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Bed that saved me from the Taliban (bbc.co.uk)
576 points by ahamedirshad123 27 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 133 comments



Amazing read. Happy that he made it out. Loved the closing comment as well (I wonder why everyone of us can't live like this without going through a NDE, I myself am a guilty party):

>You know, sitting on the beach in Greece with friends I've heard people complaining that because we had a financial crisis they miss some of the comforts they used to have. I am like, "Come on! Enjoy your life and health. You are eating sardines and drinking Ouzo by the beach. We are free, we have good friends around and we laugh - this is what people are supposed to do."

>Don't concentrate only on work, stressful and bad things in your life. Concentrate instead on creating good moments and being around good people, because life is so beautiful.


I discovered last week that my best friend, who's in her 20's, has lung cancer and a 36% chance of survival. That's only 3 months after being in a car crash where the doctors said she might never walk again, yet she made a full recovery.

It's really put things into perspective for me. There's no point in spending time and effort doing things we don't like, there's no point in staying in a job you hate, or spending time with people you don't like. I might get hit by a car and killed tomorrow and it would be fucking awful if my final thought was how I wasn't looking forward to going to work in the morning.

Obviously I understand that I'm privileged that I'm in this position. There's so many people out there who need to work shit jobs to feed themselves or their family. But most of us here on HN are in the same position as me. Why spend time working working some shit corporate job in the valley, paying a fucking fortune for rent, just so that you can get a job somewhere else earning more money? I earn enough money to be comfortable, I'd rather direct my efforts towards making meaningful human connections and enjoying life.

Work to live, don't live to work.


Worked 20+ years in the Bay Area. 3 years ago, I got tired of the rat race, I sold everything I own and moved to Saigon, Vietnam. For the last month, I've been on a motorbike driving all over Southern Vietnam and Cambodia with my gf. Technically, we are homeless, living out of low cost, but decent hotels.

We live a completely minimal lifestyle. We own just enough to fit on the motorbike. In the last month, we've used a single plastic bottle (because we were on an island and wanted water and couldn't get it any other way) and created just a tiny bit of trash. We aren't religious about it. I'm only bringing it up because by focusing on making a minimal impact on this planet, it has allowed us to really let go of so much.

It isn't easy, but it is possible to do exactly what you're saying.

cheers,

https://imgur.com/a/8V6NUWm . (Kampot, Cambodia)


You don't need to go through a NDE. Try going hiking on the mountains. You'll come back with a better attitude about life and your usual problems will look meaningless. I used to go at least once a year. Need to get back on it.


True, it doesn’t always take a NDE, but I think it does require a certain amount of hardship and/or trauma. People need to be pushed into a corner to find out who they really are. They need to be truly alone, and often not by choice.


My parents go most every weekend. They're still stress prone.


A lot of people that go through and NDE come out the other side with crippling PTSD.


If we’re taking about actual Near Death Experiences (NDE), the research shows an interesting pattern:

Near-death experiences: clinical implications http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0101-60832007000700015&...

> “Compared to non-experiencers, NDErs report greatly increased concern for others, decreased fear of death, and increased belief in an afterlife, increased religious interest and feeling, and lessened desire for material success and approval of others (Flynn, 1982).”

Even for those who did not have a NDE,

> “Compared to persons who had come close to death but not had NDEs, experiencers place significantly lower value on social status, professional and material success, and fame (Greyson, 1983a), and find death less threatening (Greyson, 1992).”


I had an experience while extremely high on magic mushrooms. I was completely and totally convinced I was going to die. It was just before a fireworks display With utmost certainty I knew when the fireworks started I would die. I was terrified. I started going over everything i'd done in my life, everything i'd regretted, all the times i'd acted shitty to people, just everything.

During that time, I didn't realize until later, different layers of my personality were stripping away and each layer was a new thought about my life.

Then the fireworks started...I didn't die. I rememer.I didn't really feel relief...just happiness and a new feeling that just existing and making the best od life was good enough.

Since then i've found my attitude towards a lot of things has changed. I used to worry about my health a lot, not quite hypochondriac but sometimes pretty close, i'd get overwhelmed with anxiety about dying from different things. In all the years since then I haven't worried about it any more.

I find little things that would frustrate me or i'd put a lot of energy into worrying about don't bother me any more. Generally my interactions with people.have improved. I find i expect less from them now while at the same time I find myself generally caring about people's lives and the things that happen to them more than I used to.

I also lost interest in watching graphically violent movies or just senseless violence on general.

I dunno...I know it's not the same as a real near death experience but reading your comment really made me think of that time.


It sounds like the "you" before the fireworks started did actually die - and the new "you" appeared after.

I have personally gained a great deal from mushrooms and mescaline. I'm a better human (I believe) for those journeys I took.


I think NDE was being used as shorthand here for an experience where one could have died, not the much more clinical definition where one's body is physically near death as above. It's a very interesting study.


One can hope for his best. Those sounds can't be pleasant to carry with you (people being executed I mean).


And a lot come out with Posttraumatic growth: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posttraumatic_growth


NDE = near death experience, presumably.


It's nice when something is so well written that it almost literally transports you to that moment. I was agitated to know what would happen next as the narrative unfolded.

Can recommend.


The story just kept going. I thought it would be over after the initial hiding under the bed and the men leaving his room, but it was only the beginning. It's amazing this man is still alive.


Same here, that would make a great movie.


It reminded me of "10 minutes"[1], the Best European Short Film of 2002.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za8-THNtk-M


Worth mentioning that the Taliban has just conducted another terrible attack this morning

> The Wardak attack is turning into the single deadliest attack against the Afghan intelligence in the past 17 yrs. We are hearing now at least 40 dead more than 50 wounded. (some officials still insist not all are NDS officers - includes local upriser militias they were training) https://twitter.com/MujMash/status/1087338155072724992?s=19


According to his tale, he was almost killed by special forces snipers. I know you could not blame them due to the confusion, but it would have been terrible to survive the attackers just to be killed by the people that were supposed to save you.


I read this as more of a tale of a man that fell into the insides of a machine and managed to hide in a crack to avoid getting crushed untill the machine stopped its course.

This kind of attack and response is like mad contraption fueled by old human stupidity and borderline futuristic deadly powerful technology.

As a civilian you are supposed to keep very safe distance from such a powerful tech but someone, somewhere gets inevitably confronted with it mixed with a dash or a lot of human stupidity and most often dies.


[flagged]


Please don't post like this on Hacker News.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


> About an hour-and-a-half passed, and although I didn't know it at the time the attackers had by now killed almost everyone in the lobby, the restaurant, and on the first and second floors of the hotel. They had rushed through the third and fourth floors to the fifth floor and I could hear them running around on the rooftop above my head, where they were managing to keep away helicopters belonging to the international forces.

Reading that, I can't imagine being stuck in such a situation without weapons. Yeah, a sidearm won't necessarily save one's life, particularly against several attackers, but all it would take is a few people to fight back to subdue the attackers. According to Wikipedia, there were only 'four or five gunmen' and about 200 people in the hotel (42 dead, over 160 rescued): if each person had been capable of resisting, then the attackers simply couldn't have won the day without a significantly larger team, which would have incurred increased cost, opsec risk & operational risk.

I can't imagine the terror of being stuck in a hotel room, waiting to die. A weapon might not save my life, but at least it'd give me something to focus on & feel better about.


Incredible, to be hiding under one of two beds in his hotel room, and having the other bed being searched and shot at by the Taliban.

> Don't concentrate only on work, stressful and bad things in your life. Concentrate instead on creating good moments and being around good people, because life is so beautiful.


I wonder why they shot at the tidy bed but not the unkempt one. The narrator seems to imply he knew hiding under the unkempt one was the better option. Why is that ?

Also, what's with "holding the bed with my toes and fists" ? I don't picture that really well.


> Also, what's with "holding the bed with my toes and fists" ? I don't picture that really well.

The bed didn't have enough space for him to fit with its legs on the floor. I imagine he was lying face-up under the bed, with his arms outstretched, fists balled up supporting one end of the bed (under strut). At the other end, his heels would have been on the floor, with his toes bearing the weight of the bed

edit: uploaded my badly drawn interpretation https://imgur.com/a/Q3kBA1T


(Nice drawing).

Hopefully the assailant only sat up on the bed after our guy tore it open and slid inside the frame. Still, he stayed hours at first, holding the bed 10 centimeters from the ground.


> I wonder why they shot at the tidy bed but not the unkempt one. The narrator seems to imply he knew hiding under the unkempt one was the better option. Why is that ?

I wondered this as well. He did say he has had significant training, but honestly, I think this was just pure luck.


When breaking places the intact things are broken first. Breaking an already broken vase just isn’t the same.

Just my hunch at least. Untidy bed is already ”broken”.


To me it’s very close to 50/50 maybe 55/44 but maybe that is the difference.


Sometimes that's enough.


Bad guys break Good things.


There is the saying its better to be lucky than good.


And to have the bad guy quite literally sitting on top of you. I cannot imagine the mental fortitude it takes to maintain your composure to keep perfectly still and silent in that situation.


Right! I did think it was interesting that he said this adrenaline rush made it difficult to keep from laughing. It seems completely inappropriate, but makes sense at the same time. "Really, this is happening to me right now?"


Laughing can be a nervous or awkward reaction as well as the usual. I don't know if this is universal but I and others sometimes get a compulsion to laugh when told bad news.


You've got systems or exceptions buried deep in you to help in those kinds of circumstances, IMO. For example, my sense of claustrophobia almost completely vanishes when I'm getting really cold.


Other things that could have killed him was a cough or a sneeze


Or even his stomach growling.


If he still has an appetite.


Not to belittle anything he went through, but don't discount survivorship bias.


Of course. There could be a dozen harrowing stories just like this from that day except for the part where they survive.


> Each time they would laugh afterwards, like they were just playing around, or like it was a big party or something.

Terrorists in TV and movies are never like this. They're always super-serious evil, like Voldemort, like nobody ever is in real life. I wonder how much violence could be prevented if Hollywood didn't give us such a bullshit view of human nature.


It seems pretty evil to me if you laugh about murdering humans like it's some sort of game.


Isn't that what all soldiers do?


No


I guess the Taliban are somehow different from everyone else and evil, then. It's the most reasonable explanation.


Surely there is middle ground between "all soldiers do it" and "no soldier except Talian ever done it".

While no army is composed of highly emphatic saints, armies differ in their general level of violence toward non-combatants, cruelty, how pleasurable they perceive killing and so on and so forth. Ideology and reward system have to do a lot with how army or specific unit behaves.


Sure, I just don't really subscribe to the notion that "they're brown so they must be evil". The data I have right now is "these soldiers were taking killing lightly" and, if I'm going to generalize from the data point, I'll generalize to "all soldiers take killing lightly" rather than "the Taliban specifically take killing lightly", since that makes an additional assumption that the Taliban are special.


Both nazi and communists took killing lightly or as manly honorable duty. They were German and Russians respectively. They believed they are doing right thing with no ambiguity. They had fun with it. They were more violent as western armies toward non combatants.

The original claim was about this particular unit. Assumption that they are representative of all brown people is wrong. Plenty of brown don't subscribe to this ideology.

Armies indoctrinate and socialize people differently. Implying racism on part of people who don't extrapolate one unit of one army behavior to all of them is not great tactic.


Not to excuse them obviously but I wonder if it could have been a nervous laugh. Later in the article even the author had to cover his mouth in case he laughed during the ordeal. I know I tend to laugh myself when something really stressful happens, it's an awkward habit.


They may have been high. The Taliban is known to have given suicide bombers drugs before sending them to their deaths.


They were probably just pleased and proud of themselves because they believe they are fighting on the good side.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hn1VxaMEjRU


It's insane to me that a sniper opened fire on Vasileiou without any confirmation that he was a target. If he had been killed and word had gotten out, it would have been horrible PR.

It's also insane that Vasileiou went from being in immediate danger of burning alive to immediate danger of hypothermia. What a roller coaster. And his training was broad enough to cover the entire spectrum.


Thats why the sniper missed

Somebody or training made the sniper question the action


I strongly recommend "The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why" by Amanda Ripley [1]. It is a terrific look of the character traits and behavior of people who survive life-threatening circumstances and those who don't.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2706211-the-unthinkable


One thing that struck me about this story was that he made some good decisions and some bad ones, but as he points out he got really lucky a bunch of times. None of his habits would have mattered if he’d been in the restaurant, if he’d have been in the wrong room, picked the wrong bed to hide under, or hadn’t moved just out of the way of a sniper’s bullet, and if a tank had fired on his room.

It’s easy to assume that a given set of habits correlate with survival, and even easier to write a book effectively engaging in survivorship bias. It’s a lot harder to get lucky many times in a row, to have the opportunity to not die. So read the book, keep your back to a wall and an eye on exists, but recognize that none of that would have helped this guy. The two big tings that seemed to have saved this guy is temperament (look at his job for indication she that job followed temperament and and not the other way around) which allowed him to remain calm, and sheer dumb luck.


> It’s easy to assume that a given set of habits correlate with survival

It is a correct assumption.

I survived this attack ... by not going to Afghanistan.


I haven't gone through your link yet, but sounds like Survivorship Bias here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias


From the original story sounds like one of the traits you have to have is luck. Lots and lots of luck.


I think a good tactic might have been to deploy the bedsheet rope in order to make it look as if he had climbed down to the floor below.


Depending on who's after you, that could just as easily draw attention, concentrate the search on both floors and escalate to a pursuit. Without the means to outrun or fight a pursuer, every animal's natural instinct is to hide...which guarantees you're close by.

When it comes to hiding/camoflauge, the goal is not to mislead-- you don't want someone to look at you and see a random shrub or find fake evidence of an escape. That raises suspicion. The goal is to make someone looking directly at you have no idea you're even there, where you were or where you're going.


Reading it, I actually had the same idea.

But still, the possible would exist that there's someone in the room who didn't dare climb down in the end.


Yes. But then it seems like a mistake to have put the mattress against the door since that strongly suggests that someone is in the room.


He did this to physically shield himself from random shrapnel. His purpose in opening the balcony door was to give the impression that somebody may have egressed.

This is taught in tradecraft courses, and this mention along with others in the article suggests to me that he's been through some tradecraft and/or SERE-type trainings -- probably oriented towards journalists.


Maybe journalists, or maybe pilots. Planes & airports have long been a high profile target.


Err pilots, I meant. I got some wires cross in my head when typing that out.

I attended one such tradecraft class and was remembering that virtually all my classmates were journalists headed into theater (Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan).


Or could be perceived as a diversion to allow the person enough time to get down their makeshift rope.


Great article.

But one detail seems to be wrong:

It says "I had to do something, so I went out on to the balcony. I could see the fire on __my left hand side__, it was heavy and I realised that if it reached my room I wasn't going to survive."

The provided image circles the balcony on the right hand side of the fire, so it would have been either his right hand side where he saw the fire, the image has been mirrored, or BBC just circled the wrong balcony: https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/720x405/p06ynx4y.jpg


I saw that too but later in the article it gets explained.

> early in the morning the international forces began to fire from a tank into the rooms. They concentrated on room 521, the one next door to me

The blackened rooms to his right aren't the fire he was talking about. There must have been another fire out of view of this picture.


or he was on the balcony, facing the building describing the the fire was on his left hand side. Amazing read, amazing he made it out, his training and being calm helped him, luck was a factor as well.


Wow that was very well written. In an intense situation where after the fact people want to write dramatically, this was the opposite in a great way. We all still feel attached and with a great sense of what happened, the pace it was written, and the events that stood out to him and were told. It's so nice to have something like that rather than an over the top description. Granted, I'm not sure if he wrote that himself or was helped / ghostwritten as is the extremely annoying case in tons of articles, but either way, well done.


"Parts of the hotel were able to re-open two months after the attack" — what?

Curious, what would be the logical explanation for that? I mean, for starters nobody would want to work there, and nobody would want to _stay_ there. Right?


In hot conflict areas some hotels are usually used to house people who are still having to go about their business. Such as airline pilots, journalists, ngo people etc... usually the fact that the hotel is being used for such purpose is common knowledge and there is some sort of extra military protection given. Of course this can also backfire as depending on the multiple interests of the factions involved in the conflict it can be in their interest to attack, ignore, or defend such buildings...in the case of this hotel in particular it had already been attacked in 2011 before this attack described in the article (which happened in 2018). You can read more about it here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotel_Inter-Continental_Kabul


There's an old story (that I can't find right now) about a bank employee that falls for a scam that costs the company hundreds of thousands. He goes to his boss and says "I guess you will be expecting my resignation", to which the boss replies "Resign? I just spent thousands of dollars training you!".

I would apply the same line of thought here: I don't think this hotel is any more insecure that any other. In fact, I would expect it to have more security than the others from now on.

I understand the emotional point - it's pretty much the same point that Chris Rock made about renaming the new Twin Towers the "Never going in there tower". But I can totally see the hotel making a comeback - if Charlie Hebdo is still in business, I don't see why the hotel can't follow the same steps.



This makes no sense. Even the bank boss is a fool. Someone who falls for one scam once, isn't automatically never going to fall for a different scam ever again. It might be because they are always in a hurry to approve things, or gullible. You don't get rid of those traits with one lesson.

The reason they still use the hotel, is that there are not a lot of hotels in the area. This is not NY city.


I think (but maybe it is only a duplicate) that you may be thinking at this story about Tom Watson (IBM):

http://www.mbiconcepts.com/watson-sr-and-thoughtful-mistakes...


The one I remember was definitely about a scam, but I have no doubt that it was a rehash of similar stories in the past. Yours is probably the original, which is even better.


The hotel still needs to make money, so getting it open as quickly as possible even after a horrific incident is important for the bottom line of the company that runs it.

Fix all the damage, put up a plaque or other memorial to the victims, and then move forward.

This may seem harsh, but economic interests don't permanently go away when disasters happen.


Late stage capitalism everybody


I'm not sure what that has to do with anything I said.

Honest question - when should any business or organization re-open after a tragedy happens on it's grounds? I doubt that the answer is "never".


I was a regular at the JW Marriott in Jakarta after it was bombed in 2003, and so was my boss, who was actually in the hotel at the time of the attack. In addition to being an excellent hotel, they also took security very seriously, unlike the security theater put on by most of their competition. And besides, lightning won't strike twice, right?

Only problem is, they were bombed again in 2009, this time with the help of a staff insider...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JW_Marriott_Jakarta


Afghanistan has been at war since 1978. The Kabul Intercontinental Hotel was partially destroyed by shelling in the 1990s. It was attacked by suicide bombers in 2011, then again by gunmen in 2018. That's completely typical for a landmark building in Kabul.

If the Afghan people abandoned everywhere that had been the scene of an atrocity, there would be few places left to go.


Moreover, Inter-Continental was already attacked 7 years before, in 2011. [0] If you agree to a job in an unstable place like Kabul as an outsider, you already accept some risk. You have to stay somewhere, and there might not be many safer places to stay.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Inter-Continental_Hotel_K...


Reminds me of Clerks and the Death Star contractors, though this line of thinking has scary implications for working in the World Trade Center, any federal building, or Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQdDRrcAOjA


The Intercontinental and the Serena are the main hotels that house journalists, pilots and aid workers. They have both been attacked multiple times.

If you need to travel to Kabul, as many people do, there are no truly safe options. Both hotels are beautiful and well guarded. They are also high-profile targets.

If your employer doesn't have access to a lower-profile private compound with private security then you are going to the Serena or the Intercontinental.


Hotels work (and get customers) in all kinds of hot zones...


At first I missed the fact that this was a year ago at the very start of the article and just read that it was January 20th. So I briefly thought that it happened yesterday and this badass was already writing articles and posing for photos with the bed. Still pretty badass though.


It's well worth reading. Read to the end; he includes his perspectives on life in the summary.


If you really do not have the time to read the whole article, it's worth reading at least the last 4 paragraphs.


It didn't feel like that long of a story, I read through it in one go. It reads so matter-of-factly. The guy was really lucky.


He was both extremely lucky and very clever and thinking quickly. The odds that he'd survive were one in a million, what an amazing story.


Amazing read.

(IMO there is a small mistake. They write "I could see the fire on my left hand side" but the fire from the tagged window is on "the right" from inside...)


Or once on the balcony, he turned back to face the facade in order to better watch it...


I think that was from the tank blasting at the window.


> >Don't concentrate only on work, stressful and bad things in your life. Concentrate instead on creating good moments and being around good people, because life is so beautiful.

I feel this sentence could also save a lot of lives, in a slightly different way.


I wonder if his ability to focus on analysis and solutions made the whole experience less traumatic.


I was really hoping to see that last photo he's talking about taken by one of his saviors.


Me too, I assumed its the electric blanket one which is right after that paragraph.


Wow what an amazing story of survival.


[flagged]


Rather irrelevant. Also something that is somewhat incorrect. Taliban specifically wasn't the creation of Pakistani military intelligence to fight Soviet Invasion funded by the CIA.

1. The Soviet invasion wasn't really an invasion considering it was on a request by the current government to pacify the rebels i.e. Assad, Russia and Syria recently. ( not sure if officially requested support but there is a clear mutual understanding ).

2. Taliban as a group didn't exist during or before the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. The group you are thinking of is the Mujahideen, which were basically decentralised groups with local warlords leading them. The seven main mujahideen parties later allied as the political bloc called Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahideen. So, eventually the Soviet retreated in around 1989 and the DRA ( the government of Afghanistan ) also fell around 1992. However, the Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahideen actually couldn't form a united government which lead to infighting i.e. various groups basically fighting over Kabul. While this was happening, a man named Mullah Omar from a small village started a movement which eventually became the Taliban.

So, to say that the Taliban was funded by the CIA is pretty incorrect, and so is to say that it was created to fight the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan.


Tomatos, tomatoes - same tribes doing the same thing (whatever in that particular year they were called), and yes they were trained in Pakistan (or Pakistani-controlled area or whatever - there are no real borders there) and yes, they were getting CIA help.


You should be aware that the Soviet-Afghan War started as an Afghan Civil War, between the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (the ruling Afghani communists) and the Afghani civilian populace who were being brutally repressed under that government. It was that communist government that requested Soviet intervention in Afghanistan; an invitation that the Soviets declined for over a year. It was the opinion of the Soviets that the PDP were being unnecessarily brutal. The first thing the Soviets did when they finally did move into Afghanistan was murder the then current head of the PDP, Hafizullah Amin. Amin had come into power by ordering the murder of the previous communist leader of Afghanistan, Nur Muhammad Taraki, who had also been chastised by the Soviets for brutality.

The key point here is that Afghanistan was already in a civil war before the Soviets entered the country. It was that civil disorder that prompted Taraki to request Soviet intervention. The fighting in Afghanistan did not start with the Soviet 'invasion' of Afghanistan, it started as a response to the Saur Revolution.


> You should be aware that the Soviet-Afghan War started as an Afghan Civil War, between the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (the ruling Afghani communists) and the Afghani civilian populace who were being brutally repressed under that government.

And that itself was a continuation of a slow brewing civil conflict going since colonial times in mid 19th century.


... and therefore it's the Soviets who are responsible for the resulting horrific crimes? Or did you have a different point?


Do we need to have a point behind each fact? is there a point behind each Wikipedia article?


Generally yes, there tends to be an ulterior motive behind the statement of tangentially related facts on discussions of news stories.

But in any case, thanks to your information I've concluded that it's the Soviets who are responsible for the crimes of the Taliban.


>> But in any case, thanks to your information I've concluded that it's the Soviets who are responsible for the crimes of the Taliban.

Ah, well spotted! Yes, them and Cu Cuhullin.


Ah, so you did have a point! :)


Generally we expect people to downvote comments which are wrong, not the ones they disagree with - but who am I kidding?


Or comments with minimal relevance, non-sequiturs, etc..


Nobody disagrees with your Wikipedia article.


Turns out 4-5 guys with AK's and some grenades took over an international hotel in central Kabul and killed 40+ people.

What's the excuse for the hotel not having any security?


>What's the excuse for the hotel not having any security?

https://ewn.co.za/2018/01/23/afghan-hotel-attack-stirs-fresh...

"KABUL - A bloody Taliban raid on a high-end hotel guarded by a private company in the Afghan capital ...

[...]

“There were 15 guards on duty at time of the attack and none of them engaged the attackers,”


It's a hotel in Afghanistan, a country presently immersed in turmoil.


It had already been attacked and was full of international guests. In the capital city. 4-5 guys should not be able to take complete control of the hotel with no heavy weaponry. That means security is deficient or non-existent.


What kind of daily security setup can protect against 5 gunmen with AK47s?


You don't necessarily need to meet them head-on & emerge victorious, just delay them long enough for backup to arrive and/or deter them, again by showing that you will delay them.


Why aren't autonomous or remotely controlled rovers, or turrets ever installed?


Armed and trained security detail/guards.


"Should not be able to take complete control"

Sure, in a normally-functioning country with available leadership and logistical resources. But that is not Afghanistan, at present.

That was my whole point.


A good read.

To people from better off part of the world, luxury hotels in third-world countries are, almost as a rule, a magnet for trouble: petty crimes, robberies, encounters with mafia, and, as was in that case, an armed assault.


This isn't true at all. Luxury hotels, most especially managed or chain brands are some of the safest places in third-world countries.

The odds of buglary, petty crimes and those vices you listed happening is close to zero. This is the reason why they are attractive to expats and high-end clients.

They have the best security and are usually located in prime areas making them less susceptible to some of those claims you made.

And they also have a brand to protect. Except they are very expensive relative to the cost of living of those countries but their target market is foreigners, short-stay expats and government delegations so they still get patronized.


Yeah, you have two choices -- either a high-end international-clientele hotel which also has security, or something relatively anonymous. The other two quadrants (high profile international hotel with no security, or a low-profile guesthouse with a lot of western guests and lots of local information about it) are how to get killed most efficiently.

Big hard property means you'll probably be safe from petty crime, but you might be collateral damage during a large terrorist attack. However, most places can repel the smaller attacks.

Smaller/anonymous property means you won't be collateral damage from anyone else, but it will be a whole lot easier for someone to learn "rich American/European is staying in this guesthouse" and then do a trivial attack. You have to be consistent with this, using local vehicles, probably not going out much, etc.

Depends on the situation which is better (the external situation as well as who you are as a target). A big factor is that K&R/institutional policies/etc. do not permit the low profile approach. If you're living in a low profile place but then taking a big armored truck to/from meetings with the government at hardened sites, you're probably going to have a bad time, too.

I'd personally feel weird being in Afghanistan or Iraq without a weapon (and possibly security detail) today, despite it being "safer" than when I was there, and having illegal weapons being itself an actual risk now. I solve this by just not going.

Most of the third world isn't actual-warzone and you're not as likely to face a huge terrorist attack on the biggest target. The Kenyan mall/etc. attacks are outliers. I'd generally go for the hardened strategy myself, as I don't want to have to go through the trouble of blending in, especially on a longer basis.

(In a high threat environment I'd probably go for my own secured compound somewhere, just so I wouldn't be collateral damage, but that requires you be able to hold/secure the compound, which puts a pretty high minimum scale to be economic. I lived in a villa in Baghdad with Kurdish security, and then in Afghanistan I stayed at a guest house with a 2:1 rifle to guest ratio, but yeah.)


This is what most Westerner think, but the reality is the opposite.

I'll explain.

Luxury hotels in 3rd world countries are very different from normal hotels. They are "hotels" in name only.

Here, luxury hotels function pretty much like castles and keeps for local "feudal elites." What they do is not so much about providing lodging and comfort, but providing physical security and security from sights of common people to local rich and powerful.

You are totally right that such places are well secured, some even with security walls, barbed wire, and armed guards. But the very fact that such establishments tend to host "walking money bags," or people justly hated by local populace is the reason why troubles haunt them.

That infamous Ritz Carlton in Moscow near Kremlin certainly saw over 20 murders, and god knows how many other violent crimes. A Marriott nearby fared not much better.

> The odds of buglary, petty crimes and those vices you listed happening is close to zero. This is the reason why they are attractive to expats and high-end clients.

Such things happen near weekly, no matter how much security is posted on premises. This is really counterintuitive to a person from the West. How to say that... if hotel you are staying in is the only place in the city where burglars and pickpockets can steal anything of value, it will be targeted invariably of the amount of deterrent https://www.google.com/search?q=%22presidential+suite%22+bur...


I spent a year as "nomad" traveling the world. A friend of mine who works for the State Department told me to always "stay where other Americans aren't."


Can you please elaborate? I've always been suggested to stay in good american chains- hilton et al


I think no matter where you travel if you're seen to be a tourist some people will see you as a "target" for petty crime of opportunity like pickpocketing. But in some countries being an American could make you the target of a violent crime committed by a political/ideological extremist. When I was in Marseille, for example, several American students studying abroad were the target of an acid attack.

I suppose the thinking goes that if one American is a potential target for an opportunistic violent extremist than a place that's frequently host to groups of Americans is perhaps more likely to be a target for a coordinated attack.

It might or might not be true but for the most part it wasn't particularly difficult to avoid my fellow Americans while traveling anyway. We tend to take business trips abroad but not many weeks-long exploratory vacations. Plus, you can't really get much of a feel for the country you're in from a Hilton now can you?

Edit: To add that I don't want to be fear-mongering. I think a lot of my friends and family thought I was taking a "risk" by traveling to some of the countries I went to and for the most part I felt just as safe in the Middle East as I did in New Orleans. I don't think fear should stop anyone from traveling but I also think it's wise to be mindful of some of the unfortunate realities of the world in which we live.


Huh? Millions of people go to luxury hotels in third-world countries, and are, for the most part, completely isolated.

If they venture off the hotel area, and generally the safer city areas, it's on them.


You sounded like one of the few sane voices in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18953040

I have no other way of discussing this further since that comment is too down the page for me to expect you to see replies to- but what would be a good "front-end framework" according to you? And if I may ask- what do you use?


Well, on that... I will chose Vue for something relatively undemanding just for the sake of convenience, and availability of devs. For something more performance critical, S.js + surplus looks to me the best library around today that provides lightweight data binding, templating and reactivity without feature bloat.


Thank you- I do care a lot about performance. About S.js, wow, that does look amazingly simple- just my type. I went through your comments (sorry if that's not appropriate) and it seemed to me that you're mostly into electronics. But your comment about js seemed well-informed after some other research I did. So thanks a lot, I'm surprised that I never learned this before.




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