CTAP Interview: Anonymous, Afghan Army
By: Interviewed by Leo Blanken, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School
This interview is taken from the collection of the Combating Terrorism Archive Project (CTAP).1 On 13 November 2013, CTAP co-director Leo Blanken spoke with an Afghan Special Forces officer, who asked to remain anonymous.2
LEO BLANKEN: Tell me about any lesson learned that you think would benefit the global SOF community.
OFFICER: I have been working shoulder to shoulder with U.S. forces for more than five years. I have been training with them. This is really good, but sometimes we should review our actions: what we did in the past and what we will do in the future. There are some things that we have learned and some things that we still have problems with, like our communications, our chain of command, our command and control—this kind of stuff. Because I am working closely with American forces, the first thing I learned is how we should support our ODAs (Operational Detachments–Alpha) and our personnel in the field. It is really good for me to learn now, as an officer, what I should do in the future with my ODAs, my personnel, my soldiers, and NCOs. The first thing that we learned was communication and how we should work closely with our personnel. This is really helpful for us. The second thing that we have had a problem with is our forces and our supply. We have [logistical] issues and the Afghan National Security Forces are not supplying us on time. We also sometimes have problems with our communications—how we should communicate with our ODAs and personnel in the field. When they are in contact with the enemy, we have to focus on how we should help them. Sometimes it's really hard. I have had bad experiences in the past, when our ODAs or our personnel were in contact with the enemy and we couldn't support them in time. One time we had five WIAs (wounded in action). In that case, it was really, really bad because they were wounded in an IED explosion. It was during the night. We were unable to send Afghan aircraft because they can't fly during the night, so we sent our forces—infantry, vehicles, a convoy. They arrived near the AO (area of operations), but the AO was completely covered by enemy IEDs. Our wounded guys were waiting more than nine hours for us to help them. Unfortunately, we lost two NCOs in that case. There were three more who were still alive into the early morning, when our forces, our ODAs, cleared the AO and the roads, and we were able to help them. It was hard, because each soldier or NCO or officer wants to serve his country, his people—but in [an emergency] situation, we can't help them out. It is really bad. These are issues that we have problems with, especially logistical support, our quick reaction force support, this kind of thing.
BLANKEN: I wanted to ask about an interesting comment you made earlier, about the dog tags.
OFFICER: Oh, yes. Unfortunately, in our Special Operations brigade, or division, we don't have dog tags. I learned about them from the U.S. personnel over the past five years, and I requested from my generals, my command, that we [Afghan Special Forces] should have dog tags. Sometimes, when we want to go to the field, we know there are IEDs, and if we don't have dog tags, it is a very big problem for us. There was one experience I had that was really bad. There were three NCOs in a Humvee hit by an IED explosion. We lost one guy, and the other two were wounded. One of these wounded guys was now back here in the hospital: "This is Joe (for example), and this is his registration number." After one hour, unfortunately, we lost him—he died in the hospital. I sent his body back to our division with the name of Joe and just a number. After two days, they told me, "Hey, he is not Joe, and this number is wrong." He didn't have a dog tag, and no one knows who he was because he was 90% burned. No one is able to confirm who he was. If I should be in command and have the power, one of the first issues I would want to effect is our dog tags. I would be really happy to help my soldiers, NCOs, and officers back in the field because it is my job. The guys who are in command or in high positions— they have to help me. I already requested that we get dog tags. Maybe I should request it again—our Ministry of Defense or Special Operations division should have dog tags as soon as possible for the personnel, because we are just 10,000 people.
1. The Combating Terrorism Archive Project aims to collect and archive knowledge on strategy, operations, and tactics used by military and other security personnel from around the world in the twenty-first-century fight against global terrorism. Collectively, the individual interviews that CTAP conducts will create an oral history archive of knowledge and experience in counterterrorism for the benefit of the CT community now and in the future.
2. This interview was edited for length and clarity. Every effort was made to ensure that the meaning and intention of the participants were not altered in any way. The ideas and opinions of all participants are theirs alone and do not represent the official positions of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. government, or any other official entity.