Returning to Tarok Kolache

by Joshua Foust on 1/31/2011 · 1 comment

Quil Lawrence covers the men of Tarok Kolache surveying the rubble that used to be their homes.

Hajji Rozi Muhammad, the white-haired landowner, says there were 200 pomegranate trees here until the Americans bombed and bulldozed the orchard.

It’s clear this was a battlefield. Muhammad points to bullet and shrapnel scars on the surviving trees. His house in Tarook Kalacha also was destroyed; in fact the Americans have built a base right on top of where it sat, he says.

“Of course, I’m very disappointed and very angry,” says Muhammad. “This was the income of my family. We were just feeding our kids with that, our family with that.”

It’s a remarkable story. The ISAF spokesman is all smiles, while the villagers are sad, even angry over what happened (though they do not really directly blame the Americans for what happened). There’s not much new here, and no mention of the Afghan Local Police cell LTC Flynn was so “up” about.

No, what I find interesting about this is very simple: when you drop the affect, and stop trying to spin a lion’s tale out of Kandahar, what happened at Tarok Kolache was not triumph… but tragedy. Even if everything somehow turns out okay, and every one is happy in the end, it doesn’t make what happened okay. And that is why I remain so appalled: not necessarily at what happened, though that remains shocking. But how those around it tried to make it seem like something it wasn’t.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from 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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{ 1 comment }

F February 1, 2011 at 8:36 am

The whole situation sounds like a terrible tactical situation to be in as a commander. It’s unfortunate that the response to the IED problem was purely tactical. While critique of the operation is limited to the information available, the absolute necessity of clearing that area of Taliban has yet to be demonstrated. Mission analysis demands a review of the superior commander’s intent and a constant appraisal of whether the situation has changed and whether the original mission task is still relevant. This case seems a prime example of not asking such questions.
Given the expense and effort required to first flatten three villages and destroy much of the associated agricultural infrastructure, and then the need to rebuild everything, I have to ask (given the information available) why the Taliban-infested area wasn’t simply cordoned and the ‘fleeing villagers’ resettled in a new American-built village.
The information operations campaign would be vastly different. First, the Taliban would have looked foolish, holed up in a now irrelevant set of compounds. Second, the Taliban would have been denied a propaganda opportunity to show American destruction and draw links to Israeli bulldozer tactics. Third, a protected village might have helped save the life of Dad Karim, the recently assassinated elder as reported in the NPR article, and who is implied to have been trusted by the villagers and so one of the types of people critical to rebuilding effective governance institutions. Finally, if the Taliban really wanted to contest control of a new village, they would have been forced out of defensive positions where they held every tactical advantage, and into prepared American fields of fire.
There are more ways to defeat this enemy than left flanking, right flanking and frontal.

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