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Defending Highway 1 in Afghanistan

Updated on February 17, 2014
The 1300 mile Ring Road
The 1300 mile Ring Road
A "black widow" is being interrogated.
A "black widow" is being interrogated.
An IED removal
An IED removal
A roadside bomber
A roadside bomber
More Taliban
More Taliban
Daily events
Daily events

Highway 1 in Afghanistan is a 1300 mile ring road that is vital for the country's communication and travel. The two lane road was once a pothole and semi-paved until the Americans arrived and spent billions in repaving and repairing it, bringing up to a American standards. The question is can the Afghan army maintain and keep it in their control to allow commerce to continue between the cities and villages.

The Taliban and just your normal bandits are like the Mexican cartels, charging tolls to use "their" portion of the road, have stops to confiscate property they want and in the areas they don't control love to place roadside bombs. Like the Americans, before the pulled out from patrolling, much of the road now is patrolled and policed by a few battalions from the Afghan 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps. These men travel along the road during the day making sure the road does stay open and free. The army battles the Taliban daily upon stumbling onto their roadblocks or car bombs explode. On a daily basis, bomb removal experts dismantle 18-20 IED's. Sometimes, the bombs get the best of the Afghan soldiers, other times, they retaliate and fire 107mm rockets and automatic fire. Sometimes, they catch the bomber. When this occurs, the commander has a dilemma- kill the bomber on the spot or arrest them and haul their ass to Kabul for detention. The problem with this is that more often than not, like many crimes considered to be at a misdemeanor level elsewhere in the world, where the perpetrator is arrested and let go, this is exactly what happens in Kabul. Would-be terrorists or real ones who get caught are simply released to be arrested again a later day. So, the commander in the field is the judge, the God. He can elect to execute him or arrest.

During the course of a day, the Afghan army acts like a policeman, resolving traffic disputes, traffic issues, taking on sniper fire. The thing they do not do is go after speed violations, but those are few. They give chase to snipers that try the "hit and run" tactic.

There are other Afghan battalions in charge of other sections of the 1300 mile road, patrolling and doing the same things but the real question is can the road be safe. The answer is obvious. Just as a crime can occur immediately after the police leave a scene, so can more IED's and toll road blocks by the Taliban occur an hour after the Afghan army patrol moves on down the road. Even the Americans could not keep the road clear.

This is not a fair test for the Afghan army, doomed to failure.

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