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Through An Afghan Truck Driver’s Eyes

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan -– Demonstrating the unconventional approach taken by the Human Terrain Team, the team recently interviewed 25 drivers of so-called Jingle Trucks, the Afghan convoys that carry critical supplies to U.S. and Afghan security-force bases.

The drivers, who spend as much time on Afghanistan’s dangerous roads as anyone, are as neglected a voice as they are a barometric indicator: the insecurity they feel as they take their materials around the country gives a glimpse into what the insurgent threat looks like in the east of the country. Interestingly, the Jingle Truck drivers feel threatened by police corruption as well as the Taliban

“The ANP [Afghan National Police] is worse than the Taliban. The Taliban just kill us, the ANP bleed us to death.”

By which the driver meant that the national police demand bribes along the road or demand protection money at checkpoints. If the drivers don’t pay, an August HTT report found, the police can “beat-up drivers… or simply make them wait for hours before they are allowed to proceed,” thereby cutting into their bottom line – an acute pinch in an era of high-and-rising fuel and food prices.

The Taliban, for their part, mark the Jingle Truck drivers for death. Across the border in Pakistan, the Taliban recent issued the following order

“All the owners of trucks and trailers, drivers and truck stand owners, are warned that all supplies to NATO, the International Security Force and U.S. forces should be stopped within a week’s time. After the deadline, if any truck or trawler is caught supplying diesel, petrol or goods, not only will the vehicle be set on fire but the driver will also be brutally slaughtered. …”Today the Christian forces are being supplied all kinds of goods by conscience-less and irreligious transporters and drivers like you. So don’t the Taliban deserve the right to slaughter non-believers like you?”

The HTT looked at how the Jingle Truck drivers’ predicament fits into the strategic context of the war. Here’s its analysis, worth quoting at length.

The AAF [Anti-Afghan Forces] is clearly trying to duplicate their successes during the Soviet/PDRA [People's Democratic Republic of Afghanistan] war through similar tactics and strategic goals. Sanctuary in Pakistan allows for endless re-supply of weapons and human resources in order to carry out attacks, propaganda and create safe AAF zones within Afghanistan. They are already setting up “shadow courts and government” in Afghanistan modeled on their Emirate in Pakistan. Tactically they ambush vehicles and convoys, block the roads, destroy bridges, intimidate the drivers, degrade logistics, and utilize stolen materials for profit and re-supply. Jingle truck and other attacks serve as a continuous reminder to the population of the weakness of the Kabul Government and CF [Coalition Forces]. And they serve as diversions or road blocks to prevent CF forces [sic] access to targets. By cutting the roads and dominating the countryside they will surround and choke our “inkspots,” creating corridors to Kabul and eventually isolating the capital. Strategically, they rely on long-term attrition of the West’s political will and the practical wisdom of the Afghan population that seeks to be on the winning side. They look to bleed the Coalition Forces, as they did the Soviets, until we abandon the Kabul government as the Soviets abandoned the PDRA.

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