Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Weapons cache stuns Canucks. (Hat tip: LGF)
Canadian soldiers attached to the Afghan National Army (ANA) have stirred up a hornet's nest in Kabul by being too efficient.Wretchard covered this last week.
They've "discovered" a huge Soviet ammunition dump a few kilometres from Camp Julien with the potential of obliterating the camp, as well as most of Kabul.
That may sound like hyperbole, but I was with the Canadians who discovered the cache -- soldiers (mostly Princess Pats and combat engineers) who are training and working with the ANA and consider themselves to have the best job in the army.
In the dusty foothills, 10 minutes drive from Camp Julien (population 2,000), 82 buried bunkers, each 20-metres long, housed thousands of Soviet FROG missiles (one step down from Scud missiles), and every variety of rocket and mortar shells.
Some of the FROG missiles were still in their original cases. Some heaped in the open. Some stacked to the roof in the unlocked, open bunkers. Much of the ordnance had warheads removed to collect the explosive for homemade bombs -- or for blasting at a nearby quarry.
"Unbelievable!" was Maj. Brian Hynes' reaction when he saw them. "We (troops of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)) have been here some two years, and no one knew this was at our back door. Unbelievable."
In truth, the Soviet bunkers were well-known in an area supposedly under control of the Afghan Militia Force (AMF) -- not to be confused with the ANA. The AMF is paid by various warlords and so their loyalty is to them.
The hero of the discovery was combat engineer Sgt. Mike Mazerolle of New Brunswick, who has run the observation post for eight days with ANA soldiers. They watch the valleys leading to Kabul.
He saw people to his rear so he investigated and found the 82 bunkers "loaded with ordnance, and here I am sleeping next to a FROG!"
He informed his boss, Maj. Hynes and -- eureka -- the cache was discovered.
Many of the rockets, missiles and shells had been pried open for the explosives, which are used peacefully to blast mountain rock into gravel, and by those who want to make bombs that disrupt Kabul.
"These bunkers have been known for two years but no one bothered to check them," said Maj. Hynes.
"To me, that's incompetence."
"To me it's criminal," said Sgt. Power, who works with the major in training the ANA.
I've never seen anything like it. The feeling is that AMF soldiers were selling access to the dump or permitting friends to enter it.
Littered with burned out Soviet military vehicles, the whole area is a junk pile strewn with every sort of live ammunition, fuses, unexploded shells, rockets, etc., all supposedly under the authority of Belgian troops (at the moment), who ignored it.
In the midst of examining the bunkers and taking photos, a Swedish UN guy, a French major and a German colonel arrived to make a fuss and order the Canadians to leave. The French major insisted his government had a deal with the Afghan government for the area, and ISAF had no business being there.
There is probably some perfectly plausible reason why a Swedish UN functionary, a French major and a German Colonel -- one civilian, two officers, three nationalities, none of who would be in the same chain of command -- should show up at precisely the moment a Canadian officer discovers a large number of surface to surface missiles lying around unguarded, but it escapes me.