The Voices of War

97. Yousuf Sediq – The War In Afghanistan: Exploring Its Complexities, Absurdities, And Challenges With An Afghan Special Forces Commander

VOW 97 | War In Afghanistan

 

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Today’s episode is a compelling and insightful conversation with Yousuf Sediq, a former Afghan Special Forces Operator and the author of ‘5000 Days of War: The Firsthand Account of an Afghan Special Forces Operator.’   

 

**About Our Guest, Yousuf Sediq**  

Yousuf’s book is an honest and vivid portrayal of his experiences in the Afghan war, offering unparalleled insight through the eyes of a native Afghan who grew up under Taliban rule.  Following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Yousuf’s journey took him from an interpreter for the Coalition Forces to becoming a squadron commander in the ultra-secret Task Force-241. He also played a key role in the security of the Kabul International Airport during the chaotic withdrawal in August 2021.  

 

**In This Episode, You’ll Learn About**

  • Life Under the Taliban: Growing up under the oppressive rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  • Joining the Battle: The personal journey of Yousuf Sediq in joining with the Coalition Forces in the fight against the Taliban.
  • Interpreter on the Frontline: Yousuf’s initial experiences and the vital role of interpreters in the Afghan war.
  • The Plight of Coalition Interpreters: A detailed discussion on the challenges and misunderstood lives of interpreters.
  • Private Company Treatment of Interpreters: An exploration of employment conditions for interpreters in Afghanistan.
  • Understanding Afghan Local Context: The significance of cultural and local insight in military operations.
  • Surviving Explosions and Brain Injury: The effects and recovery from severe war injuries.
  • The Rise to Task Force 241: Yousuf’s entry and progression through the Afghan Commandos to Task Force 241.
  • Inside Task Force 241: An in-depth look at the secret unit, its missions, impact, and capabilities in Afghanistan.
  • Legal Prosecution of Taliban Fighters: The legal complexities and challenges surrounding the prosecution of the Taliban.
  • Engagement Rules within Task Force 241: An examination of ethical guidelines and conduct within the secretive unit.
  • CIA-Funded Units & War Crime Allegations: A critical discussion on controversial actions and allegations within Afghanistan.
  • Trust in the Shadows of Task Force 241: Why trust plays a crucial role within military units.
  • Defending Kabul with Task Force 241: The vital role of Task Force 241 during the fall of Kabul in 2021.
  • Afghan Civilians & Security Forces: Insights into how Afghan civilians perceive their security forces.
  • Post-Taliban Takeover Allegiances: The shifting political and tribal alliances following the resurgence of the Taliban.
  • Afghanistan’s Uncertain Future: Reflections and predictions on the prospects for Afghanistan.

 

**Join the Conversation**  

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Yousuf Sediq – The War In Afghanistan: Exploring Its Complexities, Absurdities, And Challenges With An Afghan Special Forces Commander

Join Resolute’s inaugural ‘Clinical Masterclass – Caring For Those Who Serve’ on the 2nd of September, featuring an impressive line-up of experts. Every cent raised supports the Soldiers & Sirens Western Australia charity.

I’m highlighting a truly remarkable event happening on the 2nd of September 2023 in person in Perth, Western Australia, but also virtually. I’m not in any way involved with this event. I’m promoting it because its mission deserves our attention. The team from Resolute, headed by Dr. Richard Magtengaard, is hosting their inaugural Clinical Masterclass, caring for those who serve, focusing on trauma-informed care for our ADF personnel, veterans, first responders, and their families.

Attendees will hear from James Hepworth of the Veteran Employment Program at Roy Hill, Michael Winlo of Emyria to talk about therapeutic uses of medicinal cannabinoids, Katie Stewart of Chronic Care Australia, who will delve into exercise prescription medicine, Dr. Alex Lim from REVIVE, a former guest of the show who will detail the potential of ketamine and role in treating PTSD, and Dr. Dan Pronk, our ex-special operator, a doctor, author, and speaker will take the stage as the events plenary speaker.

After a Q&A session, Paige Collins from Painless will address management and recovery from persistent pain before Danielle Murphy from Incite covers the importance of psychosocial rehabilitation for families. The SASR Chaplaincy will cover the sensitive topic of moral injury. Finally, wrapping up the day, the keynote speaker will be Cameron Watts, an ex-senior AFP officer and founder of Hemisphere East, who will detail his advocacy for first responders.

Importantly, all proceeds from this event will go to the Soldiers and Sirens Western Australia Charity. If you want to know more, please check out Clinical Masterclass and save the date for an important and much-needed discussion on the care for ADF personnel, veterans, first responders, and their families.

My guest is Yousuf Sediq, a former Afghan soldier who has authored a book titled 5,000 Days of War: The First Stand Account of an Afghan Special Forces Operator. In his book, Yousuf provides a vivid, honest, and unfiltered portrayal of the war in Afghanistan, offering a unique perspective as a native Afghan. He was born and raised in the country. Following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, he initially worked as an interpreter for the Coalition Forces before joining the Afghan Special Forces.

He ascended quickly through the ranks and became a squadron commander in a secret unit known as Task Force 241. He and his soldiers remained in Afghanistan even after the fall of Kabul in August 2021. He played a key role in the security of the Kabul International Airport during the chaotic withdrawal. Yousuf joins me to share insights from his book and provide his perspectives on the war in Afghanistan. Thank you very much for joining me on the show.

Thanks for having me, and my regards to your audience.

This is quite an amazing book you’ve written. I must admit I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it to be direct. What I liked about it the most was that it wasn’t over-edited. In other words, your voice and the emotions behind the man who’s writing the words were evident in the book. I will put two questions. What motivated you to write the book and who did you write it for?

VOW 97 | War In Afghanistan
5000 Days of War: The Firsthand Account of an Afghan Special Forces Operator

In the beginning, I didn’t want to write about the stuff that I experienced because I’m near this country. I didn’t know Western culture and if people are interested in this topic. Especially nowadays, people are becoming soft. These topics are harsh for them. I hesitated, but a friend of mine recommended me this other friend, which helped me a lot through this book. Brian helped me so much. He motivated me. He explained a lot of the culture that I was missing and didn’t understand. That gave me some motivation.

Some of the former operators like SEAL Teams and Green Berets I worked with, when I talked to them, I was like, “Should I write a book?” One of the SEAL Operator, Jeff, told me, “Go for it. Don’t bury these stories with yourself. Tell people what happened. People need to know. The media didn’t cover it.” This was the motivation from these guys.

On the other side, a lot of people paid for this war with their blood. Whether they were Afghans, civilians, Coalition Forces, US soldiers, UK, Australian, or Canadian, all these soldiers paid it with their lives. When the war was over, everything went quiet. I wanted to tell people what happened out there and who played the ultimate sacrifice. Let’s not forget these fallen soldiers.

What I also like is that you say things in the book that many of those of us who’ve been to Afghanistan feel and have thought of that but never felt vindicated to say. Coming from someone like you, who is an Afghan who’s seen it all and has gotten to understand the war deeply, you can say certain things. They carry a lot of meaning when you say it. These are some of the things I want to touch on as we go through. It’s also right to start with a little bit about your own background before the war. You grew up in Afghanistan, right?

Yes, I grew up in Afghanistan.

During the years of the Taliban, ‘96 to 2001, you write in the book that you were born in 1988. You were a child going into a teenager. It’s from 8 to 14 or something under the Taliban regime. What was that like? How did they enforce their laws? How did that set things in motion for you as a child and all your orientation towards the Taliban regime in the first place?

I was born in Afghanistan. I’m in my mid-30s. You have also seen it when you were on deployments. Afghans are not good with their date of birth because we never celebrate our birthdays. We never got the chance. We were in war zones. People were tense and focused on how to make some money to survive the situation.

At the beginning, you were blind. You are a kid. You don’t understand. You don’t know politics, what good or bad is, and what reality is. You can’t make the judgment like, “This is right and wrong. These people are right. These people are bad.” In the beginning, it was fine. We were living in a village. There’s no education. I call education a big torch with a big light on it that comes into your life and brightens the path that you take. It brightens up a little for you so you don’t make the wrong moves.

Education is a big torch with a big light on it that comes into your life and brightens the path that you take. Share on X

You didn’t have an education. I didn’t know anything. I would wake up early in the morning to help the family with farming and the sheep and goats going up the mountains. We’re living this village life coming to Kabul City during the Taliban regime. I didn’t know who these Taliban were. Are they good people? Are they bad people? What are the intentions? Are they good for us? Should we be happy with them, or should we not be happy with them? We did not have access to technology. There are no TVs and phones.

There’s a new series that’s called Silo. They keep people in this place. They don’t have access to anything outside. They don’t know if there’s nature or people out there. We were living in the same thing as the Silo thing. If we wanted to raise our voices, the Taliban would shut us down. If we wanted to say something, we would get beaten up. As a young kid, you get scared. They’re going to beat you. They don’t have a good justice system. They don’t obey the Islamic law and human rights law. You don’t know what they respect so you are always afraid. If I say this one bad word, this is going to get me killed. The Taliban region was oppressed. You couldn’t even have fun as a kid. This is how bad it was.

What I find that interesting, especially the idea that you’re in Silo, is that it makes sense in many ways and perhaps explains why for some youth and young men, the decision to join the Taliban was a pragmatic one. It was because that’s all they knew. Those were the people in charge. They could earn money and make money for their families. Of course, there was the other side. In post-2001, when the Coalition Forces came in, there was another avenue.

You went down the path of going to work for the Coalition Forces. In your mind, what was the reason? You could have gone down the Taliban path like many children or kids of your age at that time might’ve gone. Those were good kids. They are growing up in an environment where they see the Taliban as a solution to a particular problem, getting money or supporting their family. Can you talk about that distinction? Why some went one way, and others went the other way?

I was lucky. My dad was a former colonel in the previous regimes. He was an educated guy. My grandfather was a Baghdan. He was a commander in the Afghan Army. My uncle was a tank driver. My whole family was in the service back in the day. In the past, we also had these problems with the government against the other groups that they wanted to fight throughout the government. Even before the Russians, we always had these problems.

My dad has always educated us in the house. As Muslims, we pray five times a day. After the evening prayer, my dad would sit down with us and would tell us some stories. He enlightens us about some experiences from his life and his side of things that he went through. These things give me this decision of, like, “These are not the right people to join. The government is the right people to join.” In those times, I was young. It was hard to understand these things. You go on blindsided.

My family and other relatives put an impact on me to always be supportive of the government no matter what we support the government. Back in the day, when the Russians were in Afghanistan, we had this group called Mujahideen. People know it as the Northern Alliance. Taliban were members of the Northern Alliance. When they left, the Civil War happened, and a new group came up as the name of the Taliban.

My father fought the Mujahideen, not as a Russian guy. It is the same thing as NATO in Afghanistan as a member of the Afghan Army. These things had an impact on my older brother. He was already working with the Coalition Forces as an entrepreneur. These stories had an impact on my life that I should join this side.

That’s an important point to make and oftentimes, it is circumstantial. I would be happy to hear what your thoughts on this. Many people in the West drew a very black-and-white line between the good guys and the bad guys. Anybody shooting at us is Taliban, and those who aren’t shooting are good guys. That’s not often the case.

It’s often merely circumstances. In your case, you had your father, relatives, and brother influencing your path. Whereas some other boys your age, at the same time, had a father and an uncle who perhaps supported the Taliban. They saw that as the right way forward. In other words, everybody thought that they were the good guy. Unfortunately, as one grows up, it’s only later in life that one realises, “What I do matters. What principles and values I uphold matters.” It’s not necessarily as clean-cut as good and bad guys as people have often portrayed. I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that.

The problem with the visitors is they have this line of black and white. You are either bad or good. There is no in-between. A lot of people were living in these villages, and not everybody was part of the Taliban. Not everybody wanted to be a Talab. Not everybody wanted to fight the Taliban, but during the day, you are out there as the government forces. Taliban are not there. People support you. As soon as you leave that village, the Taliban comes back at night. When they come back, they are cruel. They don’t have any mercy. They will kill you if you don’t listen to them.

There are hundreds of stories that I personally experienced throughout these years when I investigated, or I’m questioning when we raided some suspicious compounds. People told us the stories. Taliban comes into your home. You are a regular civilian or a farmer. You don’t want to be part of the government or these people. You want to be a civilian guy doing your farming. You can’t even survive yourself with your gain of family.

They come and tell you, “Cook us food for twenty fighters. We are holy fighters and you have to feed us.” You are like, “I don’t have anything.” They’re like, “Do whatever you want to do. Provide us the food. We are the holy fighters. We came from God. We are doing God’s work here, and you have to feed us. If you don’t, we are going to beat or kill you.” They give you no option. That’s the thing.

Sometimes, I talk about it on my social media platforms. I was like, “Do not judge people based on 1 or 5 bad guys.” It’s like a jungle. You got lions, deer, and crocodiles. You can’t say, “There’s a lion in there that holds the jungle above. If there are some birds there, the whole jungle is good.” You might go to the jungle, a snake bites you, and you’re dead.

You can’t judge. I don’t judge this Russian and Ukraine war as other people are judging it because I’ve been in the war. I know these Ukrainian civilians don’t want to be in that war. I know these Russian soldiers don’t want to be in that war, but the leadership forces them. From that side, they’re like, “You have to defend your homeland and Ukraine.” On the other side, Putin was like, “You have to fight. Otherwise, you’ll be put in prison or get executed.” People don’t understand how hard for the civilians is. Ukrainians and the Russians want to live in peace. It was the same thing for a lot of the Afghan villagers.

Ukrainians and the Russians want to live in peace. It was the same thing for a lot of the Afghan villagers. Share on X

That was one of the problems that we always had. It’s the interactions with the Coalition Forces when I was working as a terp. Do not judge or look at them as if they’re all Taliban. They all look the same because there’s a village. They have the same traditions. Everybody has beards. They all look dirty and dusty because they work on farms with dirt. You cannot say, “If one guy in that village is bad, the whole village is bad.” This was something hard in my position at the beginning to convince the coalition members, like, “Do not judge them by this.” It was hard because sometimes they would get suspicious of why you were defending these people. It was a bit harder back then.

I did have a sub-question on that point when I was taking my notes because that does resonate throughout your words. We’ll come back to this because to lead into it, I want to get to how you became an interpreter or a terp. It wasn’t after the Taliban regime fell in 2001. It was sometime after that. As you mentioned, it was your brother who was an interpreter first. How did you become an interpreter? What was that like?

I’m always about this one thing, and nothing can change it. If we all work hard to have something on the table so we can survive, sometimes that brings more income and we can have better stuff in our lives. Back then, for us, it was bringing some food to the table. The system is different in the Middle East. We have a few who own a house. There is no property tax or garment. If you own a house, that’s it. Nobody is going to say anything or charge you. It’s different on the West side.

The only concern you have left is you have free water because you use freshwater sources like water wells. That’s free. Your house is free if you own it. The only thing left is the food on the table. If you have good food, you are living a happy life. For us, that was the case. Personally, if you give me good food, not if you are the bad guy, but if you’re a good guy, take me to the front lines. I don’t care. Take me wherever you want to go.

I had mentioned this to all of the interviews I had back in the day when I was becoming terp. They were like, “Which base do you want to go to?” They would test you like, “How much courage do you have? Are you willing to fight?” Sometimes, they would select guys to be working for the Special Operation. That was the case.

My brother would tell me. He would come home during this R&R or leave and he was like, “These defects are good. You could get ice cream and watermelon in wintertime.” You are like, “How’s that going to work?” We didn’t have that good of a system back in Afghanistan. Everything was seasoned. You have this fruit in this season, but here, it’s different. That was one of the motivations I had. Maybe 50% or 40% of the motivation to become a terp was this.

The other motivation was the money was better. It’s military. I always liked actions and want to be part of an action thing. I was young. My blood is boiling. You want to be this badass, tough kid. You are like, “I’ve done this. I did this.” These two things were the motivation for me to become a terp. The journey was a little different.

Back then, everybody was studying English in the Kabul City. We might have had 6 million to 7 million people in the C11 in the city, and everybody was studying English. The only reason for these people to study English was to get a job in English, either working for NATO, ISOF, the US Embassy, or the UK Embassy. In all these places, English would work for you. You would make maybe 2 or 3 times more than regular people.

The money thing was the motivation. You go through these courses and find places. It was famous back then, especially in Camp Phoenix, which was an old Russian transport station. It was Camp Phoenix in Kabul. Everybody knew that they hired interpreters in Camp Phoenix. If you go to Kandahar Airfield, Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Jalalabad Airfield, or Camp Chapman, these were the main places that the people knew that if you walk to the gate, you might be able to get a job as a terp, labour, security or something in that base.

How did you start? We will save a lot of the details for the book. There are a lot of details, and I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone because you do write a lot about how you became a terp. What was that initial experience like? What were some of the first jobs that you went on?

In the beginning, my English was more like these Russian guys speaking in these movies. It is similar to that. I didn’t have a good understanding. My first job with this company, when they looked at my English, they were like, “Let’s sign him with the Canadians.” Canadians were paying the minimum compared to other NATO forces. They needed the terps back in the day. Not a lot of people wanted to work with the Canadians. I don’t know for what reasons.

When I started with the company, they assigned me to this team. I did not know until I arrived at the base. I did not know the uniform and who these people were. They told me, “Be ready tomorrow morning. They’re going to pick you up and drop you up at this base.” They picked me up. The convoy was ready. We hit the base and arrived. I’m looking around. I see the US Marine pattern on their uniforms. I’m like, “Are these US soldiers? Who are they?” I saw a Canadian flag. I was like, “They’re Canadian.” I started with the Canadian.

My first job was with the Special Forces and the Joint Task Force. I did not know the difference between a Special Operation and a conventional or regular unit back then. To my eyes, they were all soldiers. They were stories like, “These scary stories about the Special Forces. When they are bored, they take them away from their mothers and feed them snakes. They’re not even built like Cubans. They’re like machines.” It got me a little scared at the beginning. I was like, “I don’t know what these guys are going to do. Are they going to run into the village and start shooting all over the place?” I have never shot a gun. I did not have experience in properly handling a gun before.

I started with them. We went out on this operation. I played it cool. I didn’t give them this feedback of I’m scared. That’s my first ever time stepping foot in this environment. It looks exactly the same compared to Northern Afghanistan. We got off the convoy. We went to the village. I was scared and listening to the Taliban in the scanner if they were saying, “Let’s shoot him.” Sometimes, they would mess around and say stuff but do not do anything. Sometimes, they would do. If they’re saying like, “Let’s shoot them,” I went to the prone position and was scared I might get shot at.

On that scanner, can you clarify? Some in the audience might not understand what you mean by the scanner. Some who haven’t experienced it might not necessarily understand it.

ICAM Scanner is a communication device. It’s like your radio. That scans frequencies from other radios. They’re not encrypted. You could listen to them. In most scanners, you couldn’t talk to them back. In the beginning, they didn’t know we were listening to them, but later, they knew. They have different calls like, “Jesse, can you hear me?” They called all the Coalition Forces infidels.

I see infidels walking in the village. They were like, “Let’s ambush. We have the PKM ready.” I listened and passed this information on to the captain that I was working with. He was right in front of me. I was right behind the captain. I was like, “This is what they want to do.” In the beginning, I didn’t know this, but the feeling of passing the message was important.

It doesn’t sound serious, but if I’m like, “They’re going to ambush. They probably have the PKM ready.” People are in a serious situation where they might get shot at. I didn’t know if they are serious or not. I was like, “They’re going to shoot at us.” I went through a prone position. With the scanner thing, we could listen and hear them. We had it from 2005 until the end of 2021. We always used scanners.

After this first operation, that fear thing was gone. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if I was young, being maybe elegant and not caring about anything. On the next operation, I was walking. If I heard something bad was going to happen in the scanner, I would take it seriously but not be scared. I don’t know what took it, but the fear was gone on the second operation.

You spent a lot of time in the book. You mentioned quite a few times about your life as an interpreter and, not just yours, but the life of the interpreters, how misunderstood it was by many whom they worked for, whether it be the sibling contracting companies that employed them or the Coalition Forces that they worked with. What are some of those things that you found that those who you worked for or who employed you didn’t understand about the circumstances of the terps?

When I was writing the book, the close friends I have here in the US, we work together throughout all these years. Most of them are here in the city where I’m living. I told them about the book. They were excited. The first thing everybody mentioned was, “Are you going to talk about the problems we were facing?” I was like, “Yeah, I already have that covered.”

This was one of the frustrations I had. If you and I are fighting a war, we are on the front line. This is my nature. This is my habit. If you do not trust me even a little bit, I have this feeling that I don’t want to be with this guy. I don’t want to be fighting alongside this guy because you’re not trusting me. That was the case in some of the plays. Let me be clear. I’m not blaming any soldiers. Soldiers were obeying or following orders. It was the leadership. General and the colonels are making up all these decisions on these terps. Terps were the best asset for a coalition unit out there.

VOW 97 | War In Afghanistan
War In Afghanistan: General and the colonels are making up all these decisions on these terps. Terps were the best asset for a coalition unit out there.

 

They are an essential asset. There was nothing the Coalition Forces could have done apart from dropping bombs in places without the interpreters because we had no language skills. As the Coalition Forces, there were few and far between that knew the local context, languages, and culture. It was an essential part of the war effort.

This was the problem. I was always trying to do something to let the team know that what you are doing is not good. It’s going to have some consequences in the future for us, whether it is cultural or treating the people in the village, especially the topic that we covered. We are looking at there. Everybody in the village is a bad guy. That wasn’t a good sign. I wanted to tell them like, “No, this is different. We cannot look at all of them as bad guys. It’s going to have a bad impact in the future when you come because we were going out in these villages every day.”

If you treat them like they’re all bad guys, Afghans are bad at taking revenge. They take hate personally. If you treat them nice, they always remember that you treat them nice. If several years pass, they will try to pay that back to you. If you treat them badly, they take that deep into their hearts. They were like, “I have not done anything to this guy. Why is he treating me this badly? You came to my country. You are treating me like I’m the bad guy, which I’m not.”

It was hard for me as a terp to convince the unit that I was working with. I was like, “This is not good behaviour. Let’s not do this culture. This is not right. I’m trying to avoid the problems in the future.” Among all these problems, this is one of the worst ones that bothers me a lot. We are going out on the operation six months in a row. We were going out every other day for two days, maybe 2 to 3 times a week. When I met the team, we had four terps that were working with this team I was working with. In one operation, they would take two. In the other operation, they take two. Sometimes, they would take four of us.

I never got ambushed when I was working with the Canadians. I got lucky. I look at it as a blessing from God and my prayers or support from my parents, but these soldiers came to me, and that hurt me a lot back then. They told me, “Are you working with the Taliban?” I said, “What do you mean?” They’re like, “When you are with us in the operation, nothing is happening. When you’re not in the operation, we get ambushed.” I’m like, “It’s my first time in this part of the country. I don’t even know these people.”

This question bothers me so much. They didn’t come as a joke that I would say, “Maybe they’re joking. They were being funny and sarcastic.” They were serious. They’re like, “When you’re not with us in the operations, you get ambushed.” I’m like, “I don’t know. I didn’t have access to my phone even back then. I don’t know who these guys are. I’ve never been to these villages. I won’t be stupid to pass information to the Taliban while living inside the military base. Phones are being scanned. Conversations are sometimes being listented to. Do I look that stupid? I give away information to get my friends killed. If I don’t care about you, these two Afghans that are going out at you, they’re my friends. If I don’t care about you because you are not an Afghan, I care about them.”

As a human being and a Muslim, if I do something wrong, I will answer to God, especially taking somebody’s life. If you take innocent lives, no matter what religion, what they believe in, or where they are from, you’re responsible. I know for a fact that God will hold you responsible. God is going to ask you. This came in our holy books. Did you give that person life and soul that you were there to take it? No, I created you as equal to him. I give you chances to worship whatever you want. I feed you and him. You are not in no place to make that decision to take his life if he’s innocent. If he is bad and you are in a war, that’s a different story. That was one of the things that the trust issues all the time. They wanted to track our phones all the time.

If you take innocent lives, no matter what religion, what they believe in, or where they are from, you’re responsible. Share on X

We weren’t allowed to call our family members. We were only allowed once a week. At that time, they were listening to our conversations but we knew they were listening. These things were hard. When I was with the Canadians, they had these three regiments. They have the two English regiments and a French regiment, which they call Van Doos, which means the 22nd Regiment. These French guys speak French with each other. Me and other terp are speaking in our language in Dari and Pashto. This French soldier came to me. He goes, “Why are you guys not speaking in English?” What he meant was, “I’m concerned about what you guys are planning to do.” I told him, “Why are you guys not speaking in English? You are speaking in French. I don’t understand what you’re planning to do.”

He was a dumbass soldier for coming up with this question, “Why are you not speaking in English?” These were simple steps in this process. There were a lot of trust issues that I mainly covered in the book. One saying or word by mistake, you would go through a six-hour counterintelligence or CIA investigation. You would go through a polygraph because you said a wrong word, and you didn’t know. In English courses, we learned the word source for the source. They told us that it meant a spy.

In our language, the meaning was source. Source also has the same meaning. Spy has different jurisdictions working in different ways, environments, or procedures. The sources are different. When it comes to our language, the meaning is the same as source. When we were translating and telling the soldiers that they had not seen any Taliban spy around here, they took us seriously for that word. They’re like, “How do you know the word spy?” We are like, “This means source.” We didn’t know the word source back then.

I can hear the frustration in your voice, and I can see how these situations can unfold. We, from the West, have a tendency to see things as black and white. When you are in an uncertain environment and you don’t understand what’s happening around you, you start making assumptions. It’s easy to see ghosts and bad intentions everywhere you look.

In a way, it’s not the soldier’s fault. It’s the leadership. I’m sure you can empathise with those soldiers on the ground who don’t know you, the Afghan culture, or anything about what’s happening. The enemy looks the same as the average farmer. Everything is a question mark. Everything is new. The terrain is vastly different to what most of them have seen in the first place. There’s a natural tendency to divide between us and them because if you are a local Afghan and you are part of them, you are a risk.

We’ve all heard the stories of the sleepers inside a base. They are turning on the friendly forces. This seed of doubt has been well planted. Taliban or any of these insurgents used these narratives and promulgated these stories. I can imagine how hard it will be for you who’s risking your life day in and day out to help the course but to not be trusted to even have your phone when you’re far away from your family and the people that you care about, especially in the Afghan context. It is such a social collective type of culture, where speaking to your family and your friends is essential. It’s part of being Afghan.

I mentioned it in the book to give people a picture of what the story was. I understood these people. I always made jokes. I always try to stay funny, joke around with people, and have a happy time. I understood them back then. I saw the frustration in some of the soldier’s faces when I talked to them. We spent six months together. We spent time out in the field together. We talked about each other. We share cultures. These soldiers knew me.

One time, we took a team photo. I did not have access to cameras or phones so I asked one of the team guys. Back then, I wasn’t using Facebook. I was like, “Can I have this photo for a memory?” He was like, “Let me talk to the commander. I’ll be back.” In the US, they call a team sergeant for the Special Operation. They had the warrant officers. He went and talked to the warrant officer, and he came back. I saw the sadness in his eyes. He was like, “I’m sorry. I’m honest with you. I don’t want to hide anything from you. He told me not to give you the picture.”

This all came down to the leadership, state team leadership, and HQ leadership. Do you know where this problem started? It’s from the Afghans that they recruited as cultural advisors in the West. Mainly, they were all in the US. These were the Afghans who were born in the US. They heard stories from their parents, but they had never been to Afghanistan. They’re American-Afghans, not Afghan-Americans. They were like, “Do not trust these looks.”

I always thought of confrontational conversations or arguments with Cat 2. I was like, “Why do you tell these Americans do not trust the locals, especially the terps? Why are you feeding them this?” The soldiers had this culture training before deployments. These Afghans would go to these military camps. I’m frankly honest with you. They’re all still my Afghans, but honesty, it’s a different thing. For them to keep this job and keep coming to this base, doing these rotations because the pay was a little bit better compared to other jobs, they were bluffing about some stuff. They were making up stories like, “These locals are like this.”

That’s why this coalition, when they come to Afghanistan, they had this mindset of like, “This is what I heard from the other Afghans in the US.” They’re looking at you with these doubts and suspicions. It always came from the Afghans who were born outside Afghanistan, and disinformation is fed into the soldiers. The soldier came in with disinformation. They called it green on blue or blue on green thing. These were the things that I understood the soldier. I was like, “I understood them.” That’s why I didn’t want to argue because I knew they were told stuff and following the orders.

It’s a tough one. I can see how the dynamic can be affected by this absence of trust. It’s difficult to build trust when one side trusts completely, and the other side is completely reserved and sees you as outside of the ingroup. If you’re talking about the photo from the Special Forces soldiers, I can empathise with their perspective. They all have protected identities. You know this as a Special Forces operator yourself, how much you have to be careful about protecting your identity, not because of yourself but because of your family. Those who might want to do you harm might not be able to target you, but they might be able to target your family.

There are all these security imperatives. Oftentimes, they’re blown out of proportion, but one act, one person dying, one family paying the price is enough to cause this to become such a huge sensitivity. It’s enforced across the entire force, which doesn’t help your situation, which is the tragic part. One of the things that you did talk about in there is that you, as a terp, didn’t get the same medical treatment as the soldiers you were supporting. Was that the case with all the militaries you worked with? Was that the status quo?

You have different injuries when you’re out in the field. Sometimes, it’s something we can recover in maybe a couple of days or a week. Some injuries like losing a leg or a hand and becoming disabled were some of the things that we always had problems with. First thing, we never had insurance. If you lose this, the insurance will help you survive out there and not be able to do this job. We are not going to be able to do any job out there, especially with the Afghanistan situation. You don’t have disability benefits. Nobody is going to pay for a disability. There are going to be a lot of problems.

Insurance was one of the problems because, from the other side, you were hearing stories like the Coalition Forces are paying these contracting companies insurance money to support these terps if they get killed or wounded in action. A good scenario that I’m going to give you has happened back in 2009 or 2010. It happened in Kandahar. An ODA team got ambushed. One of the soldiers stepped into an IED, and he had a terp behind them. The blast killed the terp and killed the soldier.

What they did was take the US soldier through their process. For the Afghan terp, this is what they did. The other terp that was in that operation was a good friend of mine, and we worked together for almost two years in different places. They took this Afghan dead body to KAF or Kandahar airfield, where the main HQ was. They called the company and told them, “There’s a dead terp here. He was killed in action. Come take the body and hand it over to his family for a proper burial.” The company comes in and takes the body.

Nobody was using real names back then. Everybody had a call sign for security reasons, and it was easier to pronounce the Western name. With this guy who’s dead, they put the picture and the information of the other terp who was alive and still back in the base. When they gave him the information, this was the information because his face was a little messed up. The company didn’t know you individually. They’re like, “That’s him. This is this guy.” They print out your information.

They take the body to Kabul. They call the family member of this other terp who’s still alive, but he does not have a phone because of restrictions to call the family and check on them. The family was called. When the family is called, this also happens. The guys from the company are hiding in the airport. Over the phone, they tell them like, “ The body is in this part of the airport. Take over the custody of the body.” They don’t even properly hand over your loved one who was killed in action.

This kid didn’t have any brothers. He had two young sisters. He wasn’t social like the other Afghans. A lot of families didn’t know him. They take the body home. The process started for the funeral and the burial. This is all culture. Father and mom, at the end, come in and say their goodbyes to their loved ones before they take him to the cemetery to bury the person.

The father comes in, and he sees the dead body. The dead are wrapped in the coffin. He opens his face and sees a different person. He goes, “This is not my son.” This is the frustrating part. Everybody was like, “Uncle, we understand it’s hard for you to believe that, but this was God’s world. This happened.” He goes, “He is not my son.” Everybody is quiet and in a panic situation. Everybody is quiet and like, “I’m sorry. It’s hard for him. He can’t comprehend or stop it.”

He blasted. He goes, “He is not my son.” They were like, “Let’s call the mom to see what’s going on.” The mom comes into the room. The mom looks at the dead body. She was like, “He’s not my son. I don’t know who that guy is.” At this time while this was happening, the team found out that the company had given the wrong information to the family. They took the wrong body to the wrong place.

Back then, the phones weren’t working in most of the places. They give the satellite phone to call your family member if something bad happens. He calls his family. When you call from satellite phones, the number comes in as 001. It’s an American number. The father looks at his phone. This is a story from the son’s side when he talked to his father. He was like, “Who is this at this time?” He calls him again. He picks up. He goes, “Who is this?” He was like, “Dad, this is me, John.” He goes like, “John who? My son?” He goes, “Yeah, Dad. This is me, John.” The father goes, “Where are you?” He goes, “I’m in Northern Afghanistan working in a civilian company.” He goes, “Who’s this dead body in my house. They told me my son was killed working?”

This terp did not even tell his family that he was going to work with the Coalition Forces. This is the side of the family that the son is still alive. Imagine the other side of the family. This body was going to oresgon problems. Oresgon is not a place where you want to bring a body that he was killed in action while working with Americans. They had to take the body to oresgon. There was so much mess. The Taliban weren’t letting the family bury this guy’s body in the cemetery because he was working with the coalition.

These things happen quite a lot. If terps lost their legs, the company never cared about it, even with this terp. When he went on leave to take care of his family, somehow, he got permission from his parents. He came back to base. They did not let him inside the terp’s base in the KAF because the company was worried that if this terp comes inside the base, he’s going to tell this story to other terps. Other terps will be scared. People will start resigning.

They kicked him out of the base. Luckily, an ODA guy that he knew saw him on the road. He goes, “What are you doing here?” He tells him the story. He takes him inside KAF, where Camp Brown, the Special Forces base, was. The story was resolved. He came and worked with us when I was working with the SEALs. This was just one story. There are many stories like this.

It is important for us to remember. When you get hit by an IED, you might get the same treatment as the American, Australian, or Canadian soldiers there on the spot. You’ll be treated medically in the first instance, probably much like every other soldier that was there. What the point you’re making is afterwards. If you were injured and lost an arm or leg, and this is where I want to come to your injuries through one of your blasts, if you had any concussions or brain injury, that’s it. You couldn’t work as an interpreter anymore, but you were thrown back onto the road. If you had lost the limb, you couldn’t work on the farm anymore. It became a lot harder.

This is another area of that particular employment that we rarely saw because we dealt with these civilian companies. When I say we, I mean the Coalition Forces. We dealt with these civilian companies who were employing interpreters. Oftentimes, we’re making ridiculous profits but paying the terps relatively low wages, maybe high compared to the average Afghan, but certainly low in the Western context, but the profits they were making were incredible amounts.

There is no insurance. Once the terp has been gone through the meat grinder, they’re out on the other side. That’s someone else’s problem. I wanted to capture that point again because that’s not something we, as the ultimate users of that particular interpretation service, don’t necessarily always think about the second and third effects of the work that you guys did at that time.

These were the things that, as soon as you get discharged from the coalition hospital, eventually they have to discharge, but in reality, you have to come back for future treatment and physical therapy. It depends on your injury, but that’s it. You only get that one chance when they take you off the field. They take you to the hospital. The soldier is getting wounded in action or, unfortunately, getting killed in action.

Back then, it was almost every week or every few days. They didn’t have a big space for the people to keep them. Once you lose that access to the hospital, you have to pay from your own pocket. The medical system wasn’t good in Kabul City. If you lose a leg, you get those Russian legs. They are not useful at all. That was a little different undercover company. It’s all the company. Nobody was following up.

All this conversation is always mentioned. Even in my book, it goes to the leadership. Not the soldiers or the people working in. It goes to the generals and top commanders that they are involved in these types of contracts. We always complained. We complained to the colonels and generals who were coming. Even our captains and team commanders were complaining. They were like, “This is how they treat our terps. This is how much they pay our terps. This is how much we are paying the company.” However, it was never resolved.

I have my own memories of some of those discussions. You were blown up. I want to touch on that as a terp because, from there, your career shifted. Tell us the story first of how you were blown up. I want to ask you some follow-up questions on that.

When I was working with the Canadians, we were going on a supply mission. We supplied this small base. It was close to Panjwayi, which is a district in Kandahar. It was a bad war zone frontline. On the way back, you are driving, and we had this IED. It was my first experience. I never had this experience. I have never seen the videos that if you get blown up, what the feelings are. We got blown up. I’m in shock situation because I’m a young, regular civilian kid who never had this training. If this situation happens, what should you do? What should you not do?

We had these trucks. The Canadians had it. They called them LAV. The Americans called it Stryker. They had this back door ramp. We drive a little further from the explosion site. The ramp went down. We had two EOD guys. They are young kids. I still remember their faces. I always told one of them, “You’re handsome. I don’t know how many girls you can get with that face.” May his soul rest in peace. He walked off with his body, and the captain also got off. I was on the truck that the captain was in.

These three people got off, and the EOD went to see what happened. Everybody was fine. We had this shock. I banged my head. It was a shocking moment. There is no blood, no injuries, nothing obvious. I am watching these two EOD guys working on that ditch. The ditch was created by the explosion or by the blast, and it goes, “Boom.” The secondary goes off. This was a scene that always came flashing right in front of my eyes, which it did at this moment.

One of the EOD guys, the handsome kid, his head was blown off his body. For you, as a young kid, as a civilian, you have never seen this stuff. Seeing somebody die in that situation gives you PTSD or pretty bad shock. I’ve seen bad things, but not at that level. The captain’s jaw was hanging. His face was damaged all over. The two EODs instantly were KIA. I was quiet for almost 40 minutes. I did not say a word. I could not say a word. Nothing was coming into my head. That’s like you are dying. They say, “These memories come in front of you.” This was the situation. I was like, “Are we going to die?” Medevac was called in. They took the bodies, and we started driving back to base.

You’ve been to Afghanistan. There are a lot of road bumps in the places. We had this ditch or a road bump that the truck hit. The first thing I did was jump and cover my head. I thought we had another IED. The PTSD started right away for me. I had this feeling of fear. I never had that fear before I was in operations, but I never had that fear of driving on a paved route. The fear started. If the truck would break hard, I would jump. I was like, “Is there any another explosion?”

We got back to base. Things were smooth. They told me, “Are you fine?” I was like, “Yes, I’m fine.” I wasn’t medically checked up. Back then, they could have sent me to KAF to talk to some professional doctors because, on a small basis, you get medics, not doctors. I have no injuries. Things went along. I had those memories a lot when we were going out in the vehicles. I would always rather walk instead of driving because I was terrified of the fear of getting blown up.

A few months later, we were playing cards with these soldiers. I don’t know what card game it was. I’m playing and I blackout. A brain seizure happens. I did not know what it was. I did not feel it. I could not understand it. I didn’t know anything. It wasn’t a dream. It was nothing. It’s like your body and soul are gone. You don’t feel anything. Even if I was getting slapped in my face, I couldn’t feel it at that moment.

I would get that mean, scary face when the seizure popped into my head. I had never seen myself, but a soldier told me he get a mean face. The soldier was like, “Are you okay?” I’m quiet. I don’t hear and see. He shook me, and I was like, “What’s up? What’s going on?” He was like, “Are you okay? You look mean. You don’t look as usual.”

I did not know this thing happened to me. I do have a brain seizure now. PTSD caused me to have this brain seizure. My brain is going to be stopping from time to time, especially under stress, maybe ten times. It happened a lot. In two hours, I would get fifteen brain seizures. It was bad. Sometimes, it would stress me so much. That’s why I always wanted to laugh and be funny. I don’t want to put my stress into my head. This stayed with me.

This is the most messed up part for me. I had to keep it a secret because I was worried. If I told anybody, I know I might lose my job. If I tell anybody this happened, they might be like, “He’s not in a good medical condition. Let’s send him home.” I had to keep it a secret. During the firefights, it never happened. It always happened when I was quiet and thinking. When it was happening, the guys were like, “Are you okay?” I was like, “Yeah, I think I saw something scary in that corner.” I was making up cover stories. It was bad. It happened because of my job, but I had to keep it a secret not to lose the job.

You said you continue for a while. Do you still get these seizures now? Is that still something that you experience?

It was with me for a long time. It’s still with me, but in Afghanistan, I couldn’t get the proper medication for it. In 2016 or 2017, they took me to a hospital inside the Kaya. They called it the French Hospital. They had proper doctors in the city. Back then, I was working with the SASR. I’m not working, but I’m operating alongside as an Afghan SF. They saw me and they’re like, “Let’s get you checked.” They got me an appointment and we went in there.

This is the funny part. The French doctor, I don’t blame her in a way. She’s like, “What’s your problem? What happens to you? What’s your illness?” I said, like, “This happens to me.” I couldn’t explain it. I didn’t know it was called a brain seizure. I was like, “I blackout and I don’t feel anything.” I explained this whole seizure to her. She goes, “When does it happen?” I’m like, “It’s when I’m sad, stressed, or angry.” She goes, “Try to stay happy.” This is why I said, “Does it look like I’m not trying to be happy? I’m trying to be happy. Stress is part of the life. It happens.”

VOW 97 | War In Afghanistan
War In Afghanistan: “Does it look like I’m not trying to be happy? I’m trying to be happy. Stress is part of the life. It happens.”

 

She apologised right away. She goes, “I’m sorry. You don’t have that level of doctors here that can help you with this.” I don’t know. Maybe they had. When I came to US, I found that it’s a common thing. Neurologist’s expertise field is on this thing. They had a lot of soldiers in the same situation. She thought it was regular PTSD, flashbacks, and nothing serious. I could not drive. I did not ever drive, but I got my license in December 2022. I bought my first-ever car. I drove without a license in the field during the operations in emergency situations. My crew were scared while I was driving. They were always scared. They’re like, “If he goes blackout, he will hit a wall.”

Before that, I went to some doctors here. The neurology doctor that I go to told me, “It’s not a big one. It’s something that if you had taken care of it back then, maybe it would’ve been resolved in a two years by taking medication. Since it’s a long time passed on it, that might stick over you. We have to take these medications to tell you’re alive.” I’m taking these medications. Thanks, God, I have not had a brain seizure for a while. Back then, in one day, at least 2 to 3 seizures would’ve happened. Sometimes, with the stress, there are more seizures, but so far, it’s good.

The reason I wanted to find out that question is because of what comes after. You joined the Afghan commandos. After some time, and I’ll invite you to tell us about this, you hear about Task Force 241, a secret unit that you hadn’t heard of before. Can you talk us through that firstly, how you became an Afghan commando in the wave tops and landed on Task Force 241, and what that unit was about?

Afghan SF teams were new at that time. There were only six Afghan commando battalions in the whole country. It was the top-tier Afghan unit. I wanted to get out of this terp job, not for any other reason, but that trust issue thing was one of the main cases that I wanted to get out of it. You cannot change the rules. These soldiers have to follow the rules. For me, the better way is to change paths. This is what I did. I found out through information and links through all the team guys from the US side who were working as advisors with the Afghan Special Forces.

I did a law course and long story training. This happened, and I was part of the Afghan SF. I was doing that for almost a few years. This is the thing about the Task Force 241. There is no special forces unit in Afghanistan, whether Afghan or non-Afghan that I did not know about. It starts from the CAG, DEVGRU, regular SEALs, ODS, and SASR. First Commando or Second Commando Battalion is the Australian. I work with them.

Some of them might be reading.

They call it one the One Commando or Two Commando. The first one was the reserve, and the second one was the active. I knew the basis and where they were operating. I worked with the Norwegian FSK, MJK, British SAS and SBS. The thing about Task Force 241 came to my head through an old good friend of mine. I was like, “Who is Task Force 241? We’re the best out here.” We are in all that thing be the competition between the branches.

I was like, “Who is this Task Force 241? I never heard of them.” My friend goes, “That’s the thing about them. You never heard of it. That’s how it made.” Back then, the phrase, quiet professional, was a common thing among the US. You’re the quiet professional. Curiosity started popping in my head. I was like, “Let’s find out more about this Task Force 241.” I went up, and there were a lot of details. I joined Task Force 241.

Joining Task Force 241 was a different experience in my whole career. I have never been to a unit this secret. I have been to Task Force 241, not inside the unit, but 100 or 200 meters away into another base. I even looked at their base. I thought that was a regular Army base. It was a massive base, but it was covered. I was like, “That’s part of the ANA or Afghan National Army.” This question never came to my head. There’s this Tier 1 unit here. I joined the process and I went through the training.

As you write in the book, you were invited. Somebody had to recommend you. There were no flyers or advertising. You were asked to come somewhere and attend. It was all done secretly.

When I started asking other friends who were in the service, nobody knew about Task Force 241. They’re like, “Who is Task Force 241?” Everybody had this question, “Who these guys are?” Some of the guys that I mentioned in the story told me, “It’s probably a made-up thing. Don’t bother yourself.” When the selection process started, as I mentioned in the book, I was picked up in a secret spot. That never happened to me before. Cars are all tinted. You can’t see the outside. I was taken to this base. It was a massive base. We would go inside to do these interviews and ask questions.

Eventually, I became part of the Task Force 241. One of the good things about the 241 is it wasn’t for everyone. In other units, like the African Special Forces, if you knew some generals or a strong politician, maybe they could influence your leadership to get you through the selection courses, but 241 was a different thing. You couldn’t even come to the gate if you weren’t invited or told to come to the gate.

If you would come to the gate, there was no soldier standing outside the gate. The gates were all shot. There was a tower with tinted windows. A soldier would come with a mask on the face. He will tell you, “What do you need?” If you give them the wrong information, they tell you to leave the area. If you don’t, you will see a QRF team come in, put a bag in your head and take you inside the base for an interrogation for a few days.

It was a serious thing being part of 241. The salary was different. Back then, I was getting paid more than an Afghan Four-star general. That was a serious thing. I was always fond of being out there kicking doors and doing this stuff, but 241 was different. They had low-risk operations, high-risk operations, covered operations, working outside the border, working inside the country, all over the place.

The maximum money I ever paid to a source before that was 100,000 Afghani, which was $1,500. For Afghanistan, it was a lot of money. I have seen people get paid, and not regular people, but sources around $500,000. This money didn’t come from the Afghan government. That’s obvious. The Afghanistan government couldn’t do it. There’s a stronger power behind this Task Force.

Whatever you do, nobody can question you. Nobody from Task Force 241 was ever going to be prosecuted or taken to court. When I was with the Afghan Army Special Forces, it was different. The rules of engagement were different. One small mistake could cost your career, and they would put you in prison. With 241, it was a different experience.

I want to talk about that. I want to double-click on some of those points because you’ve brought up a number of interesting points that are interesting to me. Firstly, I want to talk about the $500,000 payment. What source is that would get $500,000 in cash? What information would you expect from a source like that?

That target is gone. I’m not going to mention the target’s name, but he was famous. He was operating close to Kabul City. There was a $5 million bounty on his head. Here’s the thing with this source. This source was one of the craziest source I have ever seen. He had four passports. When I was sitting and talking to him, we were talking about this operation. He told me to my face, “You are among my targets.” I said, “What do you mean?” I was ready to pop off to get rid of him. He goes, “There are people paying money for a member of your Task Force to be assassinated. They pay a lot of money for members of your Task Force people.”

I wanted to make sure my name is on the list. I have to do something about it. We knew Russians, Iranians, ISIS, and Chinese were going after our Task Force. Keeping it secretive helped everybody. Their identity is kept secret. This guy, at that level, had four passports. He had Afghan, Arabic, Emirati, and Jordan or Lebanon nationality. I don’t exactly remember, but he had a passport for that country. He had an Iranian passport, which was hard to get. He had a Pakistani passport. This guy could fly all over these places, not getting caught, which nobody could do. If he was working for us, he was working for another agency. He is a Wagner guy who pays him the better money. He gives the better information.

What was the purpose of Task Force 241? Why did it exist? Who commanded Task Force 241?

When I started working there, it was established back in 2001. That was a small unit. We were mainly under the command of the Afghanistan Intelligence Director. They called it NDS. In theory, we were part of the NDS, but in reality, we were part of something way bigger than the NDS. This unit was created at the beginning for small covered operations, whether outside Afghanistan, like in Pakistan, especially in Quetta, where the gathering and leadership of Taliban were out there.

Their purpose was to be a counter-terrorism unit. From the beginning, they had those top-tier US units advising this Task Force. The money was flowing nonstop, like money for sources and food. Everything was paid in the unit. We had almost zero attachment to the government or almost zero responsibility to answer anything to the government. We’re getting paid inside the Task Force. Our supply comes directly from the US. The money to provide foods is supplied by the US.

Every week, the budget for Task Force 241 was almost 4 million Afghani. It’s a lot of money in the US. There was a lot of money for food allocation for a unit only in Kabul City. The job was to go after terrorists, high-value targets, not low-level targets in the villages, but high-value commanders, district governors, provincial governors, shadow governors, commanders, district commanders, judges, and all the financial guys for the terrorist network. All was after these high-value targets.

That was the main purpose of Task Force 241. When I said we weren’t answering to the NDS itself, this is something that I found out later when I became among the leadership. We were getting direct orders from the Afghan President and doing operations based on what he told us to do. Because of his political problems, he could not publicly give these orders to all the units.

He had problems. There were human rights problems and opposition problems. There were influences from Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and China. He wanted to keep it directly under his command so that nobody else could influence the unit. The unit commanders were four people from 2001 until 2021. They live outside that. The position of the commander was general. When you become a general, you’re a political person in the country. You can be easily mentioned and targeted.

VOW 97 | War In Afghanistan
War In Afghanistan: When you become a general, you’re a political person in the country. You can be easily mentioned and targeted.

 

The commander was an Afghan general. He had these squadrons and a combat quadrant that was always going on highways with 120 vehicles out doing operations. He had a low-vis. Low-vis was in the cover city. It was 20 to 25 vehicles. You go after suicide bombers and high-value targets that come into Kabul City. Nobody knew about it.

We had this system that’s called GSM. I never had this GSM experience with any other coalition unit that this was provided. Everything, supply-wise, was provided to us by the US, not the Afghan government. The Afghan government didn’t have the capacity and power to do that. We could track the enemy or our targets through their phones.

The move of operation in Kabul City was like this. You lock the target through their phone number. There was this big system that when the target came into Kabul City, it popped up in the system that this phone was on. This phone is on either WhatsApp. We had the cybersecurity section that was working on social media platforms like WhatsApp, WeChat, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and all communication stuff.

The GSM team was responsible for locking the number and going after the target. Without doing any combat action thing, we would capture the target inside Kabul City. Low-vis means low visibility for your audience. We were dressed up like regular civilians in the city. We could easily blend in with people. Our vehicles were different. You had sedans, SUVs, taxis, or minibuses. When this convoy was going in the city, there were around 800 meters of difference between each vehicle. Sometimes more than that. You wouldn’t notice it’s a convoy. You think this is one car here. There’s another car. The windows were tinted so you could not see inside the vehicles.

Overall, Task Force 241 was doing a great job when I saw it. I’m not saying this because to discredit any other unit. Everybody was doing the best they could, but to sum it up, when I was with the African Special Forces, even when we were working with the US Green Berets, like the ODA, we couldn’t get air support all the time.

With Task Force 241, the moment we stepped out of the wire, we had an ISR and AC-130 above our head the whole operation. If the AC-130 wanted to go for a resupply, which is rare for the AC-130 to run out of fuel in one night or ten hours of operation, we had two Apache coming in, giving us support. If the Apache weren’t available, we had the A-10s Warthogs would come from the background to give us support.

 

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