First an extract from the Sunday Times’ article How this suicide bomber opened a new front in Al-Qaeda’s war:

The man they were waiting for was a 32-year-old Jordanian doctor called Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi.

He was driving across the border from Pakistan where he had spent a year becoming close to Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s Egyptian deputy. That morning, Wednesday December 30, Balawi had been picked up at the Ghulam Khan border crossing by an Afghan army commander called Arghawan, who was in charge of security at the Chapman base. The pair drove to the village of Mermandi, near Khost in south-eastern Afghanistan, where at about 12.30pm they were met by Arghawan’s driver.

…  …  …

As Balawi stepped out of the car, seven CIA officers and a handful of soldiers gathered around. According to the guard, it was then that Balawi detonated his bomb, killing eight and injuring six.

Arghawan, still sitting in the driver’s seat, survived the initial blast but a US soldier shot him in the head with his pistol, assuming that he was part of the bomb plot.

“There were lots of body parts,” said the guard. “The suicide bomber’s legs were all that was left of him. He had hidden the bomb beneath his pattu.”

Source:  How this suicide bomber opened a new front in Al-Qaeda’s war – Times Online [emphasis added].

If you want a perfect example of how the American military loses wars it’s sitting there staring you in the face. In that one throwaway sentence giving one little detail in a relatively lengthy report sits the perfect example of how unreasoning American military brutality is busily engaged in losing the war in Afghanistan, gaining America and Americans lots more enemies, and losing America and Americans allies. It’s worth repeating — "Arghawan, still sitting in the driver’s seat, survived the initial blast but a US soldier shot him in the head with his pistol, assuming that he was part of the bomb plot."

Arghawan

If you read the Times’ report in full you’ll learn that:

  1. Arghawan was "an Afghan army commander" who was "in charge of security" at the FOB1 Chapman.
  2. He was of sufficient rank to command the services of a driver.
  3. That the CIA commander in the base trusted him enough for him to be told that he was to meet al-Balawi and bring him to the base a week ahead of time (from Ghulam Khan border crossing to FOB Chapman is about a 2 hour drive).
  4. That he knew al-Balawi and trusted him.
  5. That he was known to al-Balawi who trusted him in return.
  6. That he possessed sufficient tradecraft to take at least one anti-surveillance measure that we know of.

Being only a humble bomb disposal officer with several successful tours of duty in Afghanistan under my belt I make no claims to being an expert either in military intelligence nor do I claim to be anything other than reasonably well informed on Afghanistan. Nevertheless a big part of my job is ensuring the survival of the men under my command by not unessarily brutalising or offending the locals and being able to recognise patterns in a seemingly chaotic environment. A side-benefit of having being promoted is that I have had some military intelligence and counter-intelligence training. I have always been reasonably proficient at activity analysis.

Having issued all the required disclaimers and caveats I will say that I’ll eat my beret, epaulettes, ribbons and boots if, given 1-5 above, Arghawan was "just" an Afghan army commander. I’d drop dead with shock if Arghawan was just an "Afghan army commander". The evidence above leads me to strongly suspect that Arghawan was at the very least a middle-ranking officer in the Afghan intelligence service — the Amaniyat.2

Not Your Average Grunt

So what have we got?

We’ve got a US soldier acting as a guard in the inner ring of a secured CIA operated FOB in one of the trickier to deal with provinces of Afghanistan.

Now this US soldier wouldn’t be just an average grunt. Not with that posting. He’d be an experienced soldier and almost certainly would have at least some counter-intelligence and counterinsurgency training. It is also almost certain that in the unlikely event of him not being a special forces soldier that he would at the very least have had some fairly intensive special forces training.

In short neither this soldier nor his comrades in FOB Chapman would be "average grunts". They’d be both experienced and well-trained and expected to behave as well-trained experienced professionals in a crisis.

Assault, Treachery & Criminally Stupid Incompetence

What cirumstances do we have?

A fortress (which is what an FOB is) can be penetrated by the enemy either by assault, treachery, or both. In this case the fortress was penetrated by treachery and subjected to a devastatingly successful attack. The "US soldier" was understandably upset. And (being understandably upset) he responded in the unthinkingly violent manner known and despised by America’s enemies and allies alike the world over. He assumed that Arghawan who had somehow survived the blast3  was part of the plot and "shot him in the head with his pistol".

Even if the US Soldier’s assumption was correct and Arghawan was party to the conspiracy it was an act of criminal stupidity to kill him. There are lots of reasons why shooting Arghawan dead was an act of of criminally stupid incompetence. I’ve listed some of them below, they’re not in any particular order, doubtless you can think of others.

Let’s assume Arghawan was part of the plot to penetrate the base:

  • Killing him meant that there was no possiblilty of interrogating him. There is therefore no possibility of finding out why he didn’t search al-Balawi.
  • The opportunity to glean intelligence information from Arghawan about the bomber’s last hours is gone.
  • There is no possibility of finding out from him whether, like al-Balawi, he was in fact an operative for the Taliban.
  • If he was an operative for the Taliban there is now no possibility of finding out:
    • Who turned him and how.
    • There is now no possibility of finding out whether his service was penetrated by the Taliban and if so the extent of penetration
    • There is now no possibility of finding out who his contacts were.
    • There is now no possibility of discovering who his controller was.
    • There is now no possibility of discovering how he eluded discovery.
  • It’s a war crime to kill the wounded.
  • It’s a war crime to kill the enemy without giving them the chance to surrender.

Let’s assume Arghawan was NOT part of the plot to penetrate the base:

  • It’s a bad idea to kill your allies just because your massive security and operational failings have resulted in disaster.
  • The opportunity to glean intelligence information from Arghawan about the bomber’s last hours is gone.
  • Arghawan’s comrades are unlikely to be pleased with this further display of how little their lives are valued by Americans.
  • It’s a war crime to kill the wounded.
  • It’s a war crime to kill suspects without giving them the chance to surrender.

I remember once seeing on late-night television the 1958 film  "I Accuse!" about the  Dreyfus Affair. In it there’s a sequence in which Dreyfus is publicly disgraced as being unfit to bear arms for his country. He is paraded in front of his comrades and other soldiers and has to stand still while another officer rips off the buttons and epaulettes from his uniform, confiscates his sword and breaks it over his knee.

I hope they do a lot more than that to this soldier whose unthinking need for revenge meant that he committed a war crime and threw away vital intelligence information. I hope they court-martial him first for being a war criminal and then court-martial him again being criminally stupid and incompetent. I hope that they parade him in front of his regiment and publicly chop his fucking balls off pour encourager les autres.

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Notes & References

1 FOB: "Forward Operating Base".

2 The Amaniyat ( ????? ????? ??? ) is the internal intelligence organ of the Karzai government. They report directly to the Afghan president and are the direct descendants and successors to KhAD ("????? ??????? ?????" — "Khadamat-e Etela’at-e Dawlati"). In English the Amaniyat is called the "National Directorate of Security" and referred to using the acronym NDS. They share the Khadamat’s well earned reputation for opacity ferocity and brutality.

3 While it’s relatively rare it’s actually a lot more common than one might think for people in direct proximity to a blast to escape relatively unscathed while those further away from it are either killed outright or suffer horrendous injuries.

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