March 02, 2010

Michael... Yawn

Battlespace provocateur Michael Yon is calling for the head of Canada's commander in Afghanistan on his Facebook page, after a suicide vehicle took out a bridge between KAF and Kandahar City, along Highway 4, killing one American.

Now, I'm not saying Yon doesn't have a point when he says it's hard to realize there's a war on in KAF. It is a very very bad place that way. But he's still a little erm, offbase on this one.

Yon says the Canadians on KAF were distracted by The Big Hockey Game. Now, that's hardly a crazy idea: the game would have started around 0030 Kandahar time and the explosion went off at 0730, and the insurgents do watch the base closely for these sorts of opportunities. The trouble is of course that suicide vehicles meant to go off as stationary bombs on the roadside can be very fast to emplace (park and boom), so it's not clear what any Canadians could have done to prevent something during the time of the game itself or in those remaining hours before dawn: odds are the vehicle wasn't there longer than half an hour.

I doubt it was their Area of Operations in any case. When I was there that part of Highway 4 was the domain of the ANP, supported by British base defence troops, and the Afghans were actually pretty good at looking at culverts and such on this stretch. I imagine that's still close to the case. In daytime it's a high-traffic civilian road, closely watched by local police, making emplaced IED attacks relatively rare as well. (You normally either left KAF in hours of darkness, or waited for the ANP sweep to complete in the morning to avoid this sort of thing: an 0730 departure from KAF would have been considered higher-risk for us.) So most of the relatively few attacks in this area tended to be of the suicide vehicle variety as a result, and this attack seems no different (other than the damage to the chokepoint).

Afghan insurgents also tend to avoid hitting this highway, due to the high probability of collateral damage (which happened this time as well), and interference with their own easy covert movement between Kandahar and Quetta; it's questionable whether they meant to seriously damage this bridge, as it will be some inconvenience to them as well. It's also likely the attack a few hours later on Kandahar City police HQ by another suicide car a few hours later was meant as a second part of a coordinated plan to cause some mayhem in the city that day.

So in conclusion: are there a lot of people wasting their time on KAF? Yes. Does it suck to be stuck anywhere in Afghanistan without a lift because an insurgent blew up the road you were going to use? Absolutely. Is Yon's bad case of KAF-itis resulting in his thinly disguised distaste for soldiers from countries other than the U.S. showing through once again? Oh, yeah.

Posted by BruceR at 05:52 PM