How were troops “accidentally” killed at Taliban beset outpost?

ISAF troop levels graphic

International Security Assistance Force/NATO troop levels from all countries as of Feb. 20, 2014. (Graphic/ISAF)

After at least five Afghan soldiers were “accidentally killed” in Logar Province (Afghanistan) on Thursday, the International Security Assistance Force (NATO) issued a brief statement expressing condolences. “An investigation is being conducted at this time to determine the circumstances that led to this unfortunate incident,” said the spokesperson.

One takeaway no media have noted is the fact such killings are a public relations asset for Taliban. The Christian Science Monitor said the facility where the soldiers died in Logar Province is “the front line against the Taliban.” The CSM also attributed the deaths to “poor coordination between the people on the ground and the operators of the drone.”

More questions than answers are on the table at present.

Al Jazeera said, “An ISAF source told Reuters news agency that the soldiers were bombed because they were mistaken for insurgents.”

ISAF did not include any information about a drone, coordination, or misidentification, but the assortment of reports bring a recent article about spectrum warfare in Wired magazine to mind.

The Wired article gives a layman-friendly explanation of what U.S. troops deal with when it comes to managing communications in the field. The enemy learned how to use devices like cell phones and garage door openers to set off IEDs. The U.S. devised ways to jam the signals; the enemy responded by devising ways to jam the jammers.

In other words, although the enemy Afghanistan and the U.S. are fighting are often portrayed, even by the U.S. and Afghanistan’s president as weak, the enemy appears to have a sophisticated level of knowledge about electronics and communications.

That was evident in October, 2013, when the governor of Logar Province, Governor Arsallah Jamal, was killed inside a mosque in Kabul as he was about to make a speech. CBS News alleged the bomb was planted in a microphone. More than a dozen people were injured. Shortly before that killing, four U.S. troops were killed by an IED in southern Afghanistan.

If a drone did bomb the Logar Province outpost by mistake, how did that happen? Were communications between the operator and the drone scrambled? Can a drone be hacked? Have Taliban forces, seeing a window of opportunity, managed to manipulate U.S. weaponry to their advantage?

Despite the fact the U.S. still has 33,600 troops of 52,686 total forces in Afghanistan, media have lost interest in covering the war there since President Barack Obama took office in 2008. Many Americans have no idea we still have more than 33,000 men and women putting their lives on the line in a country whose long struggle for peace has come at such great cost to so many. Announcing the ISAF exit in advance, as the Obama administration has done repeatedly, has emboldened the enemy.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has expressed outrage about errant drones and civilian deaths, but he has also faced criticism from his own countrymen for what appears to be a naïve attitude about the power of the Taliban. Making it worse, Karzai seems to have a disconnect with some of his constituents. Outlook Afghanistan, an independent newspaper, noted:

“Afghan people criticize the presidential palace for raising no voice against the casualties made by Taliban insurgents, particularly in the recent incidents which led to the murder of 21 Afghan soldiers. The [criticism] was mounted when President Karzai did not attend the soldiers’ funeral ceremony.”

Are Obama and the Dept. of Defense doing all they can to control the electronic spectrum in the war front? China certainly has rolled a great deal of money into that very thing, as Wired noted:

“The People’s Liberation Army is pumping tremendous resources into beefing up its spectrum warfare operations, much as it has funded the formation of an elite hacker corps to wage cyberwar against its rivals.”

If Taliban forces are fighting ISAF troops by jamming communications, hacking, or other means, it would be a good idea for resources to be expanded to deal with it. Not just for Afghanistan, but for our own interests domestically.

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/March 7, 2014)


Defense cuts, G. W. Bush, the Iraq War and unforeseen benefits (Day on the Day)

Inside the new arms race to control bandwidth on the battlefield (Wired)

Backgrounder, Logar Province (Naval Post-Graduate Schoo, circa 2007)

NATO airstrike that kills Afghan soldiers deals fresh blow to ties (The Christian Science Monitor)

About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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