- Published: Tuesday, 26 May 2009 12:30
26 May 2009
Went into a Korean travel agency in Thailand today to buy an airline ticket. Am heading to Singapore, Philippines, then Pakistan and Afghanistan. The staff at the agency is Korean and their customers are nearly all Korean. The staff looked like zombies. Really out of it. Dumb stares and all. Was very strange because they truly seemed to be in shock.
25 May 2009
Searching for an opportunity to honor America's veterans this Memorial Day, a moment presented itself. Some friends and I visited a school for blind children in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I saw about 110 students who seemed to range in age from about six to mid-teens. The school was clean and most of the kids seemed happy and they were cutting up like kids do. Some of the older boys, in particular, acted in the normal crazy ways that many teen aged boys act. Basically they were making a nuisance of themselves, but they seemed goodhearted and they listened to the teachers. We stayed for about an hour and helped serve lunch to the kids who were very friendly and there was a lot of laughter, other than from one little girl. She was about seven years-old and she was weeping and a teacher said that nobody had come to visit her for three months. Her mother had disappeared. It was heartbreaking to see her crying for her mother. The little girl has nobody other than the teachers at the school.
I made a donation to the school in honor of America's veterans and drove away very saddened.
A man can’t stop the rain, but he can use an umbrella.
20 May 2009
A quick email as I pack to return to the war. Please excuse the roughness; I can write more dispatches if the reader will kindly accept the rough edges:
19 May 2009
American Special Operations Forces are eager to receive tracking training, but very few attain any tracking skills that extend much beyond common experience. This reality translates into a profound and unnecessary weakness. An experienced Green Beret who spent years as an Army Ranger recently told me, “Getting our guys to tracking school is almost an act of congress.”
19 May 2009
Blackfive is an All-American organization all the time. For years now, the writers at Blackfive have been doing what's right by our country, our military, and normal people like you and me.
Please see the latest important initiative from Blackfive, and as the Memorial Day approaches, remember that our great Nation was not built by the government, but by the people.
Terrorists who run from real soldiers don't hesitate to blow up kids in Iraq, poison girls in Afghanistan, and behead helpless captives in the Philippines. The long security lines at airports are good places to remember the orphans of 9/11.
18 May 2009
Concerns over swine flu can cause unexpected travel delays. Recently, more than 150 British service members were quarantined for at least one day when they arrived in Brunei for a scheduled training exercise. The U.K. has excellent relations with Brunei, but nobody has excellent relations with swine flu.
18 May 2009
Bob Gates is a straight-talker. He's not glossing over anything or trying to put lipstick on a screeching pig. We saw this happening some years ago before he took office. Back when I first went to the war, I didn't trust the U.S. government any further than I could see with my own eyes. The lies and half-truths flowed from Washington D.C. like the mighty Mississippi. Nothing much has changed in that regard; today more than ever, I don't trust "the government" to be truthful with us.
As we pour money into Pakistan, Pakistan apparently is pouring money into producing more nuclear weapons. I've been inappropriately calling this rumbling volcano the "AfPak" war, when it should more accurately be called "PakAf." Afghanistan per se is tantamount to being irrelevant, but is made relevant due to its proximity to the real battlefront: Pakistan. The PakAf war stands every chance to overshadow anything we saw in Iraq. It can be argued that our primary reason for this war no longer is al Qaeda, but Pakistan's nuclear arsenal that we are, in essence, helping to fund. The Indians must be fuming, and rightfully so. Of course the Chinese and Russians and Iranians and many others are watching. Einstein was quoted as saying that he didn't know with what weapons World War III would be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. This would sit well with the Taliban and al Qaeda. At this rate, the meek truly shall inherit the earth.
Sunday, 17 May 2009
The military has amended a recent directive that civilian contractors at Kandahar Airfield must wear body armor while outdoors, even while on base. Among other issues that the directive failed to consider, most civilian contractors who never leave base probably have no body armor. In fact, I know contractors who regularly leave base without armor of any sort. Afghan police have stolen body armor from some contractors. Often, the only security some contractors have derives from traveling low profile. During late 2008, I was a passenger for approximately a thousand miles around Afghanistan. We drove in a regular unarmored vehicle. There were no dramas.
16 May 2009
As the troops swell in and the desert mercury rises, contractors are told to wear body armor on base and carry their IDs at all times.
See this email from a military contracting office to contractors:
14 May 2009
During Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Iraq, I got to know Lieutenant Brad Krauss and his crew. They had fought in many places around Iraq and were nearing the end of their tours. His men showed great respect for their Stryker vehicle, which is normal for soldiers who use great gear. Soldiers often name their weapons and vehicles, but this crew had a particular reverence for the “General Lee,” which by this time had been blown up so badly that it eventually was hauled back to the United States. Back in 2007, I wrote about the crew and the General Lee, which landed on FoxNews.com. The reputation of the General Lee and its crew kept going from there. Recently, I got an email from a high ranking soldier along with some photos of the General Lee. One of the photos included civilians who keep the Strykers rolling. And so I contacted the now Captain Brad Krauss (promoted from lieutenant) asking if he would write a few words about his crew and the General Lee. Brad’s a bit modest about all the fighting they really did. They had a full-on combat tour in Iraq, helping to break al Qaeda’s back in various cities, such as this recounting in “Surrender or Die.”
The Gurkha soldiers started at midnight. Each man carried between 80-100 lbs for the eight mile walk to the assembly point. They would attack at first light. Most of the men carried two 81mm high explosive mortar rounds for a total of 40 rounds. They would be tactical which would make the going more difficult, but these men are rugged and the movement itself would be nothing to them. I’ve seen their relatives in Nepal carry more than twice that weight for days on end, high in the Himalaya up to maybe 17,000 feet. Often the porters don’t wear shoes, if you give shoes to them they will say thank you and then sell the shoes. One Gurkha soldier told me that he must walk four days from the road to get to his home.
13 May 2009
Again, this is a quick email. The Gurkhas here in Brunei just conducted a live fire training exercise. They walked half the night carrying between 80-100lbs, mostly ammo, and made an assault at first light.
Every British officer I talk with asks what in the world happened with General McKiernan, and why was his relief performed so publicly. I do not know. And I do not personally know General McKiernan. I do know that these ears have never heard someone speak a foul word about him, and I talk with lots of interesting people. If he, McKiernan, was a bad general I would have heard about it.
11 May 2009
The inbox is full this morning. General McKiernan, our top leader in Afghanistan, is to be replaced. National Review Online and others have asked me for comment. Am in between training here in Borneo so there is no time for much, but I did send this to NRO:
"In December 2008, I saw General McKiernan briefing Secretary Gates in Afghanistan. That's as close as I've come to General McKiernan. Though I do not personally know General McKiernan, I have heard only positive reports about him. His replacement, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, has an outstanding reputation in the special operations community. McChrystal has a solid reputation for knowing the fight. Unfortunately, though our special operators are the best in the world at the fight, they only stumble and fumble with the press. With media, our special operations forces are clueless and self-defeating. This is crucial. McChrystal can win every fight on the ground and still lose the war. Time will reveal whether McChrystal can adapt and win."
Today’s mission included moving to capture some bomb makers. What the Gurkhas did not know was that the action they thought they were moving to was not the actual training. The real training was to be an attack on them that would occur along the way. Major Will Kefford, the commander of C coy, continues to throw unexpected curveballs at the men. Nothing is sacred. Everything is a trick.
Before we set off, Major Kefford said to me something like, “See that man on the ground over there? That’s Agnish. He got the Military Cross in Afghanistan on the last tour. Very good man.” I asked about other awards and Major Kefford said that men from the 1st Royal Gurkha Rifles received five Military Crosses on that deployment and they were awarded by the Queen.
Some years ago, American soldiers would complain that their training for deployment to Iraq was terrible. They would tell me that the training often was irrelevant, or simply wrong. Major Mary Prophit told me back in 2005 that according to her training, Iraqis were likely to yell at her or ignore her because she’s a woman. Yet it was a fact that Major Prophit got along just fine. I saw with my own eyes. The Iraqi soldiers liked working with her, and would take direction from her. But those were the early days. Now, American soldiers tell me that their training for Iraq and Afghanistan is relevant, accurate, and excellent.