Entering the FOB

Mar 18, 2011   //   by LouBu   //   culture, military  //  6 Comments

If you search for Jalal­abad on googlemaps only one road shows up, Hwy A01, the Asian High­way, a.k.a. Kabul-Jalalabad-Torkham High­way.  That road is the main drag of Jalal­abad City, sport­ing twoish lanes of traf­fic flow­ing each direc­tion, packed with tuk­tuks, motor­bikes, don­keys, track­tors and toy­ota corol­las, all jam­ming for space.

The main US army base in our region is FOB Fenty, located on the east­ern edge of Jalal­abad City. It’s a well-established base that’s been around for many years.  It’s main gate directly opens onto the High­way.  Part of the secu­rity pro­to­col for han­dling entrances and exits to the base requires clear­ing the road in both direc­tions for about 100 feet to pre­vent any oppor­tunis­tic assaults. This tends to make for inter­est­ing traf­fic jams:

Jbad Traffic Jam
The main gate to the base is a 20 foot wide steel door with a large guard post on one side. Parked behind the steel door is an MRAP to fur­ther block the door should any one attempt to smash through it.

If any vehi­cle, includ­ing MRAPs, ANA pick up trucks, sup­ply con­voys, or per­sonal cars pull up to the gate to enter the base, pro­to­col requires that the area around the gate must be secure before it can be opened. This entails a dozen fully armed sol­diers dis­pers­ing into the road and stop­ping traf­fic 100 feet back from the gate going both direc­tions. Only once all the traf­fic on the main road in Jalal­abad has been ground to a halt, can the secu­rity MRAP be backed up to allow the gate to open, and the vehi­cle to enter. Once the vehi­cle is safety in, the gate is closed,  the MRAP has been dri­ven back into place, then traf­fic can start flow­ing again.

Imag­ine if a high­way you drove between home and work was inter­mit­tently blocked in both direc­tions by guys curs­ing at you in a for­eign lan­guage, “stop,  stay the fuck back” while point­ing rifles in your face and occa­sion­ally fir­ing warn­ing shots.

How is this set up sup­posed to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people?

The secu­rity pro­ce­dures make sense as the base is often a tar­get of attacks, but after years of this may­hem maybe the army should think about mov­ing this heav­ily traf­ficked, highly secure entry­way onto a side street, per­haps off the major high­way run­ning through town.


  • abe­ni­ami

    U.S. does not want to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan peo­ple. I think it is clear enough not only on Afghanistan’s exam­ple but else­where U.S. con­duct­ing it’s exter­nal policies.

    • TheLoy­alOp­po­si­tion

      .… and if the Tal­iban were back in power… your life would be better??

  • Guest

    i’ve heard hor­ror sto­ries about US con­voys not yield­ingto live­stock, pedes­tri­ans, and civil­ian traf­fic.  I can see how one would be reluc­tant to yield in cer­tain high sress sit­u­a­tions, but from what I hear not all coali­tion forces are as gun ho as and iso­lated from locals as US troops.

    • Anony­mous

      Right, for exam­ple Turk­ish sol­diers walk around and shop in the mar­kets.  An aside, even Israeli troops walk around and shop in Gaza.  Cooped up on bases, many Amer­i­can sol­diers atti­tudes towards Afghans are akin to that of ver­min.  (Need­less to say, not all think that way, but sur­pris­ingly many.)(Needless to say, not all think that way, but sur­pris­ingly many.)

      • Chase Mateu­siak

        As a US sol­dier, I want to make sure that the par­en­thet­i­cal is empha­sized. Some of us, most of us I hope, are gen­er­ally respect­ful. We are multi-lingual (often not in the right lan­guage), highly edu­cated, and extremely curi­ous. Not every­body, for sure. It is hard to expect low-ranking gen­eral infantry forces to be intel­lec­tu­als, and cross cul­tural under­stand­ing requires edu­ca­tion. How many peo­ple in any soci­ety are capa­ble of see­ing oth­ers, espe­cially in a war­zone, with­out prej­u­dice? If this was a com­mon human trait, our his­tory wouldn’t be told largely through the wars we’ve fought with one another.
        I’m mak­ing no excuse for our mis­takes. But please remem­ber, there are those of us who are not swear­ing or using racial slurs and who are will­ing to sac­ri­fice our lives in an attempt to make life bet­ter in a place very far away from home. We were told that by doing so, our coun­try would be safer. It’s not my place to ques­tion, but to try to do what I’m told. I sin­cerely hope that we are able to pos­i­tively con­tribute to the lives of Afghans, present and future.

        Ma Salaama,
        US Army specialist

        (By the way, I love this blog. The pic­tures and sto­ries are fantastic–thank you)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004751619673 Wrld Trvlr

    Its the Army, they don’t use com­mon sense like the Marines, Air Force, or Navy, I lived there for 4 years and can­not believe the stu­pid­ity I was sur­rounded by.