Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Living the dream.....

I have spent most of my life from the age of 18 involved in some form of Army Training Sir!!!! It is somewhat gratifying to know that it actually gets used, and for a positive purpose in this case. Many of my peers would be jealous of our latest fun travel and adventure.

We had a very productive day in the not too distant past. We were invited along on a little route recon in to the valley that is home to one of the men who play both sides of the fence in this country. Amnullah Kahn is supposed to be in control of everything that happens in this part of Afghanistan, and that is why he is not in prison. He professes to be pro Karzai and pro government, yet with in one kilometer of his house he watched as 6 of the ANA were killed by a mine blast, along with one man who they had picked up for making bombs, kind of ironic actually. In this country the men who control what happens have money and power, and only their conscience to guide them as to how to use both. AK is like many, very interested in what is good for AK, he has Karzai's ear though and that makes him more powerful. If you accept that nothing happens with out his approval, (the Sub Governor of this area had to be accepted by AK before he would work) then you have to understand that he is also directly or indirectly responsible for what happens in his area. No Afghan willingly wants to cross him in public, as he controls their destiny in large measure.

So when I say that we happened upon a weapons cache with in 1000 meters of his home, you can understand that it is there with his knowledge and more than likely his planning. The mines that we found were like the mines that killed the soldiers in July they easily could have come from this cache. When we arrived we discovered old machine gun belts lying in the dirt. After that, one thing led to another, and pretty quickly it became apparent that we were going to have a dig on our hands. Without going into all the details, we found munitions of every variety here. Mortars, Artillery shells, mines, machine gun ammunition, antiaircraft ammunition, and finally we found an anti aircraft gun, a double barreled 25 MM weapon that would have devastating effect on aircraft or troops. This was dug in with a back hoe, based on the size and depth of the holes, which lends further credence to the idea that AK had to know about it, because it was a major job to get this stuff, and to hide it, and no single farmer does that with out help and guidance. In the final analysis, we at least removed from the bomb maker's hands raw materials capable of creating 30 or so IEDs.
The ordinance here was hastily buried in the not to distant past, and includes anti personnel mines, automatic grenade launcher grenades, rockets, mortars, artillery shells, and various parts of all of the above.

This month is Ramadan, and Muslims are supposed to take nothing into their body from before sunrise, to after sunset, so by the time we got into this search many of our soldiers were already smoked, it is easy to do without food for that period of time, but no water when the sun is beating down on you is a recipe for a heat injury. I am happy to report that we had no heat injuries, or injuries of any kind here. Unless you count the blisters that we developed digging this first hole.

The second hole was just as deep if not deeper than the first and by the time we got done, looked like it was ready for a coffin, 6 ft long, 3 feet wide, and 6 feet deep. Again, The US soldiers took a good amount of time with turns digging here, and frankly we were hoping to find the bottom a lot sooner than we did, as this stretched on for quite a while. I would estimate that we moved about 6 cubic yards of dirt out of the two holes combined by the time we were done.

These three are teachers who are teaching in the $100,000 dollar school house the US put up to encourage education in Zirco Valley. They were driving along towards the compound that was being searched and we stopped and searched them for security reasons. This is one of those awkward parts of dealing with people, and it demonstrates the various complexities at work. I didn't keep them for the 4 hours we were working in the area, but I did take their cell phones so they couldn't call to people who might decide to come and fight or try and mine our way out. Once I released them they went straight to AK's home, where I am sure they gave him a full report, as best they could.

None of the men that lived in the compound were present and the women and children stayed in their homes while the search was conducted. There was one very old woman who was claimed to be blind, and some young children. The fact that there were no men is very strange, unless you realize that any men there would have been taken to jail; so essentially the men left their families to face the ANA while they drank tea somewhere safe. When ever I have gone into a village to visit, there have always been several men there, because it is not safe to leave your homes unguarded here, and because the work that they do is around the house, farming, herding, or working. This compound definitely houses people who are hostile to the government either Taliban or just Anti Government, who have the means and desires to strike out at the ANA or anyone else who is vulnerable to them.

What we did with the mines and unstable ordinance that we found was stack it up, add some explosives of our own and blow it up about 500 meters from our work site. Because of the miraclesles of digital cameras, I was able to get a picture as it went off that wasn't too bad. This is my second camera, the first having to be sent in for repairs.

In the final analysis, I have no idea the tonnage or numbers associated with how much we took out of the various hiding spots and two holes we dug up, however the truck to the left here, holds about 1/2 of everything we found. We ended up loading up the back of three rangers with more boxes of ammunition and of course there was what we blew up in the above picture.

This was a very long, and hot and tiring day, but it was well worth it, and I am sure that we did some good with our efforts. I hope you enjoy this, I am going to put together something on the women in the area, which may be quite the challenge, but we will see.

Take care.



Anonymous said...

I found you through the fejman. I'm enjoying your posts greatly, and please do one about the women in the area. Words cannot express how grateful I am for what you are doing over there, large and small scale. Much love to you from a fellow Oregonian.

Alice Widman said...

Hi Keith,
All throughout reading your post, I was wondering what AK would do with the knowledge that you cleared/blew up the munitions. Do you fear repercussions? If not, why not?
Love, Alice

Keith said...

Everyday we go out side the wire of our Forward Operating Base (FOB) there is a chance that someone will have decided to fight us today, or to attempt to IED us that day. Each night brings the possiblity of a mortar or rocket attack. The only difference between today and a week ago is that we have removed a lot of capabilty from a group of people who are inclined to be dangerous to us. We have always been worried about or careful of what "THEY" might try to do today. He isn't to happy about it I am sure.

Jeff said...

...or more than likely he knew full well what you were doing, let you do it, and laughed becasue there were more and/or bigger caches under his control.

"critical thinking" would teach us to let go of the notion that the big bad America is always smarter than his enemy.

All said, I am truly overjoyed that you're playing policeman in Afghanistan rather than doing door to doors in Bhagdad!!