingly primarily for attack, but most of the fighting is by troops with guns and calling in F-16s to blow up an area they are fearful of. It all seems very heavy handed when technological subtlety is their great advantage.

UPS knows where every truck and operator is world wide, why is this difficult for the military. As soon as a fuel truck was hijacked it could blow up near automatically, or lead to those who stole it and provide intelligence the whole way, even recording sound in the cab.

With such subtlety there would be no need to hurt civilians, but someone would need to exercise their mind. (of course language skills would need to be as important as shooting skills as well.

PhilThePhent September 4, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Because everyone forgets that these are commercial trucks and not military fuel trucks. The trucks and their content belong to the transport companies until delivery to a base. So the people were not even stealing from the military.

IntelTrooper September 4, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Ah yes, it’s been awhile since Joshua Foust has denied the presence of Chechens. Joshua, how much intelligence reporting do you read?

DE Teodoru September 4, 2009 at 4:21 pm

BRIAN, Shahid and Chehab have their biases too, but I read EVERYTHING they write for the same reason I read Rosen. They are known quantities in Mideast and many would not speak with them while Rosen comes out of nowhere, risking a change of mind by his hosts and for that is respected by all factions, this I can afirm. Yet, ALL THREE are fantastic sources…by the way so is Foust a worhty scholar as it seems he really cares so I read ALL his stuff too and that’s why I recked my fingers and eyes responding hunt and peck, caring is all I ask. I only want to point out that calling Rosen a “liar” betrays something worse than bias….competition, a luxury we can’t afford on this issue. I come from the medical-biologic community. We too have competition, but data rules and data seekers, once they pass a threshold, are really something owed respect by all. Then also, as a refugee from Communism and as one forced by circumstance into close contact with the Mideast and the Afghan scene back when most of you guys were in grade school, I was FORCED to follow the insurgency scene as a local issue first. I have seen several wars in which Americans– whether well intended or not– showed a racial, cultural and material sence of superiority that made them stone cold killers. For a decade of war I tried to see the Vietnam War from the perspective of Viet, ours and theirs. Nothing stuck irritating my throat all these years like an article in NATION in which an innocent reporter simply told of what he saw in Saigon. One line stuck in me like a dagger all these years: “The high school drop out or the convict released on condition of combat service are not the best representatives of what America has to offer.” But the sense of superiority and right to hedonic gratification I saw was much like what I saw of Russian soldiers as a child and certainly NOT exhibited so much by disciplined Germans off duty. Their viscious crimes were ON DUTY. Soon, however, it was obvious to me that the worst of these guys were not and are not the real problem. The problem is that politicians– like the gutless cheerleader that we (and I include me, committed to his election in 2000 body and soul) made captain of the football team and the SecDef whose ego permitted him to swallow hook line and sinker the neocon line that Bush is a “putz” who’ll never go to a second term so win a war for us (neocons) in Iraq– clean and fast– and we’ll make sure that you take it away from him in 2004. When all is said and done, in my view, Nixon was the most patriotic poltican we had this century, a real US in global context foreign policy intellectual. What followed him is a lot of me-ists. And that was awful because the generals– that horrid West Point class of 76 at a time when military career was like sewage engineer, for example– “star whores” who served as parrots of Rummy’s shoulder as if they never read McMaster’s DERRELICTION OF DUTY, knew that careers are built on low casualties (ours) and big body counts (theirs). Vietnam lessons went down the toilet. One detailed to the White House told me: if you want to continue dialogue with me don’t dare bring up that “loooooooser’s” war Vietnam!!! Look at what these generals do when let loose!!!! In the military stupid deceptions are passed down the chain of command and, what’s worse, are passed back up, thus becoming self-deceptions, convincing the cognitively challenged at the top that they were right all along. Recently, Andrew Exum, who can only match for inarticulateness Nagl, took on Bacevich on PBS (after he babbled on and on pointlessly on the Charile Rose Show trying to have it both ways). And then, desperate for something, anything to put down Bacevich, he suddenly said, in effect: I have access to what you don’t so I know better. That reminds me of those idiot CIA whiz kids collecting HUMINT in the Vietnamese hamlets, struggling with their tones trying to show the local VCI that they’re on top of the situation with their feble spoken Vietnamese. Look, after Wall Street destroyed this wonderful country with mind withering greed, it’s hard to moralize to military careerists. But in fact, they are sending to die, not high school drop outs and jailbirds, but moms and dads who joined the Reserves to defend the country and fight fire & flood, AS PROMISSED. Now, combat evaders like Bush and Cheney send them intel blind, language deaf and culture dumb to die leaving behind widows and orphans. And those f— Middle Aged Americans, the hippies of the 60s and me-ists of the 70s, suffer from the “ain’t my kid ging to Iraq/ Afghanistan” disconnect sydrome so they don’t really care. In 2004 they didn’t vote over the war, only to stop homosexuals at their “weddings” from kissing on their TV screens while they watched the news at dinner time. In 2008 these same “boomers” voted for a handout to make up for their lost 401Ks; and now they act like fascist aggitators at Town Halls because they’re afraid that universal healthcare will cut into their Medicare. This nation of 64% fat of which 38% are obese are killing themselves driving their fat gas guzzler SUVs to fast-food fat&sugar dumps, caring neither about their health nor that of the moms and dads on the battlefield. What do they care about the hopeless struggle of patriotic infantry moms and dads shooting in the dark because they are scared, being language deaf culture dumb and intel blind? The war is as remote for most people as global warming. Since some time after Nagasaki and Hiroshima I have crossed half way around the world as a rootless refugee to become an American. Now I have three American kids and four American grandkids and I am shocked to hear that they are so disgusted– not with their lives, they’re doing well– but with the way moms and dads are send to make their families orphans and widows and all people care about is the spread on Monday Night Football, that they want to leave and raise their kids in a more caring country (I really don’t think there is). During Vietnam, especially by the end, everybody’s son risked draft sending him there and people payed more attention. Now we just mutter, “thanks for your service” and then cut the vets off from morsels because “I gotta get mine first.” How can you expect these kinds of people to say to Killcullen: HOW STUPID DO YOU THINK WE ARE? DO YOU THINK WE’LL BUY THIS DAMNED KLUNKER OF AN APOLOGIA WITHOUT AN ENGINE BECAUSE OF YOUR CUTE AUSSIE ACCENT? I guess I don’t have a right to expect more from the people I see irresponsibly dumping their health problems on medicine like a bag of s–t, as if to say: “here, I brought this heavy bag here and Medicare is paying you to take care of it so I won’t be bothered anymore and can get back to my football game on TV, Big Macs and booze…And by the way, write me a prescription for this feel-good-stuff I saw on a TV commercial.” We are the dying Roman Empire where no one gives a damn except for ME getting more for ME, per the TV commercial’s insistence that I need it. Rosen, like me an American by choice not chance, is angry that a nation he held on high acts so low. Bacevich payed for our Bush-it war with a son, yet Exum just brushed him off insisting that he knows but won’t tell why Bacevich is irrelevant. And still the service evading pear-shaped neocons wimper about how they are not listened to though they had been “advisers” to Petraeus, a guy whose COIN grasp is given away by his PhD Thesis on the Vietnam War. I don’t mean to insult but I am shatered to pieces as I note my helplessness when seeing a broken vet trying to cope while his family falls apart and nobody cares, pretending that “the government is taking care of that.” Sure, Exum, Kilcullen, the whole lot are smart people and maybe they care. But I don’t see how you can argue for a war and then call it that “f–en stupid war” in private if you really care for all those moms and dads that leave behind orphans and widows. There’s no more MEANINGFUL DIALOGUE as in the 1960s when EVERYONE DISCUSSED AND DEBATED because no one gives a s–t about those moms and dads now. I survived 9/11 at WTC and I am scared by it in many ways. But I don’t consider that justification to irresponsibly permit the making of so many orphans and widows because the “STOP-LOSS” presidential decision eventually makes for widows and orphans by sending them back over and over again; I was going to Borders on 9/11 to pick up an order for the book on Vietnam that I sought to devote my life writing in my old age. As in Vietnam, I thought that we would have to respond to that act of aggression. But when the Afghan war proved to be nothing but bait-and-switch, cannibalizing the Congressionally approved forces in order to present Congress with a fait accompli in Iraq (you can’t refuse to fund a war when the troops are already in combat!). I realized how little Americans cared when I saw no one ask how four planes can be taken-over in 10 min. each? No one asked what happened to the rules set in 1970s during the spade of skyjackings to always keep the pilot cabin door impenetrable? To hide our recklessness we conjured up this alQaeda monster that the moms and dads had to fight, leaving behind orphans and widows. I am trembing and angry with myself for being so old and helpless and sure I regret my harsh words towards the generals and the spokesmen like Exum and Kilcullen. Yes I want to go to Afghnaistan to help with the real civic problems rather than cheering the guys shooting-up Afghans in order to rise in the ranks. But all the patching up of Afghan national injuries will do nothing so long as our military is like firemen sent into a fire with dynamite sticks in their pockets. OUR MEN ARE THE REAL SUICIDE BOMBERS because all they do is arouse hate and thirst for revenge directed at them rather than at the Taliban. Contrast the Afghan Ops with how the Phoenix Program ended the VCI in the Mekong Delta by making the “White Mice” police do their job– alas it was too late, as it may be in Afghnaistan. Yet Bing West who knew better and wrote beautifully on the villages in I Corps, then a Marine, now said of Fallujah: “You should stop restraining our Marines and let them do what they do best– killing people.” Could it be that he’s taking too much Viagra? Or is it that we no longer have the loving MEANINGFUL DIALOGUE of the 60s like that going on in the Miami Beach park between Viet Vets Against the War and Viet Vets for a Just Peace while Nixon was being nominated? I was there and I saw opposites reason to common ground. Now only the climbers and careerists do the talking on TV and on the blogs IN acrimonious MONOLOGUE so the moms and dads can be sent to war, leaving behind widows an orphans that no one cares for once off base. If I didn’t care I wouldn’t bother. I feel far less hopeless fighting cancer with molecular medicine that trying to bring the moms and dads home before their familes become widows and orphans. I would kiss Exum’s feet with gratitude for dialogue. But if he pulls that: I know what you don’t because I saw documents crap, I would remind him that, despite all the NSA satellites and phone intercepts, there’s a lot more crosstalk with the actors in the field than Exum could ever obtain because his mission there was to shoot or call in the drones, not to talk to a people about which he is intel blind, language deaf and culture dumb. Still, no matter what “classified” crap we know or don’t know, we all have knowledge of results so we know how badly Exum and the generals he advise have screwed up for 8 years. So with humility and common cause, we must all put down what we are doing and listen to all those who care enough to struggle with the killing of our heroes, debate and discuss so that we can all learn and share in the responsibility– that’s what democracy is all about, not: I know secrets you don’t know; talking that way is the same as the Wall Street shysters that wrecked America’s economy while the moms and dads died in the moutains of Afghnaistan. We must ALL be ready to learn and teach. We must struggle collectively because you can’t consider yourself a US citizen, to my mind, if you don’t see all those mom and dad soldiers as “MY” kids and would never allow to be done to them what you would not allow to be done to your biologic kids. I write this as one who has no other place to go but America and who wants his kids and grandkids to love THIS the nation of their birth as much as I do having chosen it as my home. WE MUST ENGAGE IN MEANINGFUL DIALOGUE and stop attacking motives as I too have done. Such doubt of eachother comes from isolation from a shared caring. We judge the messenger not the mesage and for that the patriotic moms and dads pay with their lives. I equally condemn my rage at the “star whores.” But too many generals and colonels tell me that about eachother for me to disregard it. Openess about our weaknesses is our greatest strength. We can’t assume that lies and secrets will fix thing now that our self-deception is payed by the moms and dads. Frustration over my helplessness is killing me with pain. I feel so helpless when I see a funeral of one of these moms and dads, even though I saw many funerals merely because we could not find a cure for sick patients. Health is for Providence to grant. War is in our hands, it is a fate imposed on heroes by cheap ass politicians and an uncaring public. In this I share Rosen’s rage. He is going into the jaws of the devil alone and unarmed only because he cares…That’s why he puts his ass on the line with no way back if things go wrong. He wants us all to know what we’re up against. That makes him a hero for me. So no matter how correct or incorrect is what he sais, he’s a REAL American because he puts his life to what he cares about– to inform us all about what all those moms and dads are losing their lives over, like Bacevich whose son payed the ultimate price in Iraq.

I’m too upset to correct this; tears is all you’ve got when you’re old!

anan September 4, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Apparently the air strike was 2:30 AM. The Germans seem to be insisting that there were no civilians in the area when the strike takes place:
http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/09/nato_airstrike_in_ku.php

Why would civilians congregate 2:30 AM in the morning . . . and that too not very close to their villages? No wonder the aircraft couldn’t see the civilians . . . it was in the dead of night.

Toryalay Shirzay September 5, 2009 at 12:18 am

I don’t blame the ISAF for the consequences of the attack on the fuel tankers.I blame the Afghan government for not going on TV every week to warn Afghans that they must stay clear of all Taliban and other Islamic thugs and that they are in a war theater and that could lose their life if they are careless and act in stupid ways.But the Afghan gov. doesn’t do this and way too many Afghans behave as if everything is alright .When their stupidity blows in their face,then we hear foul cries and such .The Afghans need to wake up,but how??!!unfortunately and sadly,maybe such bombings might do the trick.

M Shannon September 5, 2009 at 12:21 am

Anan: It’s ramazon. Most Afghans would be up at that time to eat breakfast before the sun comes up.

A FAC is supposed to see the target and presumably has night vision capability. If he couldn’t see the target he shouldn’t have ordered the strike. If he couldn’t see the target clearly he shouldn’t have ordered the strike. This strike was reckless and the German government’s attempt to weave the threat of a “suicide bomb” into the rationale for it is pathetic.

M Shannon September 5, 2009 at 12:24 am

Anan: It’s ramazon. Most Afghans would be up at that time to eat breakfast before the sun comes up. The word would spread quickly by cell phone and folks could get to tankers by vehicle within minutes.

A FAC is supposed to see the target and presumably has night vision capability. If he couldn’t see the target he shouldn’t have ordered the strike. If he couldn’t see the target clearly he shouldn’t have ordered the strike. This strike was reckless and the German government’s attempt to weave the threat of a “suicide bomb” into the rationale for it is pathetic.

anan September 5, 2009 at 2:09 am

Shannon, I remember hearing the sound of the Isha’a and the Fajr. Muslims are not usually up and far away from their villages at 2:30 AM in the morning . . . period. Even if they got up at 2:30 (most wake up after 3 AM), it would have still taken them some time to hike to where the fuel truck was. They would have had to wake up at 2:00 AM in the morning; probably 1:30 AM in the morning to be at the fuel truck by 2:30 AM.

BTW, I agree with you regarding the FOC. He should have called off the air strike when his night scope showed that civilians were approaching the vicinity of the stolen fuel truck (I am willing to believe that there were no civilians present when the German FOC called in the air strike.) What I mean is that the pilot of the aircraft couldn’t see who was near the fuel truck 2:30 AM in the morning.

“the German government’s attempt to weave the threat of a “suicide bomb” into the rationale for it is pathetic” I didn’t hear about this. Could you elaborate?

Ramazan = Pashtu/Urdu/Hindi/Punjabi/Bengali (my language)/Gujarati/Sindhi/Marathi many other South Asian languages for Ramadan (Arabic.)

Is Pharsi and Dhari also Ramazan (versus the Arabic Ramadan)?

I know that most forget this; but until fairly recently the language of legal texts, court cases and business in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan was Pharsi. The affect of Persian/Pharsi culture, music, law and traditions over this entire area and the central Asian Stans is hard to understate.

Toryalay Shirzay, the Iraqi government did behave the way you suggest; and did defend the use of close air support on behalf of the ISF and MNF. The Afghan government needs to do the same. Currently, ISAF is trying to build up the ANAAC so that they give the red flag on all air strikes. Personally, I would use the Vietnam method . . . demand that each provincial governor authorize each air strike. I think that unanimous agreement between the ISAF (maybe in the future ANA) forward air controller, ISAF’s air command, ANAAC, and the provincial governor should be required for any air strike to be authorized.

M Shannon September 5, 2009 at 5:14 am

Anan. The German Defence Minister has been reported as saying the tankers were destroyed to prevent a suicide attack. I think that’s rubbish and the “suicide attack” has become the fall back position to excuse a number of errors including but not limited to negligent discharges, over aggressive convoys tactics and now foolish air strikes.

With regards the logistics of getting to the fuel truck: My guys are getting up at 2:30 and the Germans said there was a 40 minute gap before the fighters arrived. I think it’s quite possible locals moved from their homes to the sight in time to be bombed.

Dari= Ramazon Pushtu= rowshja
I’ll not swear by my transliteration

M Shannon September 5, 2009 at 5:27 am

I should have been more specific: The women are up at 0230 to start preparing the meal which is served at 0300 with prayers at 0400.

BruceR September 5, 2009 at 7:59 am

M Shannon’s right about wakeup times. The pattern of life during Ramazan, at least as would be viewable from a UAV, is decidedly different that way.

yellow bldg September 5, 2009 at 9:12 am

why are the Konduz Prov Governor, the NDS and the provincial security commander saying that most of the dead are TB militants, while Pres Karzai is telling us to ‘stop targeting civilians’?

sayke September 5, 2009 at 10:29 am

yellow: because they probably were militants, or at the very least shouldn’t have been looting the truck… considering that so much of the militant activity in-country is essentially banditry, well, i think it might make sense for more of it should get this kind of treatment. of course, the afghan government needs to agree that truck-looting banditry is criminal activity and deserves to be prevented and punished… something which it’s currently incapable of doing itself…

anan September 5, 2009 at 10:55 am

Shannon, is it realistic that the men woke up at 1:45 AM, got ready, and made the trek so that they arrived at the truck by 2:30 AM?

Your Afghans must need naps during the day time, or go to bed by 8:30 PM.

M Shannon September 5, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Anan,

You’re quite right. During Ramazon the guys have been known to take a siesta. I’m not sure what getting ready there would be. They wear pyjamas and sandals all the time. It’s not like they’d shave, shower and have coffee before running off to pilfer fuel.

DE Teodoru September 13, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I must confess that my long post was a desperate cry for: TELL ME IT ‘AINT SO!” But, in fact, a number of decades experience made me realize that if a lot of experience and study brings you to a conclusion you had better be your own debater that knocks you down. Still, it is about as painful as a brain tumor for it is not the first time I experienced a war that seemed so devoid of respect for those who fight it on the ground. Therefore, I again plead with you all to kindly tell me it ‘ain’t so, enabling me to look deeper for the redeeming attributes. I’m sorry that I ask you to read so much and to critique it, but it came from the heart, addressed to people whose knowing and thinking I look up to and I would not have keyboarded one word were it not painfully concluded to be so. In the end, those of us out and out disgusted with something done by OUR Gov, owe it to ourselves and our fellow citizens to try and affect the whole thing from within that Gov– at least try! No matter how frustrationg, that would never be as painful as being in the position of Seymour Hersh, who no matter how much it did for his journalistic career, since My Lai has been looking up and saying: Oh God, does it always have to be this way? This is what drives so many of us into such a dark hole of despair. It is quite liberating to study the molecular unity of hypertension and diabetes through the renin-angiotensin system– the data there is hopeful, brilliant and most encouraging. What is not is the ever gnawing pain of seeing heroic moms and dads dying in war because someone’s career needs it….please tell me it ain’t so!!!

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