Sunday, July 26, 2009
We've been getting sporadic mortar and rocket attacks at the base here lately. No damages have been done so far, but if it continues it's only a matter of time. Apparently, recently a round landed next to the local Afghan National Police (ANP) station because the other day the ANA found an unexploded mortar round there and brought it up to me to show it off and ask me what to do with it. They were quite proud of themselves, and when my terp took it off their hands he proceeded to handle it a little nonchalantly for my tastes. I can't profess to being very fond of dealing with unexploded ordnance (UXO); I'd just as soon leave that job to the pros. But...sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, so I grabbed it and carried it up to the UXO pit where it was destroyed the next day by Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). The whole incident got me thinking about the ANA and ammo. Why is it that we get reports all the time of them selling ammo, but then when they find UXO they bring it right over to me? Why not sell that damn UXO too and keep it away from me...? haha. No, but really, better if they give it to me than sell it. Even if a rocket or mortar is no good anymore as a flying projectile, it can still make a helluva an IED. Best of all if they just marked it and left it in place for us to call EOD.
It's true that we often get reports of ANA and ANP selling ammunition to the insurgents. This fact is probably one of the motivations for our changing them over to our weapons - different weapons/different ammunition and the insurgents don't (yet) have our weapons. I think in most cases it's probably the ANP doing the selling for the simple facts that the ANP has a reputation for corruption which is worse than that of even the ANA, has much less supervision, is much closer to the population, and is in general, less trained than the ANA. But it's always tempting to see the problem elsewhere than with your own. It's amusing to me that the ANP has heavy machine guns in their police stations and carries RPGs with them on patrol sometimes, and yet the ANA can't search houses under normal conditions. To draw such a legal distinction between the ANA and ANP when the country is so unstable that the police forces must use heavy guns and RPGs seems ridiculous, though I can see where they're going with it...the idea being that we're more likely to win over public support if home searches are done by the local police who are more involved with the community than the ANA and are (supposedly) better trained to do home searches.
Realistically though, legalities and such 'rights' against searches by the local army are a luxury of modern, stable countries...not Afghanistan. It's a tough enough coordination between the ANA and US elements...bring the ANP into the picture and it's only going to get more difficult. The fact that the ANP are notoriously corrupt and not often trusted by the us, the ANA, or the local people is another strike against involving them.