Nine months ago, I used a headline to ask the question, Who Am I To Complain About Waiting 90 Days on Freedom of Information Act Request? What followed the headline was a piece in which I offered a glimpse of what it’s like to obtain unclassified information from Department of Defense agencies not eager to give it up. Today, I share even more details in the form of an excerpt from my soon-to-be-published second nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO. Slightly modified for publication, it offers a detailed look at a document which took Dante and Carolyn Acosta more than nine months to obtain. The text of the excerpt appears below in blue.
Even those who pay scant attention to the daily news have likely heard about the “Green-on-Blue” attacks taking place in Afghanistan.
Insidious by nature, each attack involves at least one Afghan who, while serving in an official capacity as a uniform-wearing member of an Afghan government organization (i.e., military, police or security), turns against the very foreigners alongside whom he works and/or trains.
Often, the attacks involve the use of small arms fire. On occasion, however, they take the form of suicide attacks or involve the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and/or other deadly measures.
Though the people behind the attacks target Americans more often than any other nationalities, they remain willing to kill others — even Afghans — with whom they disagree. “Equal opportunity killers” seems an apt description.
When it comes to the colorful label initially applied to the attacks, “Green” refers to supposedly-friendly members of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) and Afghan Security Group (ASG), and “Blue” the color associated with members of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) members (a.k.a., “the good guys”).
For some six years now, reports about Green-on-Blue attacks in Afghanistan have surfaced in the news on a regular basis — sometimes daily — in the United States. One of those attacks took place March 19, 2011.
At approximately 8 a.m., members of 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment (4/2 SCR TAC) were cleaning their weapons while gathered around their Stryker armored fighting vehicles outside the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Frontenac, located about 20 minutes north of Kandahar by helicopter.
It wasn’t their usual place for cleaning weapons, but the Soldiers had been told they had additional time to prepare for a mission that would take them outside the confines of the ISAF outpost in the Arghandab River valley north of Kandahar. So they cleaned. Out in the open. Ramps down. Inside the entry-controlled environment of the FOB.
At about the same time, a convoy of large and colorful “jingle trucks” arrived at the FOB.
Commonly used by contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan and known for the jingle sound made by chains hanging from their bumpers, the customized vehicles were received at the entry control point and escorted to a container area next to the TOC.
Those doing the escorting that day were employees of Tundra Security Group, a private security company based in Canada, who had been hired to provide both base defense security and a Quick Reaction Force at the FOB.
Soon after the jingle trucks arrived, 4/2 members found themselves under attack.
At 19 minutes after the hour, according to the 14-page Army Regulation 15-6 Investigation Report produced April 14, 2011, an armed Afghan employee of Tundra moved toward the Soldiers, drew his weapon and began shooting at the American Soldiers.
Facing what was described as “well-aimed automatic fire,” the majority of Soldiers immediately dropped to the ground and began seeking cover toward the front ends of their vehicles. With their weapons disassembled for cleaning, most had no immediate means to defend themselves.
Two soldiers — a specialist and a captain — took actions that would be highlighted in the report.
Upon realizing he and his fellow Soldiers were under attack, the specialist — who had his weapon assembled, but not loaded — immediately moved between the Strykers and some nearby T-Walls (a.k.a., “Bremer walls”). Once behind a section of the 12-foot-high, portable, steel-reinforced walls, he began loading his weapon.
At the same time, the Afghan continued firing, expending all of his rounds as he moved deliberately around the vehicles toward where the remaining Soldiers had sought cover. Then he reloaded and continued his approach toward those Soldiers.
Before the Afghan could fire another shot, however, he came into the field of view of the specialist who, with gun now assembled and loaded, fired a well-aimed shot.
Though the Afghan assailant’s body armor kept that shot from doing damage, it didn’t stop the shots that followed — into his hip, shoulder and head — and dropped the man to the ground.
And it didn’t stop the final shot, fired by the captain when he saw the Afghan still moving, still posing a threat.
Despite the heroic actions of the American Soldiers described above, two of the unit’s men — Corporal Donald Mickler, 29, a native of Dayton, Ohio, and Private First Class Rudy Acosta, 19, of Santa Clarita Valley, California — died from injuries they suffered during the attack. Four others were injured.
Also killed that day was the Afghan assailant, a Tundra employee, Shia Ahmed.
Ahmed’s coworkers later described him as having been a reserved, quiet individual who had revealed no clear indications prior to the attack that he was about to do anything, according to the report.
During the weeks following the attack, the investigating officer — an Army major whose name, like the other Soldiers who survived the attack, was redacted from the copy of the investigation report I obtained — learned Ahmed had a history of animosity toward American Soldiers. A history that included using aliases.
“Most significant,” the major wrote on page one of his report, “Shia Ahmed had expressed intentions to target US Soldiers.”
Deeper into his report, the investigating officer pointed out several flaws in the process via which Afghans like Ahmed were vetted (i.e., screened) prior to working alongside American and other coalition forces (CF) personnel.
In addition, he described some of the policies defining duties and responsibilities for vetting as “vague and confusing.”
In the final section of his report, the investigating officer used a half-dozen paragraphs to recommend “a larger comprehensive investigation be initiated to examine the vetting and screening procedures across Afghanistan.”
To learn more about the flawed vetting process and up-to-date details about the flawed decision-making behind it, be sure to order a copy of THE CLAPPER MEMO,
when it goes on sale this spring now on sale.
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