View Full Version : Counterterrorism Blog's Bill Roggio in Kabul
05-31-2006, 08:06 AM
Counterterrorism (http://counterterrorismblog.org/) Blog's Bill Roggio in Kabul.
Received two e-mails from Bill (yesterday and early this morning)...
The good news is I've safely landed in Kabul. The somewhat bad news is the UN flight to Kandahar is booked, so I will head down there on Monday. But there is plenty to do in Kabul, and I've already dug around a little bit about the violence in the city yesterday after a US vehicle killed 1 to 3 Afghans during a traffic accident. The consensus among the folks I spoke to is the protests after the accident were staged by groups waiting for such an event to happen. I made the comparison to the reaction by some Islamist groups in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) after the Muhammad Cartoon riots, where the "spontaneous protests" were anything but. there was agreement on this point. I will likely post about this tonight or tomorrow.
I drove through the city twice today, and it is an interesting place. The city is scarred from decades of combat, however you can see people are working to rebuild. Shops are open, people and traffic are on the streets, and there are signs of new construction and rebuilding/repair projects. I saw several "land/title offices," as well as signs for rooms for rent. Security is tight, and it seemed as if police were on every corner, no doubt a reaction to yesterday's events. Unfortunately my camera was packed away, but I'll get some shots tomorrow.
Attached are two photos I took from the rooftop of the building I am staying in. The first is a shot of Afghanis rebuilding a rooftop structure. The second is last night's sunset in Kabul. The city is situated in a valley surrounded by mountains on all sides which makes for a beautiful view.
I'll be out on the town today taking care of some administrative tasks as well as looking around and gathering more information on the Kabul unrest that occurred on Monday. I will post on this tonight.
I've had several questions about my personal security while here. This is a direct quote from a recent Wall Street Journal article on the security situation in Kabul: "Since the kidnapping of an Italian woman in May 2005, there have been no attacks on foreigners in Kabul--no robberies, kidnappings, assaults or murders." This doesn't mean I am not taking security seriously. The group I am staying with while in Kabul is an experienced security company with years in Afghanistan, and they are providing for my travel as well. Security is always on my mind.
Finally, I'll be on the radio tonight with Rob Breakenridge at 10:30 pm Mountain / 8:30 pm Eastern to provide a live update. I'll post a link to the online live audio feed when I post tonight.
And Happy Belated Birthday, Mom!
Bill will be blogging about his embed in Afghanistan at the Counterterrorism (http://counterterrorismblog.org/) Blog soon - be sure to check often for his updates.
05-31-2006, 07:52 PM
Latest e-mail from Bill Roggio in Afghanistan...
I provided a more formal update on Monday's riot in Kabul at the Counterterrorism Blog:
Two Days After the Kabul Riots (http://counterterrorismblog.org/2006/05/two_days_after_the_kabul_riots.php)
I'm going to have to come back and do an interview with the woman I mentioned in today's post if I can swing it. She lives in Kabul outside the wire, is one of the only women drivers, deals with woman's issues in country and tends a bar in Kabul on the side. She has quite a unique perspective, to say the least.
Also, I will be on the radio with Rob Breakenridge tonight at 8:30 ET / 10:30 MT. The details are in post, and you can listen online. Rob is by far my favorite show to go on, and I always look forward to talk to him.
06-05-2006, 11:27 PM
He made it to Kandahar...
I've safely arrived at Kandahar Airfield (KAF). I had to take a United Nations Humanitarian Assistance flight to the airfield, as the Canadian military does not provide for travel to & from the bases as the Marines/Army do in Iraq. Did you know the UN has its own airline? Predictably, they rake you over the coals on the cost of the ticket. But they do have flight attendants and served sodas! Frankly I would have preferred a free, no-frills flight on a C-130 with the guys...
I would compare Kandahar Airfield to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq: a large, well protected rear operating area (there are about 8,000 troops here. There are Dutch, Canadian, British, French, American, Bulgarian and a host of other countries based out of KAF. The Canadians maintain two other Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Kandahar province. I plan on pushing out to the FOBs & PRT as soon as I can, but it may take a day or two. I will get out on some patrols from the base in the mean time. The Canadian military was pleased to discover I actually wanted to go out to the field, as that is the exception, not the norm.
An interesting sidebar on the Canadian military view of the media: They feel the media hangs out at Kandahar Airfield to maintain the "death watch" - waiting for news of soldiers killed or wounded. I spoke to several members of the Canadian military and they freely admitted this, and complained they are prisoners of their media organizations. They have to stay at the airfield to cover news from there, lest they miss this "news". They can get out on daily patrols from the main base but this is a strain on resources (the death watch would be unmanned). I will say the Canadian members of the media have been very friendly and are interested in what I do. One gentleman gave me a great set of maps which will help with my reporting. They aren't pleased with being on the death watch.
Combined with the issue of the war not being covered in the proper context and the importance of education, it is for these reasons I believe it is important to be out here.
It's been relatively quiet around here, so there will be no update today, other than this email. Here is a link to a recorded radio broadcast on Pundit Review radio.My friend Matt from Blackfive is also on the program, and Haditha and Iran are also discussed, as well as Afghanistan.
06-06-2006, 12:08 AM
...just thought I'd throw in a few personal photos from Kandahar...
06-06-2006, 12:10 AM
06-08-2006, 08:24 PM
It's hard to imagine I came all of the way to Afghanistan to write about Zarqawi. But it isn't a bad thing. It's a great day when a monster like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi meets his end at the hands of the U.S. of A. I tracked the operations of Task Force 145 since I learned of their existence, and cracked the code on the military press releases. Our boys did some great work and they deserve all of the credit:
I'll be heading out to the field shortly so communications may not be as often, but I'll do my best. I met up with Charlie Company of the 1 PPCLI. These are highly motivated and well trained warriors looking to take the fight to the Taliban. I look forward to getting out with them.
06-13-2006, 08:03 PM
My apologies for the long pause. I was in the middle of an operation near Kandahar and had to keep communications down lest I jeopardize the mission. I'll write about the operation later this week when I am confident it is wrapping up. I sat in on the mission briefs so I don't want to accidentally divulge any sensitive information.
I've had a lot of questions about Carolletta Gall's article on Afghanistan. In my opinion, she is giving the absolute worst case scenario. There are problems with Taliban reinfiltration, but she greatly exaggerates the Taliban's power and influence, in my opinion and that of of my military and civilian contacts here on the ground. From what I have seen down here, the government is working to extend its influence, as are NATO forces. I am working on an article about this and hope to have it published in The Weekly Standard.
I've attached some photos of the convoy up to FOB Martello. The Canadian troops have been great. I am working on heading back up north to Kabul soon, as travel in the country is difficult. Air transport assets are not as readily available here as they were in Iraq. If I have a few days free, I will be heading to Mazar-i-Sharif with some friends. The news talks about all of the bad here in Afghanistan, but there is a lot of good going on here as well, and I'll get to see that first hand.
06-13-2006, 11:45 PM
Bill's latest at the Counterterrorism blog - The Road to Tarin Kot (http://counterterrorismblog.org/2006/06/the_road_to_tarin_kot.php).
I've embedded with 7 Platoon, Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regiment. This is a proud group of soldiers who bristle at the common perception in Canada that their primary mission is peacekeeping. "We're not peace keepers, we're soldiers," the soldiers freely told me during numerous casual conversations. Afghanistan is far from a peacekeeping operation. The Canadian soldiers are actively fighting the Taliban insurgency in Kandahar province.
Charlie Company is the battalion's maneuver company, which means they are the unit designated to engage Taliban formations as they appear, as well as provide manpower for other security tasks when needed. Their latest round of combat occurred during the last two weeks of May, when Charlie Company fought several hundred Taliban in Panjwai District. Well over two hundred Taliban are estimated to have been killed. Captain Nicola Goddard was killed during this engagement, and five soldiers were wounded during the four skirmishes in the Panjwai district. The soldiers expect to return to Panjwai, as this is a hub for Taliban activity in the region...
06-14-2006, 05:58 PM
I've made it back from the field and am at Kandahar Airbase. We had a brief press conference with Colonel Chris Vernon about Operation Mountain Thrust. You can listen to the audio here:
Colonel Vernon is a straight shooter and calls it like he sees it. He has extensive experience in counterinsurgency in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. He didn't answer my question on Pakistan because this is a very sensitive issue. But the non-answer tells us plenty about the role Pakistan plays here in Afghanistan.
I have also attached two photos I did not publish on the website. In the first photo, you can see my gear on the tactical orange sleeping mat (it was a lender, mine "disappeared" somewhere between the flights from Newark to Kabul). But it does make a great backup Coalition friendly warning sign for wayward airstrikes! I wake up real early while in the field and was the only person awake when I took this photo. Also, note the soldiers sleeping all over the LAVs, including the stretcher on the back (that's considered bad luck for obvious reasons). In the second photo, you will see the Canadian G-Wagon, which the Taliban have had success in attacking due to its light armor.
06-17-2006, 12:41 AM
Latest from Bill Roggio in Afghanistan - Soft Targets (http://counterterrorismblog.org/2006/06/soft_targets.php).
Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan: As Coalition and Afghan forces press on with Operation Mountain Thrust in southeastern Afghanistan, the fighting in the Zari and Panjwai has abated. Lieutenant Colonel Ian Hope, the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, has stated the offensive operations have now shifted towards joint security patrols between Canadian and Afghan police and army units. "We know from our report that any large Taliban groups have withdrawn... there must be a permanent presence, particularly by Afghan National Authorities, particularly ANP and ANA, supported by Coalition soldiers. Coalition soldiers will remain present in those two district (Zari and Panjwai) for some time. They are there now and they will stay,” said Lt.Col. Hope.
The Taliban hit back at a soft target in Kandahar City on Thursday morning. Ten were murdered and seventeen wounded after the Taliban detonated a bomb on a civilian bus. On the bus were Afghan nationals working for the Coalition at Kandahar Airfield. Five interpreters, one driver and one cook were killed in the terror bombing...
06-18-2006, 12:17 PM
Over the past few days, it has been real quiet down here in Kandahar, and that is a good thing. I'll be headed back to Kabul today, Hopefully will take a trip to Mazar-i-Sharif, where Mike Spann, the first combat death in the War on Terror was killed, and then back to the U.S.A. late in the week.
I am scheduled to be on the Mike Reagan Show at 4:20pm Pacific / 7:20pm Eastern on Monday, June 19 (that means a 3:50am wakeup for me on Tuesday.) There is a link to an online radio feed (titled "Radio America Main Feed") at the following location:
06-20-2006, 12:59 AM
Bill's latest at the Counterterrorism blog - Observations from Southeastern Afghanistan (http://counterterrorismblog.org/2006/06/observations_from_southeastern.php).
Here are some personal observations, from Kandahar, which are supported by numerous discussions with senior officers and the foot soldiers:
- Pakistan's lawless tribal belts are a major source of Taliban support...
- The Taliban is unable to stand up against the Western militaries when they attempt to mass in large formations (100 to 300 fighters, equivalent to company or battalion sized units). Their advantage is they know the local terrain far better than the Coalition forces...
- The levels of effectiveness of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police varies from unit to unit. The Canadian soldiers trust the army units, but are very wary of police units. Corruption is a major problem with local police formations, as is drug usage...
- The Taliban's weapons are not as sophisticated as the media reports would lead you to believe...
- The strength of the Taliban lies in their ability to blend in with the local population, and intimidate or coerce the local population...
- The poppy fields provide a major source of income for the farmers in southeastern Afghanistan. The Coalition and Afghan government made a serous mistake in its implementation of a poppy crop eradication program without providing an alternate source of income...
06-21-2006, 11:45 AM
I'll be heading home in another 24 hours, and today's post will likely be my last unless there is some major event. I'm currently staying with a different group of security contractors called World Security Initiatives. The country manager, Tim, is a good friend of mine, and he also donated body armor to me just prior to my embed in Iraq. Tim is a retired Marine and knows his way around the country. Tim and I still think we met the Taliban yesterday, and Haji, our driver, is certain of it.
Today's post includes a short video segment. If you are interested in viewing a longer clip, you can do so using the link below. I ask that you do not distribute the link to the larger video to outside parties as it is a large file and bandwidth will become an issue. The video is about 50 Megabytes. Link:
Best wishes to you and yours, and thank you for your support and words of encouragement.
06-27-2006, 07:35 PM
I want to thank you again for your support during the Afghanistan embed. It was a wonderful experience, and I walked away with a great deal of respect for the Afghan people. Their work ethic and desire to be free from tyranny is inspiring. I will discuss this further in the future. It is great to be home with the family, and I spent the weekend endlessly playing with the kids & cleaning my embed equipment.
On a different note, I was asked by National Review Online to contribute to the symposium on the proposed Iraq National Reconciliation program. Here is the NRO link:
...and additional information at the Counterterrorism Blog:
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