It is premature for the international media to conclude that Ms. Norgrove’s death was “accidental.” It appears increasingly likely that UK citizen Linda Norgrove was killed on October 8, 2010, by an American fragmentation grenade. If true, its use may violate U.S. Army rules and could be grounds for a criminal prosecution. Pursuant to American and British law, conduct that is sufficiently “reckless” can support a charge of intentional killing.
What is also disturbing is that at least some American military personnel concocted a false cover story and tried to blame her death on the Taliban. Instead of telling the truth, these Americans were willing to have her family believe that she died in the horrible explosion of a suicide vest detonated by her captors. The BBC’s October 10, 2010, headline was:
“UK Hostage Linda Norgrove Killed by Vest Bomb”
The Daily Mail, on the same day, reported that she had been “blown up by a suicide vest.” These are dreadful headlines for any parent to read. The motive for falsely accusing the Taliban of murder may be to distract the public from asking important questions.
Within the U.S. military’s inventory are lethal grenades, such as fragmentation grenades, and non-lethal grenades such as the M84 stun grenade. The use of the M84, first released to the field in 2002, is supposed to be standard operating procedure for any rescue. This is enshrined in U.S. Army rules. U.S. Army Field Manual 3-23-30, Section 1-17 (under “Stun Grenade, M84”) reads in part:
“Stun grenades are used as diversionary or distraction devices during building and room clearing operations when the presence of noncombatants is likely or expected and the assault element is attempting to achieve surprise.”
U.S. Army Field Manual 3-06.11, Sections 3-14 “Use of Hand Grenades” reads in part as follows:
“Combat in urban areas often requires extensive use of hand grenades. Unless the ROE (rules of engagement) prevent it, use grenades before assaulting defended areas, moving through breaches, or entering unsecured areas. Effective grenade use in urban areas may require throwing overhand or underhand, with both the left and right hand. Normally, the fragmentation grenade should be cooked off for two seconds to prevent the enemy from throwing them back.
a. Three types of hand grenades can be used when assaulting an urban objective: stun, concussion, and fragmentation. METT-TC factors and the type of construction materials used in the objective building influence the type of grenades that can be used.
(1) The M84 stun hand grenade is a flash-bang distraction device, which produces a brilliant flash and a loud bang to momentarily surprise and distract an enemy force. The M84 is often used under precision conditions and when the ROE demand use of a nonlethal grenade. The use of stun hand grenades under high intensity conditions is usually limited to situations where fragmentation and concussion grenades pose a risk to friendly troops or the structural integrity of the building.’
Despite these rules, it appears that at least one special operations member threw a deadly fragmentation grenade into the room where Ms. Norgrove was being held. That may have been a reckless and therefore a criminal act. The American and British publics are currently awaiting the results of an internal investigation by the military organization involved. It is crucial that the final report release all the “Rules of Engagement” for this mission. It remains to be seen whether U.S. Special Operations Command can investigate itself. The Norgrove family deserves a thorough and impartial inquiry.
The one thing we do know is that this is yet another botched American special operations raid. This author has been trying to keep track of how many botched raids there have been and how many times U.S. Special Operations Command personnel have filed false reports with the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul (ISAF) in an effort to blame the Taliban for civilian casualties or to refer to innocent civilians they have killed as “militants.” The list is long.
ISAF’s Chief of Intelligence, Major General Michael T. Flynn, needs to spend more time developing intelligence sources within Special Operations Command and less time being concerned with Balochistan and other areas outside of his NATO mandate. Better information about and oversight regarding special operations missions and personnel should be one of his priorities. Every time ISAF falsely blames the Taliban for a crime and the truth comes out, it makes Taliban members look like the victims of a Western plot.
It is unforgivable that some within the American military elected to add to the anguish of the Norgrove family. The honorable course of action is to always tell the truth. That does not require a formal investigation. It simply requires a pronouncement by General David Petraeus that he will accept nothing less. As a former U.S. Air Force Captain with the First Special Operations Wing, this author notes that apologies are important, but it is more important to initiate criminal proceedings for any reckless conduct or for any lax rules of engagement, and to remove and discipline all those involved in the false cover story that insurgents killed Ms. Norgrove. Decisive Command actions such as these are the best way to help ensure that this tragedy never reoccurs.
Note: An important fact being unreported is why Ms. Norgrove was on the road to Jalalabad when she was kidnapped on September 26th. One report stated that she was going to a press conference for the opening of a water project. It is not clear that she needed to be at this publicity event. Her employer, Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), is a Maryland based company whose senior management is largely composed of former officials of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
These people are part of the “revolving door.” They leave the agency, set up a company and then are hired back under contract by their friends within the agency. DAI is one of a handful of politically connected companies that are favored for USAID contracts around the world. There is little transparency in these contracts. The reader should attempt to search the USAID or USAID-Afghanistan websites for information on how many contracts DAI has and what they are for. Very limited public information is available. This questionable arrangement and the lack of scrutiny and public oversight of DAI contracts means that DAI employees may be sent on assignments and given tasks which they should not be given. It may be that they are being sent into areas that USAID officials will not go. All of this needs to be investigated. For further information on the unseemly relationship between USAID and DAI, and on DAI’s poor performance record, see the July 4, 2010, investigative report by USATODAY correspondent Ken Dilanian entitled: “Faulted Firm Gets Afghan Aid Work.”