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.