Rhino Armoured Bus
At least five U.S. troops and eight U.S. civilians in Kabul are dead on Saturday after a Taliban bomber targeted the lightly-armored bus transporting them through the Afghan capitol.
While details are still sketchy, the Taliban attack shows sophistication. The bus, known colloquially as a “Rhino,” is a slow transport vehicle built to withstand small arms fire. Its hull is V-shaped, like a Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected (MRAP) vehicle, so it can survive driving over a homemade bomb.
But insurgents evidently spotted two vulnerabilities with the Rhino. First, unlike troop convoys or patrols, Rhinos travel along a set, predictable route. Second, as ABC News notes, the buses are not built to survive a suicide car bomb detonating along its side. And the Rhino was reportedly escorted by a convoy of thickly-armored MRAPs, which indicates that the insurgents understand it to be the less-secure vehicle.
Many Americans who have been to Iraq over the last decade are familiar with the Rhino. For years, it transited troops, contractors, diplomats and journalists along Route Irish, the airport road — once considered the world’s most dangerous — connecting the massive Camp Victory constellation of bases with the Green Zone.
Riding in the Rhino in Iraq meant wearing body armor and listening to a non-commissioned officer bark safety instructions about how to survive in the event of a bomb attack or ambush that disabled the vehicle. It also often meant staying awake long past midnight to secure a ride, thanks to the vehicle’s somewhat unpredictable schedule.
The attack carries a lot of symbolism. It is perhaps the most bloody assault on Americans in Kabul of the entire decade-long war. It occurred in the capital, which the previous U.S. commander, David Petraeus, often boasted was an inhospitable environment for the Taliban. (“Touch wood, but security in Kabul has been really quite good,” Petraeus told Danger Room in August 2010.) And it took place the day after the Pentagon released a report to Congress claiming violence in Afghanistan has dropped for the first time since 2006.
It isn’t yet clear if the NATO command in Afghanistan will vary the routes for the Rhinos. It may not be practical, since the vehicles exist to facilitate routine transportation. But retired Army officer Tim Matthews reminds in a tweet that snipers also helped protect Rhino transit in Iraq. It’s unclear if snipers cover Rhinos in Kabul.
It also remains to be seen whether the attack will change the rules NATO sets for U.S.-allied troops to drive through Afghan cities and villages. Since 2009, the counterinsurgency strategy in place has placeda premium on giving Afghan drivers the right of way, something that has sometimes sat uneasily with soldiers and marines caught in the teeming capitol’s tense traffic snarls.
|Rhino after it was hit with a Suicide bomber with potentially 700 kg of explosives.|
|Crater from the bombing in the hard road|
|The remains of the ounce proud Kings palace, Kabul|
|Canadian soldiers help with the process of clearing the fallen.|
Master Cpl. Byron Greff of the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry killed in the attack
|Just days before he was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, Edmonton-based soldier Master Cpl. Byron Greff was photographed with his wife and their newborn daughter. Photo Courtesy of E. Hornung.|
But as we look at the death and destruction we should also remember Byron Greff as a fellow solider, husband, and father.
Updated: Sun Oct. 30 2011 17:02:07
Chandra Lye, ctvedmonton.ca
A local photographer captured some tender moments just days before an Edmonton based soldier was killed by a suicide bomber.
Erik Hornung said he held a photo shoot with Master Cpl. Byron Greff, his wife Lindsay and their new daughter, Brielle.
The photo of the family was taken on Tuesday, October 25, just days before Master Cpl. Greff returned to Afghanistan.
On Saturday, a car packed with explosives rammed into the NATO vehicle Master Cpl. Greff was travelling in near Kabul.
Hornung has posted a blog about the photo shoot.
"This is one of the saddest moments of my career as a photographer," he wrote.
"I hope this photo will help – in even just the smallest amount – with the healing process for Lindsay, her two children and family."
According to a statement released by the Armed Forces Master Cpl. Greff also had a son.
"They are being attended by members of his regiment to ensure they are well taken care of and provided the support that they need during this difficult period," Col. Omer Lavoie said.
Col. Lavoie described Master Cpl. Greff as a "great soldier and young leader who was well trained and ready to carry out his mission.
"His fellow soldiers will continue to train and mentor Afghan national security forces in order to ensure the country an enduring capacity in accountable Afghan-led security."
Master Cpl. Byron Greff was serving with the Third Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.
Master Cpl. Greff was the first Canadian to die since the combat mission ended earlier this year.
He was in Afghanistan as an adviser to Afghan national Army trainers who provide recruitment training to Afghani soldiers.
The attack also left 12 other NATO personal dead. Five were soldiers and the others were civilian employees.
With files from Jessica Earle