BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Aug. 8, 2011 -- As dawn breaks over the Hindu Kush mountains, a small group of highly trained law enforcement professionals put the final touches on what is to be the crescendo of combating corruption at Bagram Airfield. For months, Criminal Investigation Division, or CID, special agents patiently investigated, planned and prepared for an operation that would strike at the very lifeline of the insurgency -- their pocket book.
Logistics security, a mission sometimes taken for granted and often overlooked during Defense Department briefings, has exploded onto the national stage. Commanding the attention of the most senior military leadership, it has transformed from a routine war fighting task to a complex mission in its own right.
“Logistics security is a major issue in Afghanistan,” said Lt. Col. David Heath, the commander of the 10th Military Police Battalion (CID) (ABN), currently forward deployed to Bagram. “During one of my first briefings to U.S. Forces - Afghanistan, General (David) Petraeus stopped me and said ‘Colonel, this mission may be the most important thing you do as a battalion commander in combat.’ Now with the success of the Kabul and Bagram raids, perhaps those who would think about trying to steal from us will think twice.”
Giving no quarter, CID and its partners have taken the fight to the enemy. A combined strike force of CID Special Agents, Law Enforcement Professionals and supporting combat units have been launching raids on Bagram.
Logistics security is a mission familiar to CID Special Agents. Whether it’s the recovery of stolen goods, conducting a crime prevention survey for commanders or gathering intelligence on criminal elements preying on “soft targets,” CID is a one-stop-shop for commanders at posts, camps, and stations, both forward deployed and at home, to ensure they keep what’s theirs.
Afghanistan is a logistician’s worst nightmare. Landlocked with no transportation infrastructure and bordered by less than cooperative nation-states, what goods that do get into theater are instantly transformed into targets of opportunity.
From the most mundane of items like toilet paper to highly sensitive military equipment such as night vision goggles, a litany of stolen goods have been recovered in shops, storefronts and bazaars throughout Afghanistan. Some seemingly worthless items, such as cheap two-way radios, can be used to build and/or detonate improvised explosive devices.
“It’s truly amazing what you find in some of these raids,” said Special Agent Brian Janysek, the assistant operations and forensic science officer for the 10th. “However, what’s more interesting is what we discover afterward and how we can use that information to prevent this from happening again.”
Deficiencies in security procedures, double agents, crooked government officials and insurgent safe havens have been uncovered thanks in large part to these operations. Following each successful operation, more intelligence can be exploited which continues to assist ISAF forces.
“We’re not combat repo men in tactical gear,” said Special Agent Caleb King, an agent assigned to the Bagram CID office. “After every raid we get hit, so we know we’re causing problems for the Taliban. Besides our property we also get answers to the important questions, how did they do it, where is the money going, and who is it going to. Piece by piece, we can take those criminal cells apart.”
“We have been very successful in working with our Afghan partners in shutting down some of these cells,” said Special Agent Ed Collins, the 10th Battalion’s operations officer. “The more criminals we put away and corrupt local government officials are replaced by honest ones. Hopefully we’ll start to see this trend subside.”
Combat operations are calculated risks. For every mission that goes right, there are those that go wrong. However, what makes an operation effective is the ability to adapt and overcome as conditions on the battlefield change.
Initially, the Bagram raid had eight known targets with an additional three possible targets. This would place the task force exposed to possible insurgent attack for only 30 to 45 minutes. At the onset of the operation, the local commander would attend a “shura” or council meeting of local tribal officials. He would then give the signal to launch the operation.
“We had reports of suicide bombers in the area so that piece of information kept everyone focused on the op,” King said. “At a previous shura in the area, a suicide bomber detonated his vest killing almost everyone in attendance. Luckily, the bombers decided not to show.”
As planned, following the conclusion of the meeting, elements of the task force quickly moved to their respective targets, but “Murphy’s Law” would have other plans for Bagram.
Originally the task force could only hit stores that were open with the stolen U.S. Government property in plain sight, but those rules were changed during the mission rehearsal.
“Now the rules were if we could see it in through the window or through a crack in the door, we could get the local magistrate’s permission to cut the locks or kick in the door,” Janysek said. “Once the mission was a go those targets increased from eight to 18, leaving us exposed and out in the open for almost three hours.”
Truck after truck was filled with stolen goods, as tempers began to flare. Shop keepers protested what they felt was the unjust theft of their freshly stolen property. Dissidents attempted to rally their fellow merchants, but to no avail. More than a quarter million dollars of U.S. Government property was recovered during the Bagram raid.
“Things started to get a little hairy toward the end, but we just kept finding stuff,” said Special Agent Roger Jones, a CID Special Agent assigned the mission of logistics security investigations for Afghanistan. “Hopefully they’ll get the message and stop because in the end they’ll lose.”
Jones said that getting equipment, goods and supplies into Afghanistan is hard enough as it is, but keeping them is proving to be an even bigger challenge. He added that because of this trend, CID Special Agents have been working non-stop to ensure that they find the stolen U.S. property and get it back.
“LOGSEC affects everyone,” Jones said. “We’ve worked cases to recover stolen items from organizations ranging from AAFES (the Army and Air Force Exchange Service), to conventional combat units to Special Operations Forces. This is everyone’s problem.”
For more information on Army CID visit www.cid.army.mil.