Interview with Andrzej Osiecki 03/04/2009

Interview with one of the soldiers accused of civilians' homicide in the Afghan War.

Below is an interview with Chief 2nd class warrant officer, Andrzej Osiecki “Osa”, member of the 18th assault-airborne battalion from Bielsko-Biała; twice in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, decorated with an “Order of merit for the Defense Of The State.”, then accused of civilians’ homicide by the Polish Justice.

- How did it happen that you found yourself in Afghanistan?
A.O.: In September 2007 an order concerning the formation of an assault team was sent to my unit – the 18th battalion of airborne troops. The new formation was about to leave to Lebanon. After two weeks we were ready to set off. At the Krakow airport the previous minister of defense Radosław Sikorski officially bid us farewell and wished us good luck. A few days later it was decided that Lebanon was not the best place for airborne troops and we were sent to Afghanistan instead. Then we started long and intensive training. In this way I landed at the Kandahar Airport in April 2007.

- What did you know about this country? What did you imagine before the start of your mission?
A.O.: We knew quite a lot about Afghanistan. We went through a lot of training concerning that country and its different culture. American and Canadian soldiers contributed a lot into our knowledge of the region. It is their experience which helped us to verify our tactics and whose approach shaped during the previous missions.

- What were the aims of your mission?
A.O.: Our task in Afghanistan was to rebuild the state structures consolidate of the Afghan society, and defend it against the Taliban. It is their operations which weaken the process of introducing peace and rebuilding of the country after the years of wars.

- How do you evaluate the meaning of this war?
A.O.: As we know from recent history, the rule of the Taliban in the 90’s caused a situation when Afghanistan became home for international terrorist groups and became the biggest producer of drugs in this area of the world. We can’t let these people take control.

- What dangers await soldiers in that area besides the regular military operations?
A.O.: It was hazardous hygienic conditions which were the nastiest danger besides the enemy. And these kinds of problems we had to cope with in FOB’s (Forward Operation Base).

- The picture of the frontline reality presented by the media seems to be quite enigmatic…
A.O.: First of all, there is no frontline in Afghanistan at all. There we have guerilla territory. Above all we were in the mountain area– inhabited by Pashtuns. The Taliban are mostly recruited from them.

- There is hardly anything mentioned about civilians and their approach to the NATO military forces. What is your experience in this matter?
A.O.: Many Afghans want peace and stabilization, but we know the Taliban are gaining more and more territories, even ones never before occupied by them. Very often people don’t have a choice and are forced to support the Taliban. It is difficult to describe their approach to our presence unambiguously. It can happen that two neighboring villages have a contrary approach to the allied forces.

- What about the situation of women in the Muslim society?
A.O.: I can answer in one word – poor. But I would abstain from saying what direction Afghanistan should go in this delicate matter. It is very difficult for us Europeans to accept the attitude of the male part of society toward women. However, we should keep in mind the difference of their culture. We shouldn’t impose anything on them.

- Do you think ordinary people are more or less able to imagine what life during a military war operation looks like?
A.O.: You can watch hundreds of movies, listen to many war stories but never get any closer to the real state. I hope we’ll never be in a situation when our citizens will feel like people in Afghanistan. Let’s be happy to live in peace. It is not eternal.

- Have you ever meet with condemning reactions from your friends?
A.O.: Quite the contrary! Until now I had not been aware that I have so many friends. What’s more, I didn’t expect such a wonderful attitude from our society. At every turn we encounter kinship and positive reactions. I wish to thank everyone for this.