.KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN: Reports from most media sources here regarding coverage of Operaton Dragon Strike in the Arghandab district northwest of Kandahar City, are that even those reporters with long time embed assignments are being denied access to the field of battle. Reportedly even some that made it to the operational staging area at FOB Nelson ? were promptly shipped back to the
The feeling is that General Petraeus has taken the gloves off regarding former rules of engagement applied to the operation in Marjah last February conducted by the US Marines. According to Ben Plesser of CBS news, Marjah was primarily a battle between M-16s and AK 47s to control civilian casualties.
Right now in Arghandab reports are that Petraeus is using bulldozers to push large roads through villages which entails knocking down houses in the way as well as anything else preventing a right of way for large vehicles. Artillery and heavy air strikes are also being reported as well the shooting of suspected insurgents. Civilians have been leaving in droves and according to one reporter have already organized a rather large refugee camp near
These reports are word of mouth from reporters that have been on the scene and thrown out or refused transport elsewhere or whatever. These people are all more or less permanent residents in
and seem to know their way around the military and Afghanistan in general.
One reporter’s piece recently in the NY Times baffles many of these regulars. Carletta Gall the former bureau chief in
recently toured the battle area with a two star general whom I can’t
recall. Her resulting piece declared the
war in Afghanistan
won….apparently because of a supposed victory in one small river valley NW of
Kandahar. These full time Afghan
reporters state also that touring areas in the field with a general, or in the
company of celebrity reporters like Katie Couric never present an accurate take
on events. Obviously. They feel almost unanimously that if you
aren’t in a position to get a grunts eye view of the operations you will never
have an accurate story. In fairness to
Carletta Gall, she left this media center two days ago with the bulk of those
reporters that were held up previously for Arghandab but no word has filtered
back with results.
CBS reporter Mandy Clark and producer Ben Plesser had been down there for a week or so early in the month. Mandy is young and lives in Kabul. Ben in
but has years here and in Iraq. After three weeks they’ve given up, returned
to Kabul and
are organizing a protest in the Pentagon and Congress to have free access to
the news here as is required by the law.
They say they haven’t got anywhere near enough footage for the time
involved. The same goes for Paul Wood of
the BBC. He had no usable footage in two
weeks of more or less waiting at an FOB for transport nearer the action.
Other media on site: Regis Le Sommier of Paris Match, Tom Bowman of NPR, Joao Silva NY Times Photographer, Ben Farmer of the Daily Telegraph (England) , Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times (lost her eye in Siri Lanka sp. from RPG shrapnel, wears a patch), Drew Brown of the Stars and Stripes and Gordon Forbes of the National Geographic.
I would add here that the opinion of many media I’ve met is that Petraeus makes his decisions for political, not military reasons. He has his eye on the Presidency for 2012 or 2016 and will need something that looks like a military victory here to pull that off.
From another source: Karzai’s brother that is the powerhouse in Kandahar besides whatever dealing he has in the drug business, also controls two security companies that are hired by the us for many millions to guard convoys etc in the south here…also kickbacks for each of these concrete barriers that are every where, in the many thousands at least. He is from a minority Pashtun tribe of perhaps 10% total population but these people also hold 90% of government jobs in this area.
And another: Before the English aid worker was killed recently during a rescue attempt by US soldiers, ten tribal leaders in that region offered to meet with the captors and arrange her freedom. They needed assurance that the
military would guarantee them safe passage to the area where she was held but
that guarantee was not given. That’s according to more than one reporter who
lives in Kabul.
And finally, the cell phone service that the military uses here to communicate locally among themselves, and overseas is provided by an IRANIAN COMPANY. There is one large mineral deposit nearby (I’ll get the type later) however it is owned by the Chinese who obtained it through a $30M bribe.
And more….some of the recently built barracks here, we all figure for the surge, have rows of Direct TV satellite dishes along the front below the air con units. I asked if they were for the GIs. They are for food service people that are already making six figure, tax free money. The GIs have to buy their own civilian internet service, for $70 per month, which according to a Sgt. Major I was talking with this morning seldom works.
Is this place fucked up…or what?
NOTES SO FAR THAT NEED VERIFICATIONN TO BE USED
Addendum: Joao Silva, the South African Photographer for the NY Times, lost his legs in the Arghandab a day after I wrote the above piece, while on patrol with Calotta Gall.
Marie Colvin was killed a couple of months ago in Syria.
Tim Hetherington, who was up in Kunar in 2007 with me for Operation Rock Avalanche was killed last winter in Lybia.