BAGRAM, AFGHANISTAN — The American grenade that nearly killed 10-year-old Shah Mohammed landed on an unmarked firing range in a scrubby desert, in the shadow of the largest U.S. military base in the country.
Like hundreds of other U.S. explosives fired here, it was supposed to detonate on impact. Like hundreds of others, it didn’t
On the periphery of Bagram Airfield, farmers, scrap-metal collectors and sheep herders have been crippled, blinded and burned by U.S. military ammunition on an unfenced and poorly marked training ground. Called the East River Range, the training ground is blanketed with unexploded U.S. ordnance that was dropped from helicopters and fired from vehicles as part of battlefield rehearsals.
There is no barrier between nearby villages and the range — it is unclear where the dusty townships end and the vast military training area begins. The only apparent warnings are scrawled in faded, barely decipherable English lettering on concrete blocks: “Small Arms Range” and “Weapon Range.” There is no translation in Dari or Pashto, the two most common languages in Afghanistan.
Expanding outward from the Afghan capital and sweeping north past the foreign military base at Bagram, Afghanistan’s Shomali Plain, a bustling and bountiful agricultural hub with one of the safest roads in the country, seems, at first glance, like a peaceful oasis in an otherwise war-ravaged country.
Once one of the most heavily mined areas in the world – the result of more than three decades of continual conflict – the Shomali Plain is now alive with economic activity. The region’s once-destroyed orchards of grapes, figs, peaches and cherries are blooming again, and new roadside businesses have sprung up to serve the heavy flow of traffic to and from the military base, just 40 kilometers north of Kabul. The paved highway that cuts north through the valley from the capital is crowded with commuters, traders, and fuel-tankers bound for the base.
Yet as fighting between American and NATO forces and anti-government insurgents intensifies throughout the country, the relative calm in Shomali, the heartland of Parwan Province, may prove to be a short-lived aberration.
Taliban-led insurgents are making inroads into Shomali from nearly all sides, according to Afghan and American officials, and locals say they fear the foreign troop presence at Bagram – the largest military base in the country – provides a false sense of both security and economy.
Two U.S. military officials deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, two Department of Defense (DOD) contractors and a contracting company were charged late yesterday for their roles in an alleged bribery and money laundering scheme related to the award of a DOD trucking services contract in Afghanistan, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni for the District of Hawaii.
According to an indictment returned on June 8, 2010, in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, retired U.S. Army Sgt. Charles O. Finch, 44, of Hawaii, accepted a $50,000 bribe in the fall of 2004 to influence the award of a DOD trucking contract to AZ Corporation, an Afghan contracting company. The indictment alleges that the owners of AZ Corporation, brothers Assad John Ramin, 40, and Tahir Ramin, 32, both of Pennsylvania, offered the bribe to Finch. According to the indictment, the bribe was paid through the business account of Finch’s roommate at Bagram, 1st Sgt. Gary M. Canteen, 41, of Delaware, to disguise the nature and source of the payment. Canteen allegedly passed on a portion of the funds to Finch. According to the indictment, shortly after the money was delivered to Canteen, Finch recommended the award of the contract to AZ Corporation, which was awarded the contract.
Finch was arrested this morning in Hawaii and is expected to make his initial appearance later today in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.
Finch, John Ramin, Tahir Ramin and AZ Corporation are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, one count of bribery, one count of conspiracy to launder money and one count of money laundering. Canteen is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, one count of conspiracy to launder money and one count of money laundering. Read the full story here
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Insurgents, some of them wearing suicide vests, attacked one of the U.S. military’s largest and most populous bases Wednesday morning, the second ambitious attack in as many days and a sign that the Taliban movement may have launched its yearly spring offensive`
There are few installations as well fortified as Bagram Airfield, but this did not stop insurgents from staging a pre-dawn assault with gunfire, rockets and grenades. The fighting, which broke out at more than one location outside Bagram, killed one U.S. contractor, injured nine U.S. service members and inflicted minor damage on one of the base buildings, military officials said.
The guard force on the base battled insurgents intensely for about two hours, until about 6 a.m., but sporadic gunfire could be heard for several more hours. Ten of the attackers, including four wearing explosives, were killed in the assault, officials said.
“Though it is clear the enemy intended a spectacular event” at Bagram Airfield, “they were unable to breach the perimeter and unable to detonate their suicide vests,” U.S. Army Lt. Col. Clarence Count Jr., a military spokesman, said in a statement.
The assault on Bagram came a day after a suicide car bomber targeted a U.S. convoy in Kabul, killing five U.S. troops, a Canadian and at least 12 Afghan civilians. That was the deadliest day of the year for American troops, as two more died in separate bombings.
he Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. Earlier this month, the Taliban announced its own planned offensive to counter the NATO efforts that are focused on the southern city of Kandahar. The radical Islamist group called its operation “al-Fatah,” or Victory. Fighting in Afghanistan usually tapers off in the cold winter months and then accelerates in the spring and summer.
The choice of Bagram as a target surprised many people. Insurgents tend to avoid confronting American military might head-on, particularly such a large installation.
Insurgents have fired rockets at the base in the past, but the assault was “not something that commonly happens quite in this way,” said Master Sgt. Tom Clementson, a U.S. military spokesman.
“That’s a dog chasing a school bus. You don’t attack Bagram with 20 guys,” one U.S. official said. “Either they’re crazy or brave or both.” Original Story here
WASHINGTON — The patient arrived in critical condition last month at the Bagram Air Base hospital in Afghanistan, with what American military doctors at first thought was an all too typical war injury: metal shrapnel from an improvised bomb lodged in his head.
A CAT scan showed that the piece of metal, about two and a half inches long, was probably a cartridge fragment — again, not at all unusual.
But as the patient, an Afghan soldier in his 20s, was prepared for surgery, the chief radiologist, Lt. Col. Anthony Terreri, took a closer look at the CAT scan. Stunned, he realized the object was an explosive round, primed to go off.
“It looks like we have a problem here,” he announced.
To say the least.
In a joint telephone interview from Bagram on Friday, members of the Air Force medical team recounted the hours that followed Dr. Terreri’s discovery.
Maj. John Bini, a trauma surgeon and a veteran of homemade-bomb injuries from two previous deployments in Iraq, immediately evacuated the operating room. Only the anesthesiologist, Maj. Jeffrey Rengel, who put on body armor, was left to watch the patient.
The surrounding hallways were secured, and a bomb disposal team was urgently summoned. All electrical monitoring devices in the operating room were turned off for fear of detonating the round. To keep track of the patient’s vital signs, doctors turned to manual blood pressure cuffs and a battery-operated heart monitor, and they began counting drips per minute to estimate the amount of the intravenous anesthesia they were giving the patient. “It was taking anesthesia back about 30 years,” Dr. Rengel said.
Office: Army Contracting Agency, ARCENT
Location: JLC Forward Contracting Office-Bagram