By now a small group of ANA soldiers had begun to converge on the vehicle and we asked what was going on. A Small Afghan man was standing near the rear of the van among the others but somehow slightly alone in the midst of the gathering crowd much like a school of fish that parts around a hungry predator. As I rounded the front of the van I saw multiple bullet holes in the windscreen and grill along the passenger side. Inside was a young man in his early twenties, obviously dead. We asked our terp [interpreter] to find out who the driver was and what had happened here. He spoke over the din of the voices and the small man from the back of the van stepped up. He said that he had been driving up from Kandahar in Helmand province on business with his son when they had been stopped by an illegal check point about thirty miles south.
These “check points” are manned mostly by bandits or uncommon criminals who roam the uninhabited desert areas stopping vehicles and collecting some sort of toll or simple robbery in a land where any thoughts of “laws” or “rights” drop faster then pork prices in Kabul. He said that he had stopped at four or five of these check points and paid the toll of about fifty Av. [Afghani] at the last one he had slowed down when the bandits had blocked the road and his foot slipped off the brake and touched the accelerator. The van jumped slightly forward and the man carrying an AK-47 sprayed the front of the vehicle with automatic fire.
After firing they simply ran off, as if scared the noise of the rifle may bring down the surrounding empty mountainside. His son was hit multiple times. After trying to stop the bleeding, he raced off to try and find help. He remembered our base was near and his son’s best chance was with the Americans who he had seen tending to the wounded near his village. In route his anger turned to anguish when he could see his son slowly slipping into unconsciousness as his life blood leached into the beige upholstery. By the time he had gotten passed the front gate and the ANA guards his son was dead.
Green on Green
I’m now the NCOIC [non commissioned officer in charge] of the SECFOR [security force] of the Shindand Airbase somewhere between Herat and Farah proper. This is the largest airbase in Afghanistan with a runway of 9,140 feet, aircraft revetments, a full tower and associated fuel points with multiple building used for maintenance and other tasks related to the running of major air operations. The Soviets used this airfield to propagate their air war against the Mujahedin during the eighties at the height of the Afghan war.
However, since the grip of the once great Russian bear has slipped the airfield has fallen into a sad state of disrepair and neglect. In their rush to pull out and save the Motherland from “Death from a thousand cuts.” They left an almost unbelievable amount of aircraft, helicopters, parts, engines, ammunition, mines, and electronics just lying all over this area. Right now there is MIG-21 fighters, Sukoi-22/17 bombers, MI-17 attack helicopters and enough engines and parts to keep them running for another decade just lying around the tarmac slowly melting into the landscape.
This area has been the scene of many battles fought by various groups who would wish to garner the prestige of holding the biggest landing strip in the country. Ishmael Khan, who was born here and now is the Minister of power and light in Kabul and Amannula Khan who is the biggest local warlord [AK to his friends-and you are his friend or you starve or get beaten or killed by his thugs.] have repeatedly moved up and down this valley in hopes of securing this area for their own personal gain.
However, were missing the point, with all the millions of dollars worth of machinery and aircraft lying around for the taking what do you suppose the Afghan’s want? PSP. Yup, pierced steel planking. The stuff the air force uses to make runways and taxi ways for the planes to ride on so they don’t sink into the sand. For some reason there is a big market for the stuff in Pakistan so…..every other night we find ourselves down at SHAF [Shindand Air Force base] running down the perpetrators of this heinous crime. They cut the wire and let in civilian trucks to haul the stuff off and line their pockets with what ever they can get.
Who you ask?
We picked up the OP team and each took a runway or taxi way and with night vision we found them in two different locations loading up their booty.
M4carbine/M203 grenade launcher…. $850.00
40 millimeter grenade flares…..$2.50
The look on their faces when that sucker lit up the area like the Fourth of July…..Priceless.
We had our group of seven down on the ground and zip tied when one of the other elements said they found a few more near the Northern edge of the airfield. My UAH went over to the area to over watch there position and to assist when one of the ANA soldiers chambered a round and raised his weapon to a firing position aimed at a US soldier. With two M4 carbines and a vehicle mounted machinegun with night vision sights trained on his chest, our TERP was able to convince this guy to drop his weapon. He may never know how lucky he was one cold night on a long abandoned corner of Afghanistan.
We loaded them all up and were returning to our base through the three gates leading into the main compound. When we hit the first one the guard must have been asleep [ANA guards] cause he jumped up out of shadow and yelled “Dresch” [“STOP!”] with his weapon aimed at our vehicle. Damn, this is getting old I thought. Well the Colonel had a talk through one of the TERPs to this guy though I cannot repeat what was said here in this fine publication. So….on to gate number two. We get there and guess what? No one’s there at all. By now the Colonel is pissed and he has to raise the gate himself, I’m looking down the with the night vision goggles and see two soldiers walking toward us. I told the crew and by now the adrenalin from the mission is fraying my nerves and I’m tired of seeing the business end of a AK. We get within twenty meters of them and one guy raises his AK and points it at me in the hatch. Well this time I was way ahead of them and I’ve got the 240 bravo [see BIG freaking machinegun] ,safety off, aimed at him and I’m yelling at the top of my lungs for him to drop his weapon. With the right encouragement you’d be surprised at the reaction you can get. He lowered his weapon and at that time I realized I had about three pounds of pull on a three and a half pound trigger.
I’m so sick and tired of listening to those faceless, nameless, Monday morning quarterbacks, political pundits and grandstanding pompass, congressional snotbags whine and bitch about the “Cost of the War on Terror.” or “Why?” we went to war in the beginning. WMDs or not, mass graves, torture, systematic repression, and famine used as a weapon are all valid reasons for an honest man’s desire to overthrow a corrupt, disease infested regime. Not to mention New York, Pennsylvania, the Pentagon and three hundred and fifty three of my brother firefighters.
We here in A-stan don’t have to concern ourselves with most of those convoluted questions asked by our brothers in Iraq. All we need to do is review the images of the twin towers falling and my resolve for justice is once again renewed. But, all those things aside, once you’re here and you see the children who line the road to our base looking for a handout your perceptions change. They’re barefoot, gaunt, and dirty from scavenging for food or things to sell in the marketplace in Azizabad a few klicks away. At our range where we test fire and zero our weapons, they lie in wait like a pack of hungry wolves in the shadows of a kill. Just as we file off the firing line there is a mass foot race for the expended brass cartridges left behind. They later sell these downrange for five Afghani a kilo.
They have polio, whooping cough, rickets, leischmaniasis, malnourishment, lice, TB, and a host of other ailments too many to mention. When you have looked into the face of a child too listless and weary to wave the flies that circle like vultures in repose, with eyes dull and non reflective. You wonder if the humanity has been drained from them like light from a black hole.
Then you think about the Taliban and Osama. With their anarchistic message of hate and the twisted sense of savagery they have gleaned from the Koran for their own devices.
It’s then I find it much easier to put the stock in the pocket of my shoulder and put pressure to the trigger.
Evil is an obscenity that stains the observer. Ayn Rand