Afghan Forces

Afghan cops being blamed for Bagram deaths

Accountability rarely reaches high enough.

In case you’re wondering, this is what it looks like when you blame Afghan cops for what went wrong. Makes it easier for the official investigation (15-6) to make this about the locals instead of asking why this many Office of Special Investigations (OSI) personnel were clustered in a village just outside of Bagram. I’ve got only a passing familiarity with the OSI’s mission, but since when does it extend to doing key leader engagements (KLEs)? That’s what a foot patrol by folks who aren’t combat arms usually means.

Questions about their presence in the area aside, what’s notable here is how many years and how much money was dumped into mentoring said Afghan police by the Americans and NATO. A whole lot of time and effort went into police training and mentoring programs, and things are still at a point where US troops can’t rely on them to conduct an effective search for a suicide vest. Or this is another case of an insider attack, and the search was intentionally sloppy in order to cause the most casualties.

According to U.S. personnel familiar with the incident, Afghan national police had failed to thoroughly search the suicide bomber and his vehicle before allowing him to proceed through the patrol.

In the wake of potentially avoidable tragedy, if heads roll, they will likely be those somewhere directly in the OSI chain of command. If these airmen were put into harm’s way unnecessarily, that’s exactly what should happen. But beyond that, there’s a larger case to be made here, and those who perpetrated the kind of unsustainable mentorship that led to this event should also be called to account.

But they won’t. Instead this feeds the usual narratives, that this war is pointless, that Obama screwed up, and fuck it, you can’t trust brown people to get it right anyway. And because Americans in uniform came home in transfer cases, this will get written off by the talking heads as another sign that the US should deploy more troops forever in the graveyard of viable strategy. And that if things had been done the way they wanted, this would never have happened.

Death is one of war’s unavoidable obscenities. Those who serve know it’s there, aching to snatch them from the arms of their loved ones. Maybe this had to happen. Maybe it was fate. That we cannot know.

What we can know is that another six got added to the list. That growing list of American and Afghan names, names of those who lost their lives because of someone else’s mistakes.

Also published on Medium.