An Adventure With Death: How I Survived NATO Firing

I and my father, along with two other passengers, are driving through the streets of Kandahar, a “troubled” province in the South, on our way to Kabul. Suddenly, in its usual and unpredictable manner, pops a convoy of NATO armored personnel carriers (APCs).

A guy sitting on top of the first APC is signaling all cars to move right and clear the way. The two cars in front of us follow his orders. Now it’s our car which the person is signaling to move right. Our driver, who has had a quarrel with another driver some 20 minutes ago, is too deep in thoughts to notice his signals. I see every gesticulation from the NATO soldier and am expecting the driver to turn at any moment.

We get closer and closer to the convoy and the driver doesn’t show any sign of clearing the road. The NATO soldier grows increasingly desperate. His desperation reaches to a point where he fires four “warning” shots in an attempt to get the attention of our driver. I am watching all this; and at this point, everything seems like a Hollywood movie or perhaps a CNN video from a troubled zone. I feel no urgency to act and inform the driver to change course; perhaps because I can’t believe this is happening to me.

Bullets race overhead—shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot—that’s four of them whooshing in quick succession. And now, even after the warning shots, we have still not cleared the road for the APC. The NATO soldier at the top of the APC can’t take it anymore. He thinks that we are perhaps a gang of Al-Qaeda or Taliban suicide car bombers about to strike his vehicle. Instincts take over him and he lowers his gun barrel in a bid to take offense and exterminate the perceived threat. Maybe, in the meantime, he was thinking of the honor to have shot and foiled a terrorist plot in preemption.

So, as he brings his gun barrel down to shoot the driver first, our driver notices it and takes a desperate swerve to the right. The NATO soldier shoots his first bullet. Thanks to the turn we take, the bullet hits the side screen window and somehow misses all of us. Glass scatters everywhere. We’re all sitting there aghast, looking at the unfolding drama in disbelief. A second bullet comes in quick succession to the first one. Again, miraculously, it rips through the thin strip of plastic that holds the rearview mirror onto the car.

Because we have taken a turn and cleared the way, the NATO soldier realizes that we are no suicide car bombers and stops firing. At this point, we all start checking our limbs and bodies to make sure everything is intact. All seems okay. We have been able to escape death in the hands of NATO soldiers.

Moments later, I begin to think: Escaping Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other threats lurking around, we come under threat by the very force which claims to be “protecting” us. Although I acknowledge there’s an idiocy factor involved from our driver, I can’t help but wonder how many people have lost their lives in such incidents that have been labeled “encounters with terrorists.”

From my observations it appears as if such incidents are quite common. In the three trips that I have made to Afghanistan in the last two years, I have had two encounters of this nature with international troops, the first one being a lot less dramatic. It now seems to me that the international peacekeeping forces are quite at ease in opening fire at almost anyone.


27 Responses to “An Adventure With Death: How I Survived NATO Firing”

  1. 1 ninglun December 25, 2006 at 4:48 am

    I mean what can I say? Glad you are all still in one piece.

  2. 2 floyd December 26, 2006 at 6:34 am

    Wow that is a scary story and I wonder as you do how many have lost their lives under similar circumstances, very informative blog, found you on blogadvance, stay safe out there.

  3. 3 safrang December 27, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    thanks for sharing. really scary episode. i’m glad you all made it out safe but i can only imagine the atmosphere of paranoia that would give occasion to that kind of trigger happy mentality. such incidents, and many others who unfortunately end up in less than happy endings, by widespread admission of coalition authorities themselves, have cost a lot in PR and goodwill among the population. i agree that somehow things should change on this front.

  4. 4 The Artist December 29, 2006 at 2:03 am

    I thank God you are safe and feel great sadness for what Safrong called `The Atmosphere of Paranoia’ that leads to such incidents.

    I pray `The New Year’ will bring the changes necessary for safety and peace.

    • 5 Glenn J August 28, 2012 at 12:29 am

      paranoia??? American troops are killed almost daily. This is a war zone. If a driver is warned 3 times with live ammunition and still is deep in thought, do you expect the American soldier to be a mind reader? To say soldiers are paranoid is an insult. This soldier probably did much more to preserve life than would have a taliban security gaurd prior to 2001.

  5. 6 Bouncer December 29, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    I am glad all survived the encounter unscratched. I can commiserate with you on you “I can not believe this is happening” response. At the same time, it wasn’t “trigger happiness” on the part of the NATO troops.

    They escalated their response according to the orders under which they operate. They first tried to get the drivers attention by normal means. They then tried to get his attention by shooting in the air. I would suspect that they were actually trying to shoot at the engine of the vehicle (as that is the third step) before engaging with lethal force. As soon as the vehicle slowed and turned they stopped firing. That’s not trigger happiness, it’s a controlled response to a perceived lethal threat. As soon as the threat diminished, their response de-escalated.

    Functionally speaking, if you see the minefield sign, and ignore the sign, and ignore the people shouting at you to stop, and continue to run through the minefield, at a certain point you have no one to blame but yourself (or in this case, your driver) for what happens to you. If you want to yell at or hit anyone, personally, I’d go after the driver. I do not know how you can be so unaware that you do not notice the sound of gunfire over your head. I suspect what really happened is that his bullheadedness in not giving way to the armed troops nearly got everyone killed.

    Best Wishes and keep safe,

  6. 7 Anthony December 31, 2006 at 12:31 am

    Wow, amazing story, thanks for sharing…

  7. 8 amber dawn December 31, 2006 at 2:19 am

    Re: I can’t help but wonder how many people have lost their lives in such incidents that have been labeled “encounters with terrorists.”

    From my observations it appears as if such incidents are quite common.

    That seems to be the consensus, from what I’ve been reading of personal accounts and experiences. It’s likely to continue to get worse, no doubt. The perception distinguishing terrorist from civilian is already distorted enough and likely the number of incidents of those types of encounters will never be accurately known.

  8. 9 JollyRoger December 31, 2006 at 11:31 pm

    As you know from the death of Pat Tillman, the powers that be don’t like to tell the truth about “encounters” gone wrong-only when they get caught do they admit to something.

    It is a shame that NATO troops are still needed at all. We had a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something really good for Afghanistan (and by extension, the world) and we chose to turn our backs on our promises and leave the Afghan people to a fate of many more years of violence.

  9. 10 George January 7, 2007 at 4:03 am

    I agree with Jollyroger, had we not been a in such a hurry to invade Iraq we could have easily finished helping the Afghani people like we promised we would do. Instead we practically abandoned the the very people that we were supposed to be helping.

  10. 11 Kevin January 10, 2007 at 8:04 am

    I often wonder if we ever intended to help the Afghani people. I’ll expand that. I often wonder if our government has in the past three decades ever tried to help a group of people.

  11. 12 chandira January 13, 2007 at 2:58 am

    Wow. Stay safe! THinking of you and sending my prayers for your safety.
    Yes, many of us in the US wonder how many people the US and other soldiers have ‘liberated’. It’s such a sad and stupid situation, and I really have no idea why it’s happening, but I know that it’s profoundly wrong.

    And those Buddha statues? It is a huge shame that happened, but you know, in a way, it’s perfectly in keeping with Buddhism that they were destroyed. Impermanence. My own spiritual Teacher, Adi Da, said of that, how sad it was, but that ‘all monuments are mocked’ by the human ego, and by time.

    Very best wishes.

  12. 13 6000 January 22, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Wouldn’t have happened if the driver was paying attention.

    And what is this “Atmosphere of Paranoia” which “The Artist” describes? Paranoia is an irrational fear. Deaths of many NATO troops in Afghanistan (including one of my best friends) at the hands of the Taliban fighters and suicide bombers is a reality.

    You people can be so damn ungrateful.

  13. 14 QuantumFog January 25, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Ahmad, you show promise as a journalist. This article gives a good description of the perceptions and reactions of the principals involved in the story.

    Likewise, I’m impressed by Bouncers cogent response regarding the escalation and de-escalation of the incident.

    Unfortunately, the reports I’ve found indicate the Taliban is moving back into their old territory and such events are likely again.

    Keep yourself safe and keep writing. What is the latest news on your effort to attend school here in the US?

  14. 15 spiderman05 January 27, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    This is a very original blog. Great material.

  15. 16 American Soldier January 30, 2007 at 6:38 am

    I’m sorry to hear about your trouble but I can tell you that we all just want to make it out in one piece. People get jumpy and I’m sorry for that but I’m glad to hear you are ok.

  16. 17 demon23 February 13, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    I am very impressed with how you handled telling this story… I would not have been as forgiving. The same time… you recognized all the elements of the story. You help break the belief that everyone in the middle east is a terrorist. You have my respect and my hopes that you remain well and bullet free. *tip my hat to ya*

  17. 18 6000 February 15, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Oh – please.

    What is this? Sycophant central?

    Let’s not forget that under the Taliban, Mr Scribbles wouldn’t even be allowed to access the internet.

    You people… *shakes head*

  18. 19 Ranya March 6, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Thank God you are alright. Your story is very similar to an incident that happend when I was travelling towards Kirkuk in Northen Iraq. The approaching US soldiers in their tanks did not hesitate at all by firing the so-called “warning” shots. I remember, as we were driving in very high speed, we suddenly noticed the US tanks approaching in opposite direction. Due to the high speeds we were not able to break and turn quickly enough to the right hand side of the road. Perhaps a time elapse of 3/4 seconds and the soldiers started their rows of “warning” shots. Like you said, yes it was a very scary moment, unreal to the extent I just observed with no reactions. But what saddened me more than the quick urge to shoot, was the way the soldiers actually laughted while shooting. Is it just me or is there a huge lack of humor in this incident?

    3 seconds and bullets were flying toward us. I really wonder what would have happend to second later. How protected do the Iraqi people feel, I wonder?

  19. 20 JT April 4, 2007 at 6:15 am

    This is a sad story and it troubles me and yet doesn’t surprise me that US soldiers laugh as they are shooting at innocent people. Incidents like this only personify the military industrial complex that the US seems to have implanted in their inner workings.

  20. 21 American Soldier April 21, 2007 at 6:07 am

    Hey JT, it appears that you know little to nothing about real soldiers. Sorry to hear that you feel like you do about us.

  21. 22 Fruitcake May 6, 2007 at 2:58 am

    I second “American Soldier.” The driver doesn’t notice someone firing rounds at him? Maybe that’s just Darwin sorting things out. Why is that the soldier’s fault? You said yourself that he fired warning shots. The driver was warned and he didn’t follow directions. You don’t sound very intelligent.

  22. 23 nobs May 7, 2007 at 7:04 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, for defending our country and doing all the nasty stuff most of us couldn’t begin to fathom. I for one appreciate it. You give us the freedom to sit on our collective spoiled fat asses and spout off about things we have opinions on, but are not a fraction as qualified as you to pontificate about.

  23. 24 ryo September 30, 2007 at 3:10 am

    What i closed shave. Lucky you are still alive. Hope to see more of your post.

  24. 25 beilee January 4, 2008 at 1:05 am

    i am writing a book about experiences like this and i have never heard one like it. i am still in shock from it. i was surprised that no one was hurt and that this story is 100% true

  25. 26 healthspaces March 17, 2008 at 5:38 pm


  1. 1 pass the roti on the left hand side » We Want YOU! Trackback on March 19, 2007 at 1:35 am

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I no longer update this weblog due to academic and other preoccupations. However, feel free to browse through its older entries. Thanks.
This is a weblog where a journalism enthusiast Afghan student writes about hot contemporary issues from an Afghan perspective. Enjoy your visit! Contact: mail . myscribbles @ gmail . com

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