A Bridge Too Far?

On Facebook, Michael Yon continues to raise concerns regarding the security on the Bridge near Kandahar that was the target of a suicide bomber attack a couple of days ago, and the disproportionate emphasis given to rear area comforts in the base itself…

Turns out the commander in charge of the bridge is General Daniel Menard (linked inserted by me). Have sent questions to his office. Receipt has been acknowledged. Meanwhile, missions continue to be cancelled due to failure to secure that bridge. While troops were glued to the Olympic Hockey, the enemy was closing in on the real goal: That Bridge.

While some troops were wasting time fixated on the Olympics, 10 minutes away a major target was left vulnerable. If we can persuade the Taliban to play Hockey, or if we can learn to play their sport — Guerrilla Warfare — maybe we can score some points.

Our combat operations have been severely hampered. Confidence in this General cannot be high. If he cannot protect nearby targets of obvious significance, what next?

(to date 79 comments)

Fire the Task Force Kandahar General

Yesterday at 0735 local, a suicide car bomb attacked a US convoy crossing a bridge only about ten minutes from the major base called Kandahar Airfield. The car bomb blew an MRAP off the bridge, killing a US soldier and injuring several others. Another bomb had been planted under the bridge. This bridge is easily defensible and of great significance.

Yet while some troops go weeks or longer with no showers, fighting in rough conditions with no amenities, many troops on this base play hockey or, just the night before, had stopped nearly everything to watch the Olympics. Meanwhile, a bridge of strategic importance sat thinly guarded just minutes down the road. And so now, the bridge is damaged and large military vehicles and fuel trucks cannot use it. There is no reasonable way around.

Today we talk about an offensive in Kandahar, yet there is a General here who cannot guard a single bridge just outside the gate. That bridge is our LINK TO KANDAHAR. Meanwhile, soldiers who are doing six month easy-tours complain about R&R and morale boosters, while many soldiers who serve full-year combat tours don’t take showers.

Why are live bands streaming into here? What is this, an Amusement Park or a War?

That General needs to be fired. Dead weight at the top cannot be tolerated.

(to date 76 comments)

This is interesting…here we have am embedded reporter publicly criticising the Canadian one-star responsible for security around the Kandahar Base. This is the third post on this topic that Michael Yon has made in the last 24-36 hours yet it does not appear that the US forces with whom he has been working have taken much, if any, action to curb his comments. One might wonder if there is a more subtle IO plan being executed here, that the US simply don’t care, or that this is an indication of a new maturity in the US military’s engagement with the information militia, in that they are comfortable with this style of robust discussion as opposed to the more traditional Public Affairs-fed party line…?

The whole Starbucks, Olympics, BK, etc etc issue really begs the question: is this a War, or merely a war….?

Michelle Lang was among the casualties that marked the deadliest day for Canada in Afghanistan since 2007. Photo by AFP.

In Bing-ing for some more information on BG Menard, I came across an article Death of an Embed on blogs.aljazeera.net…some interesting comments on Canadian involvement in the w(W)ar and the conflict itself…

Understanding Islam

Neptunus Lex carries a link to an interesting read explaining apparent hypocrisy in the application of Islamic values, specifically “Is it inconsistent for Muslim “holy warriors” to engage in voyeuristic acts of lasciviousness?” It concludes”…in this context, the problem is not Muslims frequenting strip clubs, but misplaced Western projections that assume religious piety is always synonymous with personal morality…” Once again, we need to understand the environment and our adversaries if we ever hope to be able to manage them – not blindly seek to inflict Western culture, values and systems onto environments in which they are alien…

6 thoughts on “A Bridge Too Far?

  1. I have mixed feelings about Yon. He can write really compelling stuff but he has a specific point of view that’s free from actually having to make command decisions. I have no idea General Menard is competent or not and I’m sure Yon is giving voice to the frustration of many of the soldiers he sees every day but that doesn’t mean he’s right.

    Soldiers throughout history have shaken their collective heads at the incompetence of their leaders for millennium, telling themselves how simple it would be to do things ‘right’. Sometimes they’ve been right but many (probably most of the time) what’s happening is they aren’t seeing the big picture.

    Every army has had REMFs and there’s always been tension between those who go outside the wire and those who don’t. Yon’s been embedding with the military for years and he’s getting annoyed by fobbits? Where the heck has he been since 2003? Our army has been built on the idea of a long tail and a small but lethal spear point for decades. The most surprising thing about his posts is his surprise.

    So, what is Yon ultimately suggesting? Taking every soldier out of Kandahar and posting them all along the road every 5 meters? How about every time there’s an attack we shut the mess hall, showers, morale tent, etc. to prove…what exactly?

    Perhaps someone should remind Yon that war is not only hell it’s unfair too…


    • OK, I’ll bite…what the hell is a fobbit?

      I think that what Yon is suggesting is more a lack of focus and priority in some of these big bases compared to the FOBs and further out and I tend to agree…the time to catch up on Starbucks, BK, sports, etc etc is when you go on out-of-theatre leave – trying to integrate the comforts and luxuries of home into operational bases is saying that we’re at war but we’re not really; and that’s war, not War…I don’t know that there is anything wrong with austerity in operational bases, more so when when you consider the cultural conflicts that are such an issue in this campaign and others in the region…

      My real fascination with this story though is that here we have an embedded reporter feeding this story out and I am surprised that he hasn’t been told to wind his neck in…unless perhaps there is more to the story than has come out yet…lots of ifs but IF this bridge was important and IF it was inadequately protected, then maybe there is a case to answer…


      • Fobbit is really just a modern incarnation for REMF (rear echelon mother f**ker). Personnel who tend to stay on the shire and move from their quarters to the mess hall to their duty station. It can be argued that for them, the war is not significantly different from any other moderately inconvenient tour.

        I think the term had its origin in Iraq. I don’t recall hearing it used in Afghanistan in 03-04, the preferable term being ‘poug’.

        I agree, the creature comforts may have gotten out of hand (witness the number of soldiers who come back heavier -fat- from a year in the box then when they left for it). But, hey, I’m not sure anyone can definitely point to areas where such comforts negatively impact on performance in which case I’m not sure there’s a point in making people more miserable than they need to be.


  2. Pingback: Where will they get their pork rinds? « Travels with Shiloh

  3. Bridges & suicide bombers. Just ambushes in modern guise.

    Approaching the Green zone from the BIAP the bridge leading in earned the nickname ‘Suicide Bridge’ due to the ability of suicide bombers to channel teams or convoys into ground of their own choosing.

    Heard of Yon when I was over there but never heard him talk of the US military incompetence of removing an IED each morning from the viciinty of Assasins gate (like 15 metres from entry point directly in front of sentry post), only for the insurgents to replace it each night.

    I would suspect that the General was trying to juggle a limited number of combat troops with tasks. The US still stick to their 10 support troops for one combat soldier ratio & it causes issues.

    In Iraq it was common to see guys straight out of their armoured role being infantry in an urban environment with minimum training.

    Abu Gharib was a classic, people given armbands & designated as MP’s when their trained role was something completely different.

    Those on Six month rotations (most of those in Iraq) had to go on two patrols in that six months with apparently little or no training leading up to it. Those on four months tours (airforce) got their one trip outside the wire.

    seems what you read that no one has really learnt the lessons from Iraq. Securing one Bridge with the small amount of combat troops available with so many demands on their time was just not feasible from where I am looking.


  4. Yep, know what you mean Dusty…Even with all the resources they pile into it, change across the board takes time to embed with an organisation half a million strong like the US Army…you want to hope that we do it faster down this end of the planet…


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