Someone send this photo to Gen. McChrystal. It answers his question to local villagers: "What do you want?"
(To kill Americans.)
More command dysfunction from the front.
From the NYT's long magazine story about Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- sonorously titled "His Long War" -- a perfect illustration of the circular crash course commanders have ordered US troops to run according to a dizzy-making "strategy" to make them like us.
First, the article set-up. Afghanistan. McChrystal. Dust. Setting down in his Black Hawk helicopter in an Afghan town surrounded by bodyguards and commanders, stripping off his protective gear to walk the streets ... "What do you need here?" he repeatedly asks villagers like some glorified door to door salemans ... Story pulls back to McC's "the assesment" (incompletely described as usual), McC's troop "surge," McC's nation-building "blueprint" (no mention that the US already nation-built for 30-some years to no avail).
Now, the anecdote:
It begins with some Marines walking 12 miles down the road from Garmsir, the town Gen. McChrystal had visited a fews days earlier, asking the townspeople, "What do you need?" as mentioned above.
The Marines had been in plain view for more than two hours. And when they moved down from the old Soviet lookout and walked up the dirt path that runs alongside the hamlet of Mian Poshteh, the Afghans started to come out.
At first, a lone man walked along the edge of one of Mian Poshteh’s mud-brick houses. Then he stopped and turned and stood, watching. Then another man, this one in an irrigation ditch, stuck his head up over the ledge. A pair of children stopped playing. They turned to watch.
“Something’s going down,” Sgt. Jonathan Delgado said. He was 22 and from Kissimmee, Fla.
“Watch that guy,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua Vance, pointing. He was also 22, from Raleigh, N.C.
Two more Afghans arrived. They stopped and stood and looked at a spot just ahead of the Marines. A man on a motorcycle drove past, driving slowly, turning his head. Then the bomb went off. [See photo above.]It had been buried in the path itself, a few feet under the sand, a few feet in front of the Marines.
The blast from the bomb was sharp and deep, and a dirty cloud shot up a hundred feet. Waves from the blast shot out, toward the village and toward us. Ten Marines at the front of the line disappeared.
“We’re hit! We’re hit!” Delgado shouted, and everyone ran to the front.
Marines began staggering out of the cloud. They were holding their ears and eyes.
“God, I’m still here,” Cpl. Matt Kaiser said, rubbing his ears. Kaiser had been at the front, sweeping the ground with a mine detector. He was from Oak Harbor, Ohio. “I’m still here.”
“No one’s hit,” Delgado said. “Jesus, no one’s hit.”
The rest of the young men staggered out of the cloud while the Marines trained their guns on Mian Poshteh.
The Afghans were gone....
The bomber had missed. The weapon had been what the Marines refer to as “command-detonated,” which meant that someone, probably in Mian Poshteh, had punched a trigger — on a wire leading to the bomb — when the Marines came up the path. The triggerman needed to remember precisely where he had buried his bomb. Clearly, he had forgotten. If he had waited five more seconds, he would have killed several Marines.
Delgado, Kaiser and the others gathered themselves and walked toward Mian Poshteh. On their radio, the Marines could hear voices coming from inside the village.
“Is everything ready?” a voice said in Pashto.
“Everything is ready,” another voice said. “Let’s see what they do.”
The Marines stayed back. Earlier in the war, they would have gone into Mian Poshteh; they would have surrounded the village and kicked in doors until they found the bomber. Most likely they would have found him — and maybe along the way they would have killed some civilians and smashed up some homes. And made a lot of enemies.
Excuse me. Do not the Afghans, men and children, who lined up to watch American men lose their very lives and/or limbs in a drenching shower of blood and guts already count "enemies"? The story continues:
The Marines are a very different force now, with very different goals. They walked to within 50 feet of Mian Poshteh, and Lt. Patrick Bragan shouted: “Send us five men. Five men.”
Minutes passed, and five Afghans appeared. They were unarmed and ordinary looking.
“I have no idea who did that,” an old man named Fazul Mohammed said.
“Maybe they came at night,” a man named Assadullah said.
“I only heard the explosion,” a man named Syed Wali said.
The face of Lieutenant Bragan was pink from the heat and from pleading.
“All you have to do is tell us,” he said. “We’re here to help you.”