“My First Sergeant, Tommy Scott, and myself, we led a heavy weapons company in a violent province in eastern Afghanistan,” he recalled. “It seemed like the enemy was always one step ahead of us, and we discovered why. Through the aid of a counter-intel team, we uncovered twelve spies operating on our base. These were Afghan laborers that were hired by the U.S. government to serve as translators and other workers to support us so that we could focus on combat operations.”
What’s incredible about this is the exact same thing was happening in Vietnam: huge numbers of the South Vietnamese employees of the American military were spying for the Viet Cong. Either due to negligence, incompetence, or ignorance the American officers would nonetheless talk openly in front of them, often even sharing sensitive information with their supposed allies. In one chapter of his book About Face, David Hackworth tells of how he transformed an army outpost he took over, which included the installation of a sauna. He made a point of conducting his briefings in there because it was the only place he could be sure there were no Vietnamese present.
There was another amusing anecdote in Robert Mason’s Chickenhawk, his memoir of being a Huey pilot in Vietnam. He tells the story of being told by a superior officer to pick up two kids of around twelve years old who were loitering around nearby and fly them back to base for interrogation, as they were suspected to be spying for the Viet Cong. He duly did, noticing the kids in the back – who had obviously never been in a helicopter before – were staring intently out of the doors. The two were released almost immediately because, well, they were kids, and got flown back to where they were picked up. Mason then made a wry comment about how even though the Viet Cong didn’t possess any aircraft they were nonetheless able to conduct a full aerial reconnaissance of a major American base.
It seems some things never change.