However, with a little money, legitimacy, and cooperation from tribal leaders, ISAF is betting that these young men can protect their villages from Taliban intrusion. Armed with AK-47s, the men of the Local Defense Initiative are virtually indistinguishable from the Taliban, save for one unmistakable feature…
When I first shared this story via Google Buzz, Tim Haggerty believed this was a joke. No one would have combatants run around with reflector belts, would they?
Apparently, we would.
This reminded me of a curious incident I encountered while flying over Iraq. Whenever we passed through a unit’s area of responsibility, we would contact them over the radio, paying special attention to any enemy activity or aerial danger zones, such as artillery fire or unmanned aerial vehicles. One day, while flying over the desert somewhere near Baqubah, we overheard a curious conversation between two American infantry units. The chatter broke up the boredom of an otherwise uneventful flight.
One American voice came over the radio, reporting to what we assumed was his operations center. (Ed. Note: Radio chatter is drawn from memory as best I can recall. I’ve taken the liberty of “translating” the chatter to plain English for the purposes of story-telling)
“Roger", radioed one unit to his headquarters, "we just had a firefight between two CLCs, [Concerned Local Citizens] with one KIA."
“What happened?”, the Op-center asked.
“Apparently, one of the CLCs was carrying an AK-47 and approached an SoI checkpoint. There was some arguing, and one of the CLCs shot the other CLC.”
“Why did he do that?”
“Well, the SoI claimed that the other CLC wasn’t wearing his reflector belt"
Aghast, I muttered to myself, “Damn, they’re not kidding.”
I looked back at the rest of the crew, “You guys better wear your fucking reflector belts.”
Clearly, I'm not the only person who's run into a situation like this: