CJ Chivers continues writing amazing copy from Afghanistan. This time, he covers a night raid in Ghazni.
Talk now turns to the fine points of the rules. Who does the prohibition really cover? The American military? What about he Afghan police? Can’t they search?
‘Yeah they can,” a sergeant says “The A.N.P. can.”
This speaks to a common perception that “an Afghan face,” even the Afghan attached to it is clearly subordinate to the American unit leading the operation, provides a way around the rules.
The sergeant advances this line. “They A.N.P is here. It’s their face.”
“Hey, we can go,” he says. He asks for the interpreter, and prepares to give the order. “Zahid?”
“Yes sir,” the interpreter answers.
Lieutenant Sprenger is unmoved. “Nah, we’re good,” he says. “Tell him to stand down. We’ll hit it next time we’re down here.”
Now, at 2:15, the plot deepens. The sergeant is frustrated. He marshals the facts. The door is locked by a heavy chain and padlock from the outside, and there are recent tire tread-marks in front of it.
“Everybody’s covering for them like there is nobody living here,” the sergeant says, and swears. He shines his light on dust at his feet. “Fresh tracks.”
There’s really no way to excerpt this, or the video he posts. You must read it, and watch it. But Chivers is getting at a fundamental paradox of how we operate in the field. “Lying is a staple of civilian-military interactions in the field in Afghanistan,” he writes, by way of explaining how difficult it is to sift through all the competing rules and constraints on taking decisive action. Figuring out the truth is damned tough, and I don’t envy any of the soldiers who are forced to do so on a daily basis.