Times have gotten tougher in Afghanistan given the latest green-on-blue attacks, where Afghan troops – or at least killers clad like Afghan troops – have taken to killing U.S. and other allied personnel with firearms or suicide vests. Army Major David Fitzpatrick, who was deployed as a trainer for the Afghan military in Kabul from July 2010 to July 2011, knows how a high-profile attack – even when it fails – can change the everyday life of U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan.
He details some of those changes in this recently-posted June interview he did with the Army’s Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Part of his job involved regularly going to the Afghan Ministry of Defense to mentor Afghan military personnel. But that got tougher after an insurgent penetrated that compound and came close to killing then-Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak. Highlights:
It was April of 2011, the Afghan MoD was infiltrated and there was a suicide bomber that made it into the main office of our MoD, who made it to the actual third floor and almost got to the Minister’s office, Minister Wardak, the actual Minister of Defense.
The suicide bomber made it to the minister’s office before he was shot. Yeah, our biggest incident was there so from there our force protection level went to the max…the suicide bomber didn’t detonate because he was killed before he could — he was halfway down the hallway before he would have detonated himself, before he was stopped.
From there, the tension between us and the Afghan were high. Afghans didn’t trust anyone anymore. There were rumors going around that the infiltrator was seen getting out of a black SUV and for some reason the Afghans thinks that the Coalition only drives black SUVs. [Laughter]
They were accusing us of bringing in the infiltrator. They were very suspicious of us. Before the attack, it would take us a minute to get through the main entrance; now it would take an hour-and-a-half to get through security because they would search us.
It was funny. They would stop us, search our vehicles when we did drive, search our persons but any Afghan vehicle coming in that was covered, like with a tarp on the back of the bed of the truck, or dark windows, they would just wave on through and didn’t even bother to stop them. It was like, “That’s how the suicide bomber got in, not through us. Why would we bring somebody in to blow up the Minister of Defense? That doesn’t make sense.”
…We even pointed out while we were being searched at the gate, “Look, you just let another truck in and he’s got a tarp on the back. Do you know what is underneath that tarp?” It was just rumors. They believed rumor quite a bit and so they were suspicious of us because they had heard a rumor. That was it.
Yeah, we were always kind of fearful because the guards were very — I am not going to say trigger happy but they were — yeah.
…I think they’re under a lot of pressure. The Afghans started putting Colonels and Generals down at the gates and main entrance to supervise, so the Afghan Soldiers manning the gates were feeling the pressure. I am sure the Generals and Colonels were telling the guards to search everybody except for certain individuals.