Security Contractors War Zone Blogging
Meet the New Frontline Bloggers: Security Contractors
The frontline soldier blogs have largely come and gone — victims of the military’s confusing, often contradictory, approach to social media. But you can still get unfiltered reports, straight from Afghanistan’s warzones. Private security contractors are now writing the new must-read online diaries from the battlefield. And they’re as raw and brutally honest as anything written by a blogger in uniform.
While support for the troops has been near-universal in our current words, contractors have been demonized as lawless, bloodthirsty guns-for-hire. (It’s a trap I’ve been accused, not without reason, of falling into myself.) These blogs show how shallow that stereotype can be.
“Today was a bad one – so many things happening all at once and I’m feeling the pressure. I feel a bit like a spinning top and am experiencing that classic loneliness of command in that I have no-one I can vent to or confide in. I have to stay cool and in control, keep a smile on my face and boost the rest of the lads when they are feeling the pressure. It’s bloody hard to do some days,” writes the pseudonymous “Centurion” on his blog, Kandahar Diary.
A BBIED (suicide bomber) walked into the middle of one of my convoys today, stuck in traffic on Route 1, and detonated. One guard KIA, 4 WIA (seriously). Not long after, a truck on another convoy tripped an IED – damaged vehicle, nil injuries – and my guard force travelling [sic] from here to Ghazni were contacted by fairly heavy small arms fire – thankfully, no injuries….
As this was all happening I was scratching my head on a budget reconciliation. The whole exercise seemed kind of pointless to me given what was happening on the ground, and I found myself contemplating the budget line item simply titled ‘Coffins’.
…I’m thinking a lot about home and L and the kids. I miss them terribly and worry how they are coping without me.
The best known of these contractor-bloggers is Tim Lynch (pictured). He owns the small security consultancy Free Range International, currently operating in Afghanistan. As an independent operator, he’s able to publicly critique the war effort in ways that most bloggers in uniform can’t. “Our fundamental problem in Afghanistan is that we are fighting on behalf of a central government which is not considered legitimate by a vast majority of the population,” Lynch wrote in a recent post.
And to make matters worse, he added, the majority of the American-led International Security Assistance Force are holed up in concrete-reinforced Forward Operating Bases, where picayune rules about dress code, chow hall passes, and speed limits seem to occupy more minds than the fighting outside.
Napoleon said that in war “the moral is to the physical as three is to one.” This is the consequence of fronting a government which abuses the population and international guests alike. If the ISAF soldiers were methodically clearing areas of Taliban and then assisting in the establishment of law and order, governance and services which serve the people, and that the people appreciate, we would be achieving moral ascendancy. But that is impossible because the vast majority of troops are based on FOB’s and never leave them, and there is no legitimate government with which to entrust areas we have cleared. So now that we are unable to do what is important, the unimportant has become important and the mark of military virtue is the enforcement of petty policies like the mandatory wearing of eye protection at all times while outdoors.
The blogging contractors represent only a small minority of the tens of thousands of hands-for-hire employed by western militaries in Afghanistan. Most of the security firms have strict prohibitions against discussing their business in public. But the ones that do talk can be just as harsh as Lynch. Take “Paladin Six,” who writes at Knights of Afghanistan.
“Basically, everyone here, from the lowliest shopkeeper to the highest government official is in a mad scramble to grab every Afghani, rupee, ruble and dollar that they can get their hands on before ISAF finally bails out and this place returns to the Dark Ages from whence it came,” he writes. “Yeah, I’m looking at you [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai. And your scumbag brother too.”
These writers don’t just bitch about the military and their partners in Kabul. Lynch, in particular, is an equal-opportunity basher of the boneheaded. “There is a group of rogue contractors working the border from Spin Boldak to Kandahar who are apparently shooting small arms indiscriminately. They are an all Afghan crew, off duty ANP [Afghan National Police] soldiers are working with them, and they are on an ISAF contract. It is up to ISAF to put a stop to this and to do so immediately. But they can’t because nobody seems to know who these clowns work for,” he writes in one post.
In another, he takes aim at the local militants.
Yesterday morning started with an event so senseless and evil that it is hard to describe. An American army patrol was moving through downtown Jalalabad when the villains detonated a bicycle mounted IED. This IED had no chance of even denting the paint job on an MRAP [armored vehicle], but it did throw out a bunch of shrapnel, which killed one of the best diesel engine mechanics in town and wounded another 15 civilians – mostly children.
I drove up behind the convoy a few minutes after the attack. They had stopped, dismounted and were treating the injured… Once I saw where the bomb had gone off I was stunned – the traffic circle is full of children at that time of the day.
“The good people of Jalalabad were pissed off about the bike bomb, but not enough to stage a protest and shout “death to the Taliban,’” Lynch continued in another post. “That is the critical dynamic with which to judge how the people feel about us and the assorted groupings of bad guys who cause them much more grief and hardship, in their reaction to loss of life through stupidity. When people react with spontaneous outrage to Taliban killings, then we will know the tipping point is well behind us.”
There was a time when U.S. troops had the market all-but-cornered the market on these first-person anecdotes and war-hardened analyses. But like so much else, that effort has now been outsourced to contractors. Original Story Here