Insistence on trust costs 2 US troops their lives

By Robert Burns

Associated Press
It was a sneak attack, but not by the enemy they feared.

U.S. Army Capts. Josh­ua Lawrence and Drew Russell were inside a small command post on an Afghan army base, wrap­ping up a long day of coor­dinating the safe arrival of nearly 100 Afghan reli­gious and tribal leaders for a peace conference at a nearby palace.

Darkness had fallen.

Some of their fellow soldiers had retired for the evening. Two stood guard.

All seemed well.

But as several soldiers sprawled on nearby cots, playing cards, the calm collapsed catastrophical­ly at 9:27 p.m.

An exploding grenade shattered the stillness, followed in seconds by bursts of gunfire. Before any of the Americans could raise a hand to de­fend themselves, Law­rence was dead from a bullet to the head, and Russell was dying, shot three times in the back.

They were not killed by the Taliban, as the U.S.-led military coalition indicat­ed the day after the Oct. 8, 2011, assault. Lawrence, 29, of Nashville, Tenn., and Russell, 25, of Scotts, Mich., were killed in what U.S. investigators later called a “calculated and coordinated” attack by Afghan soldiers entrust­ed to work alongside their U.S. partners.

This is the first pub­lished account of the at­tack and is based on inter­nal Army records and in­terviews in the U.S. and Afghanistan.

For Russell’s family, the anguish is still fresh. His father, Jim, said the loss was even harder to accept after learning from the Army’s investi­gation report early this year that it was a sup­posed ally, not the Taliban, who killed his son.

“It wasn’t like a battle, you know. He pretty much got ambushed,” he said, pausing at length to settle his emotions. “That makes it difficult.”

On that moonlit Satur­day evening, Russell was the designated “battle captain,” or duty officer, in the command center. Lawrence worked beside him as a plans officer. Both were members of the 4th Infantry Divi­sion’s 2nd “Warhorse” Brigade. They deployed to Afghanistan in June 2011. Lawrence had mar­ried just one week before leaving; the honeymoon was to wait until he re­turned home.

The Associated Press learned details of the at­tack from formerly se­cret Army investigation records obtained through the Freedom of Informa­tion Act. The Army re­moved substantial por­tions of the documents to protect what it called properly classified infor­mation as well as the iden­tities of most people in­volved. The AP estab­lished some identities on its own.

The investigation — a standard process in a war zone — found that securi­ty at the U.S.-Afghan com­mand post was so relaxed that guards were not told to check anyone entering. Potential Afghan thiev­ery, not treachery, was judged the chief threat. Thus the killers had unfet­tered access and moved about without arousing suspicion.

Only 10 designated Af­ghan security personnel were supposed to be in the compound, but U.S. guards were given no ac­cess roster. Unknown numbers “freely entered and exited the compound unchecked,” an Army in­vestigator found.

The Americans had convinced themselves, 10 years into a war whose successful outcome de­pended on empowering local security forces, that they could trust their Af­ghan colleagues. That was a deadly miscalculation in this instance and dozens more in the months that followed.

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4 Responses to Insistence on trust costs 2 US troops their lives

  1. upaces88 says:

    I did find one article…Huffington Post *yuk”.


  2. upaces88 says:

    People over there know EXACTLY who those are that WILL DO THIS. IF we are going to send them OUR Military, then people need to start coming out and giving them information on who they have in their camp; OR….Bring them Home and let them fight their own battles.


    • a12iggymom says:

      Obama is terrified of the military being home. He’s committed so many acts of treason, he’d be hung by military tribunals.


      • upaces88 says:

        Believe me, he has a right to be!!!
        This was NEVER on TV, and I have soooo many articles I doubt I can find it. He sent OUR Troops to 4 different Countries in AFRICA. Yet, no one, to my knowledge has said anything.


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