Kabul accident changes ISAF driving rules; Suicide attacks in Kandahar
The fallout from last week's traffic accident and subsequent riots has reached the international troops. On last week's radio interview with Rob Breakenridge, I predicted Coalition forces would soon be forced to moderate their driving habits. Today, Lt. Gen. David Richards, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), indicated his troops' behavior on the roads is now an issue. "There are too many in the (U.S.-led) coalition, ISAF, international community who drive too quickly and in an inconsiderate way and we are all determined to improve that so the people here don't look on us as people who don't care about the Afghans," said Lt. Gen. Richards, who commands the 9,000 troops in ISAF, which is expected to increase to 15,000 by the end of the month. The 22,000 troops under U.S. command are likely to receive similar instructions in the near future.
Tim Lynch, a former Marine major and the country manager for World Security Initiatives, a private contracting group with over 700 employees throughout Afghanistan, stated a large majority of the driving problems are cause by new entrants to the Afghan theater, both in the military and the private sector, and particularly those who served in Iraq. The dangerous operational environment in Iraq, with a high incidents of suicide car bomb attacks and roadside bombs, does not translate well to the security situation in Afghanistan. Many soldiers and contractors learn the differences between the countries over time and adapt to the circumstances in Afghanistan.
While the military has a defined chain of command which can set an implement a defined set of rules, the contractors fall outside of the control of a single entity. The Afghan government exercises little control over these businesses, and the contractors are left to police themselves. As foreign and Western contractors can be lumped in with Coalition forces, this has policy implications for the international community in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is still a dangerous place, and Coalition commanders should be careful not to adopt a one size fits all policy for military convoy rules. Kandahar is not Kabul, as events over the past few days demonstrates. Canadian forces have twice been targeted by Taliban or al Qaeda suicide bombers in the past 48 hours. Four civilians were murdered in Kandahar City after a vehicle borne suicide bomber attacked a Canadian military convoy (initial reports indicated Assadullah Khalid, the governor of Kandahar province, was the target, but a military spokesman denied this) . No Canadians were injured in the attack. Three civilians were killed on Friday after a suicide car bomber missed a Canadian convoy in a village north of Kandahar city. Two Taliban were arrested in Kandahar city after their vehicle was found packed with explosives.