Almost three years ago, 27 February 2007 to be exact, I lost an acquaintance in a suicide bomb blast at Bagram airbase where I served my Afghanistan deployment. I had just spoken with her hours earlier. She was riddled with nails and other debris from a "dirty bomb" at the front gate. (VP Cheney was visiting the base at that time, and the enemy wanted to send a message). The blast killed her and 22 others. I was sound asleep not too far away. It was 10 in the morning, and as an intel guy, I'd work graveyard, basically 8pm to 8am, gathering intelligence reports for a meeting with the commander in the morning and other duties too. So I was sleeping during the blast, but the alarms and the jets taking off woke me up. I didn't know what happened until I reported for duty in the early evening. This woman, a civilian contractor and former military person, was celebrating her birthday, February 26, the night before at the office with friends. She was one of those types who was a joy to be around, full of life. I wasn't there but talked to her afterwards as I bumped into her by chance. She wasn't a close friend, but I think about that, and her, at this time of year.
It turns out that this woman didn't live far from my hometown in California. In fact she went to my father-in-law's church. Who knew? My father-in-law, a retired truck driver and now a pastor, performed the funeral service. The battalion commander was present and they talked about me.
Here's what I wrote at the time, in an open source intelligence report:
Attack on Bagram Air Base: It appears that the Taliban and their allies are pre-empting the long-awaited spring offensive by moderately stepping up insurgency tactics, most recently a successful “suicide” bombing at Bagram Air Base. A Taliban spokesman claims the bomber intended to assassinate U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. This was unlikely their intention. Moreover, the timing of the bombing was not coincidental. Intelligence had already suggested an imminent attack in the Bagram area, but the arrival of VP Cheney provided an opportunity. They aimed to make a symbolic gesture and, secondarily, test base security. The inimitable law of propaganda tells us that the Taliban do not have the suicide bombers in the numbers that they claim. Nonetheless, they clearly have a pool of explosive-strapped martyrs at the ready, as this past year has shown. Based on open source information and probable intelligence coming from inside the base, the enemy had sufficient, if not ample, time to plan an attack and dispatch a bomber during the Vice President’s sojourn at Bagram.
The enemy will likely attack the base again within the next two months. They will recalibrate their efforts based upon adjustments made by Force Protection and perhaps attack the Entry Control Point again. They could also exploit what they perceive as vulnerabilities along the perimeter of the base and launch small-scale “suicide missions.” While high value targets and massive casualties are always optimal, they would be willing to kill less numbers to instill fear in the area and weaken the will of the American public at home. They probably see Bagram as a tough nut to crack, but its significance with respect to logistics and troop deployment means that they would be tactically foolhardy not to try and disrupt operations through suicide bombings or short range mortar attacks.
In the photo above a policeman helps a relative of at least one of the 23 who were killed in the suicide bombing.