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Edvard Munch in the Marijuana Patch

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Afghan troops often squat, while our troops typically kneel down for a short halt, or sit during long halts.  The intermittent trace is from an IR strobe.

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Looking straight up, Soldiers kneel as an aircraft invisibly traces with its IR light.

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Other elements had moved ahead, and now it was time to move.

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The enemy plants bombs as easily as he plants corn.  The bombs have a tremendous impact on civilians.  Too many strikes here and there to track.  Some enemies are local, while others are not.  Often they are reluctant to move at night because the enemy, too, strikes the bombs.  Some hours after these images were made, an enemy was up to no good in the 4-4Cav battlespace.  Headquarters was watching him with an optic and he mounted a motorbike, rode away and detonated an IED.  The video was impressive.  Little could have been left of him or the motorbike.

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When I write about enemy IEDs, the “OPSEC Police” (OPs) usually squirt from the cracks, as if primitive techniques that the enemy has been using for years should be secret to the enemy.  The OPs, scratching for relevance, fail to consider before tapping away at the keyboard that I live in an Army tent, with Soldiers, whose lives depend on OPSEC.  Many accusations have been made by OPs, but there has never been an official accusation toward me from the US or UK military (or anyone) for a single OPSEC violation.  One OP publicly accused me on a national radio program for being disembedded from Canadian forces for OPSEC violations.  That OP bills himself as a national security expert and a great Green Beret veteran, but he’s a fraud who has never seen combat, and has never stepped foot in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Importantly, I have never embedded with Canadian forces, and so the accusation of being disembedded for OPSEC violations is impossible.   Last year, elements defending two Generals (whom I exposed) tried to paint me as unhinged for writing that Brigadier General Daniel Menard and General Stanley McChrystal should be fired.  Both Generals subsequently were fired. Based on my work, Brigadier General Menard was relieved of command, criminally charged, convicted, and reduced in rank.  I wasn’t crazy; it just looked crazy.  Sometimes the raw truth looks crazy.  After the underhandedness from General McChrystal’s staff, and Menard’s slippery dealings, had not General Petraeus personally invited me back, I would not be out here tonight risking being blown to shreds.  OPSEC affects my own body.  I am on this mission because General Petraeus told me to get back in the action.

With those OPSEC caveats, in these early-morning hours on this mission we were primarily concerned with low-metal content triggers, and tripwires.  On the roads where vehicles drive (we were on foot), they might use systems such as Snappers.

Armed men often sleep under the trees at night, and so it’s possible that some have moved into fighting positions such as in this kishmesh khana (raisin hut) below.

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We passed by the kishmesh khana and into the adjacent vineyard.  In Dari, the vineyards are called qurda e angur, or field of grapes.  In some countries, the grapevines are trained on trestles but here they are trained on mud walls that amount to arduous speed bumps, often chest high.  If you take the easy way by walking down the rows, you risk being blown up.  If you climb over the grape walls at right angles, you risk being blown up less, but there is a 100% chance that even the fittest troops eventually will become exhausted.  Take your choice.  It’s the choice that ten million soldiers have faced in a thousand other wars in a thousand other ways.  Easy = Dangerous. Hard = Hard, and maybe more or less dangerous, but definitely hard.  The older Afghans say they used to hide in these vineyards while fighting the Russians.  They would blend under the leaves until the soldiers were right on them, and then blast them.

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While those ahead of us scale obstacles, there are natural halts.

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A pilot called down from the sky and told us to turn on our fireflies.  The fireflies are blinking IR lights on our helmets that allow people with night vision gear to see the flash, but they are invisible to the naked eye.  My full-spectrum Canon Mark II 5d can “see” the IR, and in the above image the Soldier is turning his head while the shutter is open.

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