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Night Into Day

Finding the Enemy
The ladders are used to get on the roofs.  This family was so poor that they did not even sleep on a raised platform, and didn’t seem to have a radio, but they did have the fat dove-like bird in the cage, which apparently was their only song. Corporal Chelsea Williams and Color Sergeant Kevyn Diggle ('Diggs') clean their weapons. 'Diggs': ready for action. As earth warmed under the rising sun, flies began buzzing about.  Kevin Bowen was ready for the onslaught. Kitchenware: This represents nearly the entire extent of the family’s utensils and tools.  There was little more besides a shovel and a pump sprayer for herbicide/pesticide, and they had the few blankets and pillows.  A small stack of poppy was drying by the front door.  How can anyone be blamed for joining the Taliban when they live like this?  (We have no idea if this guy was Taliban.)  Sangin is a fester-pot of the Taliban: Isolation, poverty and distilled ignorance create ideal conditions for the cult. U.S. B-1 bomber roars miles overhead.  During the mission of 24 July, hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of aircraft covered us at one time or another.  The B-1 above is departing at 0631 local, when this photo was made, while sporadic SAFIRE and machine-gun fire competed with the birds chirping. Impersonal view of Sangin from approximate bombing altitude of the B-1.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General Stanley McChrystal put sharp restrictions on the ROE (Rules of Engagement), which caused many armchair generals to throw tantrums that we are endangering our troops.  (Years of loose ROE clearly did not work; during the cowboy years since 2001, Afghanistan got worse.)

Secretary Gates, General McChrystal and troops all over Afghanistan are making difficult decisions.  Only time will reveal if McChrystal and crew can turn the war around.  If our folks – the Coalition in general – can reverse the slide, they will deserve the same respect that was earned for the turn-around in Iraq.

PBR Street Gang, this is Almighty Standing by.

It’s great to know that Almighty is up there, yet it’s also clear that Almighty needs to keep those bomb bay doors closed most of the time.  Down here, this could not be more clear.  We can pulverize the Taliban from now until we are ready to go home, but if Afghanistan is to be brought into the first millennium, we need the resources to build, the patience and stamina to see it through, and greater wisdom than has so far been brought to task.  And sometimes Almighty.  These Afghans on the ground need education and development.  Without education, we will develop only richer more confident enemies.

At about 0700 hours, a couple of mortars or rockets explode close enough to cause me to step inside a mud room.  At 0708 hours, a B-1 again roars over and disappears.  A report comes on the radio that Afghans passing through an ANA (Afghan National Army) checkpoint say that Taliban are warning families to leave the area around us.  Meanwhile, a man neatly dressed with a robe drives by at various times (during the day) on a motorcycle.

A soldier on the roof sees families leaving nearby compounds.   At 0711 two fighting-aged males move into a compound nearby.  I ask Chelsea Williams, who is military police, if her family and friends know she comes out into combat.  Chelsea laughs, saying her family thinks she is on Camp Bastion, which is about the safest place in Afghanistan.  I say to Chelsea that she should never tell her family what she really does because they won’t believe her anyway.  Chelsea laughs and there is sporadic small-arms fire from different directions, but nobody is shooting at us.  What’s the use in Chelsea trying to explain all this?  At 0717 there is a controlled three-round burst from a machine gun, and a couple of sparrows land on a wire in the compound.  Less than a minute later, another controlled machine-gun burst and the sparrows glance around and chirp but hardly seem to notice.  It seems certain that the sparrows live better than does this family.  The machine-gun bursts must have been either British or ANA trained by British; Taliban would have let rip the machine guns in longer bursts.  I ask the radio operator if he knew  who was firing and he answers that it was ANA.  Two minutes later intel comes in that Taliban are in a compound just near us and are “ready to go.”

Between 0719 and 0825 is sporadic SAFIRE and machine-gun fire (probably a few hundred rounds) and occasional booms from RPG shots.

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