US Mission Afghanistan: USAID Sub-Contractors Killed in Kabul Suicide Attack

WaPo reports that today’s attack in Kabul was carried out by a suicide bomber who rammed a car packed with explosives into a mini-bus carrying foreign aviation workers to the Kabul International Airport.  At least 12 people died, including eight South Africans, three Afghans and a citizen of Kyrgyzstan. The report says the Afghan militant group, Hizb-i-Islami, claimed responsibility for the dawn attack and said it was carried out by a 22-year-old woman named Fatima. It also adds that suicide bombings carried out by women are extremely rare in Afghanistan, where few if any Afghan women drive cars.

Worst Take-Your-Kid-to-Work-Day ever
Photo and Caption via It’s Always Sunny in Kabul

VOA quotes Nelson Kgwete, a spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation:

“We understand from our mission in Islamabad that the eight South Africans were employed by a private aviation company,” said Kgwete. “At the moment the department has the complete list of all the names of the deceased. We are working on establishing contact with the next of kin and also ensuring that we ensure the necessary consular assistance to the families.”

A separate WaPo report says that many of the victims were contract personnel with Air Charter Service, a British-based company that provides services to the U.S. Agency for International Development and other organizations in Afghanistan.  The company’s website did not list its clients but the charter service reportedly has a contract with the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to ferry USAID officials around Afghanistan.

These are deaths that will not even be counted when our war casualties are tallied. We may never even know their names. They are not Coalition soldiers or American civilians, they are foreigners in Afghanistan, third country nationals who work as contractors to a USAID contractor that is British-based.

The US Embassy in Kabul released the following condemnation statement:

Condemnation of Suicide Attack in Kabul
September 18, 2012

The U.S. Embassy condemns, in the strongest terms, the suicide bombing that took place this morning near Kabul International airport, killing at least 10 people and injuring several others, including members of the Afghan National Police. Many of the victims were contracted personnel of a private company providing services to USAID and other organizations in Afghanistan. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all of the victims, and we wish for a full recovery to the injured.

 

The embassy didn’t know how many of them provided services for USAID, only that many of them did. I don’t know why I find that distressful.  For 2012 alone, the US Embassy in Kabul has already issued 25 condemnation statements, an average of two a month and it’s just September.

Our blog pal, El Snarkistani in It’s Always Sunny in Kabul lists 5 reasons why this latest suicide attack is a big deal, and in his words, “frighteningly different from the norm here in the Emerald City”:

[T]o review: a) actions by the insurgency are dramatically altering ISAF strategy, b) the insurgents are able to kill foreign civilians in the capital, and c) they’re able to destroy ISAF’s most valuable asset, its airpower.

Thus, if negotiations do occur anytime soon, it’s because the insurgency brought the bigger stick. And if there’s an olive branch involved, they probably impaled the dove on it. Think more Brando’s Don, less Kingsley’s Gandhi.

If this is a weakened insurgency, I’d hate to see what a strong one would look like.

Read his full post here.

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El Snarkistani: 5 Things You Should Know About Dead Kids in Kabul

El Snarkistani of It’s Always Sunny in Kabul was gone for a couple of weeks of R&R.  We miss him when he’s gone and we’re always happy to see him return to his blog. But then he blogs about the 5 Things You Should Know About Dead Kids in Kabul which makes us throw shoes at the dark, surly skies.

Because it’s Massoud Day, or because it’s a Saturday, or because the CIA is here, or because the State Department just declared the Haqqani network a Foreign Terrorist Organization, the Taliban/ISI/Haqqani convinced a street kid to fill a backpack with explosives and detonate it near the front entrance to ISAF headquarters here in Kabul.

I, like most people who have worked with ISAF/the Embassy/the Afghan government in that part of Kabul have walked that stretch of road a lot. We know the kids that hang out there, sometimes by name, mostly by whatever trinkets they’re trying to sell this week.

As tragic as today’s events were, and believe me, I’m trying like hell to keep typing and not just sit here in a pool of my own self-pitying grief for kids I barely knew in a place I’ve come to love at some level, it matters a whole lot more than just our (hopefully) usual human response to tragedy.

So, in keeping with a format that a) keeps my ADD at bay and b) lets me make a list, here’s 5 reasons why some dead kids in Kabul should matter.

Go here to read the 5 reasons.

His reason #3: This is going to be blamed on the Haqqani.   On September 8, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi  blamed Saturday’s attack on the Haqqani network but did not say how he came to that conclusion.

CBS News report that the bomber, who Kabul police estimated to be about 14 years old, struck just before noon on a street that connects the alliance headquarters to the nearby U.S. and Italian embassies, a large U.S. military base and the Afghan Defense Ministry.  He reportedly detonated his explosives while walking down the street, according to Kabul police. The Ministry of Interior said some of the victims were street children.  The NYT has additional coverage of this attach here.

At the end of his piece, El Snarkistani asks, “After 11 years, billions of dollars, and thousands of lives (most of them Afghan), are we really doing any good that’s going to last more than a minute after we shut off the aid spigot?”

Good question. Are we?

 

 

Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker “Dedicates” The Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio – to Whom?

Via El Snarkistani over in It’s Always Sunny in Kabul:

And this took over a year? Don’t they have Macbooks at the Embassy?

So part of Crocker’s legacy at the Embassy, besides being really excited about how much money has been siphoned out of the country due to massive corruption, and making sure that the majority of Department of State staff in this country never left Kabul, is the eponymous TV studio that took over a year to complete.

Now, instead of outsourcing ridiculous television ventures, the Embassy staff can now be inept all on their own.

Oh, El Snarky, so harsh. What is El Snarkistini talking about? This one:

Caption from US Embassy Kabul/FB:
The Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio was dedicated on 24 June with a ribbon cutting at the Embassy by Ambassador Crocker and Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy, Eileen O’Connor. The production studio, which took over one year to complete, will give the Embassy the ability to do live television broadcasts and studio quality videos for the web.

Paging Mr. Universe, you are needed in Kabul A-S-A-P where you can now do live television broadcasts and studio quality videos for the web in Afghanistan, a country where 4.2% of the population are internet users and where more than half never uses television. That teevee number goes up 73% in the rural areas of Afghanistan, by the way.

Whose bright idea was this? Please do tell so we can give appropriate credit!

Okay – so since Ambassador Crocker “dedicated” this ahem, Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio on June 24, to whom did he dedicate this to?  To the best of our memory, even the late Richard Holbrooke who reportedly had his own personal archivist did not go so far as dedicate a building to himself.

Um, pardon me?  You mean why can’t ambassadors name stuff after themselves in a country where money obviously is not/not a problem it’s leaking left and right?

Because. It’s bad form. And it’s muy, muy embarassaurus. I’m writing this post under my desk, you guys!

Oh, yes — wouldn’t that look  like ambassadors are building a temple of their own greatness or something? But pray, what’s wrong with that? If they are in fact, great?

Well, for one thing, it reminds us of Alexander the Great who liked to found cities and name them after himself, in honour of his own achievements. By the way, last year the BBC had this interesting piece about the pitfalls of naming places after famous people. It’s a must read if you’re thinking of renaming things after yourself, too.

And then there’s El Jefe, Rafael Trujillo.  In 1936 the capital city of the Dominican Republic was changed from Santo Domingo to Ciudad Trujillo. The province of San Cristobal was changed to “Trujillo”, and the nation’s highest peak, Pico Duarte, was renamed Pico Trujillo. Heck, this is a broadcast studio, it’s not like they’re naming a mountain after him.

Right you are, but huge problems with bad associations, see?

And it creates a bad precedence.   Seriously.  Are they going to start naming the chanceries and ambassadors’ residences with ambassadors’ names? Or new embassy compounds, or water towers?  Or roads and bridges built with aid money? What?

C’mon Ms. Eileen O’Connor, Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy and US Embassy Kabul folks, youreallydon’tthinkthislooksbad?

The State Department already has a  $10,000 award named after Ambassador Crocker (see Ryan C. Crocker Award for Outstanding Leadership in Expeditionary Diplomacy). I get that.  But I don’t know whose brainchild is the Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio or how much this cost American taxpayers. And this is still a shocker.  Also a production studio need folks to work there, so more 3161 employees are needed. And here I thought we’re shrinking our footprint there by 2014. Oops wait, aren’t we supposed to be there until 2024 to the Karzai’s clan endless delight? While we’re in the business of naming stuff, can we please, please name something big, a bridge, a building, the Parliament, “2014” as a reminder?  Oh, we can always rename it “2024” later to celebrate the next phase of this perplexing relationship.

In any case, I fervently hope that the Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio‘s name is carved in stone or the next ambassador might be tempted to re-brand that new shiny thing with his/her name. Of course, who’s going to say “no” if he/she wants to replace the carved stone with a new carved stone with a new name, hmnnn?

Domani Spero

Here’s to you, SPC Dennis Weichel – may we all be so lucky to be so mad!

Words borrowed from our blog pal, El Snarkistani who had no snark today. In his blog, It’s Always Sunny in Kabul Finding the silver(ish) lining in Afghanistan’s Emerald City, he writes about SPC Dennis Weichel, who died saving a young Afghan girl in Laghman on March 22. SPC Weichel, a 29 year old member of the Rhode Island National Guard deployed in Iraq as a member of 3/172 Det 2 Mountain Infantry seven years ago.  He reportedly arrived in Afghanistan only a few weeks ago as a member of C Company, 1st Battalion, 143 Infantry.  He was engaged to be married, and leaves behind his parents, fiancée and three young children.

Photo via HuffPo

How come we don’t spend more time trying to figure out what went right? How come we don’t try to figure out how to make more Weichels instead of how to prevent the Bales?

I’m not masochistic enough to do any in-depth research into how many hours of television have been devoted to SSG Bales.

I do know that Good Morning America has already spent quite a bit of airtime on the Bales’ case, from his financial past, to his injuries, to more unfounded speculation about his mental health. Over several days.

Weichel? 34. Seconds.

Toward the beginning of the clip, the phrase: “Now a story of uncommon sacrifice.”

Uncommon.

As if this sort of selfless act is somehow…unusual.

That Weichel in a moment suffered a mental break that caused him to do something he and his comrades would never usually do.
[…]
If you do nothing else, remember Weichel. Forget Bales. There is good in us, America. Even here, what can often be a place where hope dies, crushed by the weight of a thousand good intentions, good can be done. Not long-term. Not sustainable, maybe, but…good.

I’ve come to the conclusion that “sustainable” is a buzzword created by those who’ve never had to watch someone bleed to death because they had the audacity to get a job with the only game in town. Since that job’s us, and people want us to go away…folks…get…dead.

I myself have used it. I think it has value, I do, but at the end of the day? It’s making sure a little girl gets to go home at least one more day.

So, SPC Weichel, here’s to you: insanely courageous bit of all that’s good in the world. I hope your brothers in arms make sure your children know this. Know that their dad, no matter what else may be true about him, cared enough about someone he didn’t know to pay that ultimate price. Someone who, maybe, for a moment, reminded him of one of his own.

Wherever you are, rest easy, soldier. You did good. May we all be so lucky to be so mad.

When El Snarkistani doesn’t make me laugh until I cry about Afghanistan, he makes me think and cry until my head hurts. But I still read him everyday.

Read in full here.

Major General Kevin McBride, Adjutant General of the Rhode Island National Guard, said in a written statement: “Tragically, Spc. Weichel has made the supreme sacrifice and at this time, we are mindful of the impact of that sacrifice on his family and friends. I pledge this command’s perpetual support to Spc. Weichel’s family; his children Nicholas, Hope and Madison and his parents Linda Reynolds and Dennis Weichel. We leave no Soldier behind…. and we will not leave Spc. Weichel’s family behind.”

I hope that is true.  Rest in peace, SPC Dennis Weichel.

Domani Spero