|AP photo from video, minutes after the attack in |
which Anne Smedinghoff and four others were killed
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As Domani Spero asked just the other day, can it possibly get any worse than this? I think it could very well get worse, if and when the public gets the results of the on-going FBI investigation into the attack, or those of any investigation the Defense Department may be conducting.
It's quite bad enough already, judging by the details that have come out so far. Let's see ... the book donation visit to the Sheik Baba Metti school by a team from the U.S. Embassy and PRT Zabul was announced to the press one day in advance. But, despite that lack of operational security, the team was allowed to walk to the school from the PRT's base at FOB Smart rather than use protected vehicles. The roughly 100-meter long route to the school evidently wasn't swept before the team's walk, or blocked to traffic during the movement. The team's military escort didn't know which gate to use to enter the school - a school that the PRT itself funded and regularly visited - which required the team to double back to FOB Smart and further expose themselves to attack.
Lastly, the attack reportedly involved a roadside bomb as well as a suicide driver in a bomb-laden vehicle. If that's true, it means that the Taliban were able to plant a command-detonated bomb in the street immediately outside FOB Smart despite the surveillance that street was undoubtedly under by both the U.S. and Afghan military.
The latest details come from an Associate Press story today which quotes an anonymous State Department official.
A senior State Department [official] familiar with the investigation into the attack told the Associated Press that the group was walking, not driving, from a military base to the nearby school in Zabul Province when the explosion hit.
The official was not authorized to speak to the news media and provided the details on condition of anonymity.
The official said on-foot travel for the group was approved because of the short distance — about 100 yards — between the base and the school compound, and was in keeping with past visits to the site, which also houses an Afghan Ministry of Agriculture office.
Because of the proximity, the group would have had to get out of their vehicles at the military base, the official said.
He said the group took the shortest and most direct route from the base but was told on arrival that the entrance they wanted to use, and had been used previously, no longer provided access to the school.
The group was moving past the military base to another entrance to the compound at the time of the explosion, apparently from a suicide car bomber. That was followed by a second blast, apparently from a roadside bomb.
|UK Guardian graphic|
Why was the team allowed to walk to the school? Why was that short transit from the FOB to the school so badly planned? Why didn't anyone notice an explosive device planted seemingly right outside the FOB's perimeter wall? Will any official body be convened to ask these questions?
The regulations governing Accountability Review Boards have a limited exception for incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan, so I assume one will not be convened in this case. (I cannot find a citation extending that exception into 2013, but maybe there is one and I'm just not looking in the right place.)
However, the State Department seriously needs an independent review here, not least for reasons of Congressional relations. It would be well advised to convene one, ideally in conjunction with the Defense Department.