7 February 2010
Iraqi Insurgents Capture Human Terrain Team Member Issa T. Salomi
by John Stanton
Steve Fondacaro and Montgomery Clough, senior program management of the US Army's Human Terrain System (HTS), were warned as early as 2007 that Human Terrain Team members in Iraq and Afghanistan would become prey for insurgent groups. They were advised repeatedly that training must emphasize the dangerous environment HTS employees would be operating in. That training needed to focus on practices and procedures for handling life threatening situations to include kidnapping.
Issa Salomi, a 60 year old HTT member operating in a combat zone, was taken in January 2010 by an Iraqi insurgent group and a video of him was released on the Net in February 2010 by the same group. This tragic event drives home, once again, the core failings of the Human Terrain Team System: the inability to find qualified personnel, to train them properly and to, quite simply, take care of them. Some allege that many team leaders and HTS management itself have no clue where many of their teams are. "Some HTT members disappear for days and then return."
"They will tell you they are addressing this in the curriculum redesign but it's too little too late. The students currently in training are not been thoroughly briefed on the situation on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan . There does not appear to be any attempt to implement anything in training regarding kidnapping. This is criminally negligent," said observers.
Observers also indicate that those in charge of revising the HTS curriculum and training new batches of HTS students are not qualified to do so as their expertise is in private sector organizational behavior. Some have had no military or field experience and, what's more, hardly understand the US military culture they are embedded in. Yet they are offered contracts that extend, in some cases, close to one month at $1200 per day. Some allege that conflicts of interests abound within HTS with one of them centered around the outlay of $2 million to a group called Cornerstone.
How much more will it take until the word "accountability" becomes relevant to the US Army's HTS program? Where are the IG's or the US Congress? Secretary of Defense Robert Gates may have held accountable the program manager for the Joint Strike Fighter whom he recently fired but no one died in that program.
Who in HTS, and those that command above it, will be held to account for the deaths,trauma and lives ruined for a military/sociological experiment gone wrong? Those below, and their families, deserve much more than a mention on the HTS.mil website or in court/medical records for their efforts.
Michael Bhatia, Nicole Suveges, Paula Loyd, Don Ayala (and the Afghan National murdered), Wesley Cureton, Scott Wilson, Issa Solomi, and those unidentified US soldiers wounded in their company.
John Stanton is a Virginia Based writer specializing in national security and political matters. His recent book is General David Petraeus' Favorite Mushroom: Inside the US Army HTS. Reach him at cioran123[at]yahoo.com
John Stanton's Human Terrain System articles: