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Sergeant Godsmack vs. Nazar

Panjway-US-forces-8545cc1000

You will pass by a small Special Forces base on the right.  The Special Forces guys will not bother you.  There will be no sign, but the base is obvious. This means that you are in no-kidding Taliban country.

Stay away from the base.  If you see US forces, stay away from them. If they approach you, there is a 99.9% chance that they will be friendly and professional.  If they are Special Forces or other combat troops, you are good to go. They might say that you are a lunatic and ask if you are lost.  If you want to go on, they will not stop you. They might hand you a bottle of cold water and ask that you reconsider.  Ask them about the situation in the area, but remember that they are bullet magnets.  When they get attacked, they shoot back, and then it is a mess. Just stay away. Believe me.

Panjway-US-forces-8523cc1000Afghan police wreck a truck near a small mosque. They constantly smash these trucks.

Panjway-US-forces-8605cc1000Afghan checkpoint. Notice the bullets wrapped around the barrel of the machine gun.

This is a few miles away from where Chazray Clark was hit with an IED, where we waited for his MEDEVAC last September.

Panjway-US-forces-8534cc1000Welcome to Panjwai

It is best to start at the District Center.  There should be US troops there, and plenty of Afghans, including police and Army.  The accused killer, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, walked out of Camp Belamby.  The murders occurred in nearby Balandi and Alkozai.

The chances of finding these villages without dying and without a local guide are not good. You will need to do some negotiating with the locals to have a shot at safe passage. Coming from the West coast of the United States to the Panjway District Center is only half the journey.  The other half will be the few miles remaining to the target.  People in the District Center will know people from the villages, and it is possible that you can meet them at the District Center.  If you ask, the Afghans might let you stay overnight, which can give you a chance to figure out the situation.

(Note: I have difficulty believing that one soldier committed this act.)

Panjway-US-forces-8529cc1000Afghans use many bicycles and motorbikes.

Panjway-US-forces-8531cc1000Gas station: many IEDs are in similar yellow jugs

Panjway-US-forces-8548cc1000The river is just ahead. More yellow jugs.

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This is the river near Nazar’s home.  Nazar still works the fields and plants bombs and cheers for the Red Crosses.  Master Sergeant “Godsmack” failed and went home.  Today he is peacocking his invisible dueling scar.

This is not the truth that I want, but the truth that I found.  There is no nice way to end this.  Maybe that is why this story is so long.  I was searching for a happy ending that I could not find.

Another day drags on, and ends jaggedly, like war.

A psychologist at a VA facility who treats PTSD reviewed this dispatch and commented, You can also see this in VA hospitals where some veterans seemingly embrace the PTSD diagnosis (legitimate or self-diagnosed…) like being part of an elite club. There is overlap with the service compensation seekers but there is an identity factor independent of secondary gain that seems to drive certain individuals.”

Michael Yon

Michael Yon is America's most experienced combat correspondent. He has traveled or worked in 82 countries, including various wars and conflicts.

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