Shakespearean Tragedy Plays Out in Afghanistan

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Well!

Insanity is occurring at this moment.

An Afghan acquaintance has “kidnapped” a young women and run off with her. I don’t think she was kidnapped so much as they have simply decided that they can’t live without each other and absconded away with one another…for the sake of their youthful, idealized, idyllic love.

Much to the consternation of his family and friends. He has also caused some turmoil for some folks who have helped him out along the way here in the Stan. His father may have faked a heart attack to escape the scene that now evolves and has situated himself in a hotel in Kabul. That may be the “Ariana Hotel.” His father may have had an actual heart attack or episode from the stress of tonight’s events. I’m not sure.

I called one of my acquaintances cell numbers only to reach his family. Specifically his father…who did not sound healthy at all. The father gave his phone to his young son who spoke English quite well. I asked after my young friend. Little Brother excitedly replied; “Wahid not come home after work. We looking for Wahid. If Wahid call you…you tell us.”

Little Brother is who informed me of their location – the Ariana Hotel.

As of this moment, this young man and his lady friend are on the run. Being that this is Afghanistan and his family SEEMS to have connections, I fear more for the safety and welfare of this young woman.

In Kabul and Herat, there are Women’s Prisons which hold many young Afghan ladies who were guilty of nothing more than being in love and running off with a young fellow. These women are usually found guilty of the idiotic “Crimes Against Chastity” and/or “bewitching young men and forcing immorality upon them.”

I’m sure the young man will get his hand slapped and little else. I fear that, if they are found or return of their own volition, the young girl is going to wind up in Kabul Women’s Prison.

There is another unfortunate twist to this.

The young lady in question is supposedly pregnant. The Father allegedly being my young acquaintance. Supposedly, they’ve “run off to Qandahar.” I’ve tried to contact him to talk some sense into him. Alas, my efforts bear no fruit.

Sounds like something out of a crime novel, does it not.

I hope everything works out. I fear it will not.

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The other twist to this is Sharia law combined with Afghan customs. The oft discussed Pashtunwali has another side to it’s code of hospitality. It is a code of revenge. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Blood for blood.

If Wahid has either kidnapped this young lady. He will owe a blood debt for he has dishonored the family of the young lady. Wahid’s actions have humiliated this young woman’s family. That stain upon their family honor will exist until they have extracted a measure of satisfaction. This can be paid in blood or gold. The family might even demand female siblings of Wahid’s family as a means of settling this dispute. If the debt is not paid in gold or women, blood will be demanded. They will hunt Wahid. They may even avenge their “honor” by murdering or kidnapping members of his family.

Badal –may be understood as vengeance, revenge or justice.  It requires violent reaction to a death, injury or insult.  Advances on one’s zan, [ZAHN] zar [ZAHR] or zamin [ZAH-meen] (“women,” “wealth,” or “land”) are the most common offenses requiring revenge.  The only acceptable defense of honor is revenge, equal to but not exceeding the original insult.  Avenging an insult to a woman’s sexual purity is particularly important.

It is a strange and violent culture that must be navigated with care.
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Kabul — A Return to the Past

“If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this!” is the inscription on Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur’s Mausoleum in Kabul, Afghanistan.  Of all the cities conquered by Babur Khan in the founding of the Moghul Empire, Kabul held a special place of honor in his heart.  It was his city of dreams.  It was the city that gave rise to his empire.  In 1504, Babur came out of the mountains of Ghor after having traveled through snowdrifts higher than the tallest of his men.  Those mountains and those surrounding all of Kabul are part of the Hindu Kush (aka the Hindu Killer).  Babur would cross those mountains again in his conquest of the Punjab.  His descendants would build beautiful edifices such as the Taj Mahal.  Babur himself died in Delhi and was interred in a Mausoleum in Agra despite his fervent desire to be buried in Kabul.  Some years later, his son Humayun is said to have moved his remains to Kabul where they were laid in what came to be known as the Bagh-e Babur or Babur’s Gardens.
Kabul predates the great Mughal Emperor by some two to three thousand years.  The city has seen it’s share of famous visitors — Genghis, of course, being one of the most famous.  Seven hundred years later, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and take the capital.  Not long after the Soviet invasion, events that would lead to the American invasion were set in motion.
On a dark winter night in 1979 not long after the Soviets occupied Afghanistan, the people of Kabul gathered on their rooftops.  The men yelled “Allahu Akhbar” and fired Kalashnikov rifles into the air.  The women sounded off as well.  They stood on their rooftops ululating in the time honored manner of Islamic women sending their men off to war.  This signaled the beginning of the Mujahideen insurgency in Central and Eastern Afghanistan.  A decade later, Soviet Lieutenant General Boris Gromov walked across the the Amu Darya River as the last Soviet soldier to depart Afghanistan.
Almost immediately after the Soviets departed, the Mujahideen commanders fell into civil war fighting for control of the country.  Kabul had been largely untouched by the Mujahideen insurgency during the Soviet occupation.  The city was not so fortunate at the hands of the Mujahideen.  The Mujahideen commanders such as Rashid Doostum and Gulbuddin Hekmetyar staked out areas like street gangs in American ghettoes and proceeded to bombard each other with captured Soviet Artillery and Armor.  Whole neighborhoods were flattened.  The Mujahideen raped, pillaged and brought near complete destruction to Kabul.   What the Soviets had left untouched, the Mujahideen had virtually destroyed.  The residents of the Kabul who had earlier greeted the Mujahideen as liberators from the Soviet puppets now fled the city to refugee camps in Pakistan, Iran and out to Europe via Central Asia.

After a series of defeats and setbacks at the hands of the Ahmad Shah Massoud led Northern Alliance, the Taliban entered Kabul.   They were hailed as conquering heroes and restorers of law and order.  They wasted little time in declaring the new Islamic Caliphate of Afghanistan.  They emplaced sharia as the law of the land and replaced Radio Kabul with Radio Sharia.  Soon thereafter, televisions, music and dancing were outlawed.  Girl schools were closed.  Women were confined to the home or forced to wear the burqa in public.  Men were made to grow beards and shave their heads on pain of public beating.  Religious police brutally beat Afghans for the slightest infractions.  There were beard patrols that checked to ensure that beards were at least fist length meaning that if the religious police grabbed one’s beard in his fist and one’s beard did not protrude from the bottom of his fist, you were beaten.  The five daily prayers were made mandatory.  Any Muslim who was late or not in attendance was beaten flailed mercilessly.  Public executions and medieval punishments became the norm in Kabul’s Olympic Stadium.

A few years after the Taliban took Kabul, Osama bin Laden sought political refuge in Afghanistan.  The Saudis had stripped him of his citizenship.  The United States had pressured Sudan into deporting bin Laden from his safe haven in Khartoum.  Osama contacted Mullah Omar and was given permission to fly with his family and entourage into the country.  Osama took up residence in the South at Karnak Farms but had other places of refuge throughout the South and East.
It was from Afghanistan that Osama planned his 9-11 attacks.  Once those plans were carried out and the Twin Towers fell, President George Bush demanded that Mullah Omar surrender Osama or suffer the consequences.  Mullah Omar refused to bow to Washington’s pressure.  The invasion started soon thereafter and Kabul fell in short order.
An Afghan friend told me that he sat on a place called Antenna Hill overlooking Kabul as the rockets fell on the city.  He watched as Coalition forces entered the city from the North and East and the Taliban fled to the South.  I visited Antenna Hill while I was in Afghanistan.  The whole of the city is visible from that vantage.  I could imagine events unfolding as they had in 2001.  Six year later in 2007, I was returning to Kabul for a third time.  This time, I would spend eight weeks preparing to train Afghan Police in Western Afghanistan.

In and Around Kabul

These are photos that I have taken in and around Kabul over the past couple of years. Kabul is a bit dangerous. It’s also a fun place. I have never had a bad experience in the city. Chicken Street is a riot even if it is a bit pricey these days. City Centre is a nice place to have a cup of coffee on the roof and survey the city. The Kabul Coffee House is a great place for an Ice Mocha with other ex-pats. Night time at Wazir Akhbar Khan Line 15 is a great place to dance the night away or have a few drinks and check out all of the femme ex-pats, Chinese hookers or Filipina gals. The Marco Polo Restaurant is good for excellent Italian cuisine. Some of the Chinese Restaurants actually serve chinese food. lol

I do know of people who have had terrible experiences there. One friend of mine was beaten badly in a roust of the local underground clubs. The “police” took him outside and beat him until his ribs were bruised black and blue. Then took him to their “police station” and kindly accepted a couple hundred dollars for his release. During this same raid, a group of Filipina girls were taken out and raped repeatedly. This set off a huge international incident. The Chinese “Restaurants” are raided about once every three months. Any place that sells alcohol is subject to being raided by one faction or another. Womens Beauty salons can be raided at any time if they are accused of being houses of prostitution. The accusation of prostitution can stem from an incident as simple as a local Mullah walking by and hearing loud laughter. Police at checkpoints will attempt to bribe you for a 20 spot to pass through their territory. This is easily defeated by stating loudly and aggressively that you are US Army and not backing down. This works as I’ve used it. The local police are scared to death of the US Army. Now that I train them and am on cheek kissing terms with the local Regional Commander, I’m pretty much untouchable. Not that I go off post alone these days. Since being hired by this new company and moving to the West, it’s UAV MILCON or nothing. Can’t go wrong in an armored vehicle.

This place wasn’t always so terrifying and violent. Before the Taliban, before the War of the Warlords. Back when the King was attempting to enact liberal reforms. Kabul was a haven for dope smoking hippies. That was the 60s and 70s. Kabul was also a Euro holiday spot. Places like Mazar-e Sherif, Ghazni and Herat, even Q’andahar, were tourist spots as well. Of course, that all came to a screeching halt when the Soviets came crashing in to install peace and prosperity at the tip of the communist sword. Back in 2006. As I was driving around, I did see a few tourist running around. I saw a couple of backpackers in September of 2007 sneaking around Kabul and I’ve heard of the occasional tourist and backpacker passing through Herat since I’ve been here. It will be years before the tourists come back in any respectable numbers due to the terror element. Such a shame. There is much to be seen and much to experience in Afghanistan.

Kabul Map from 1999

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Kabul, Afghanistan
This one-meter resolution satellite image of Kabul, Afghanistan was collected on Sept. 7, 1999 by Space Imaging’s IKONOS satellite. IKONOS travels 423 miles above the Earth’s surface at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour. (Mandatory photo credit: spaceimaging.com)

2 years and three days from the date of this photo, the life of this city would be altered forever. The Twin Towers in New York would fall and the US Army would invade Afghanistan. Bombing Kabul and deposing the taliban and their medieval reign. The city and it’s people will recover and nothing will ever be the same. Some will be thankful. Others will fight.

Having driven around Kabul a fair amount, I know the city fairly well. It’s odd to look at this map and see how it used to be. Major landmarks of today are missing from the view. The American Embassy Compound. Massoud Circle Monument. Of course, Massoud was still alive in 1999. It would be two years later that the cowardly al Qaeda assassins murder Massoud with a bomb hidden in a video camera. Not until 2002 or 2003 that the American Embassy compound begins construction. The old airport facilities have begun to be torn down and today there is a new facility built by the coalition and run by a British company.

The safe houses in which we stay when I move through Kabul are not there nor are the Indian and Iranian Embassies. Camp Eggers is still a group of houses. I’m guessing they are vacated as when the US first inhabited that compound there were years old animal carcasses found laying about.

Kabul has changed quite a bit since this picture was taken.

In 1999, the taliban were running around beating men for not having 3 inches of beard. They were shooting women for adultery. The men, of course, were given 20 lashes or so for having been bewitched by those women. Women were not allowed to walk the streets of Kabul without a relative male escort. All manner of medieval lunacy ruled the streets of Kabul under the reign of terror imposed by the Taliban and their Pakistan and al Qaeda sponsors.

Today, though Kabul still convulses in violence on the odd occasion, it is a city much like any other in Central Asia. No Westerner coming for the first time would think it civilized. Comparatively speaking, though, Kabul is normalized. The bazaars are open. Shop keepers go about their daily business. The citizens of Kabul are free to come and go as they please. Women can be seen walking the streets alone and in pairs. No male escort required. Unless, of course, they are family of one of the backward thinking members of the Muslim community. Kids walk the streets. Students going to and from Kabul University and a plethora of schools from primary to High School. There are snooker halls and gyms open all over the city. Restaurants are everywhere. Poorly maintained cell towers. Even shopping malls have sprung up here and there.

Taken as a whole, Kabul is not a bad city. The corruption of the Karzai government is ubiquitous. Seen everywhere. From the police who patrol the streets and man the central stations to the government officials who earn 10 to 20 thousand dollars a year, yet, own million dollar homes dotted across the city land scape and surrounding neighborhoods.

It’s interesting to see this bit of history. An apparition from the near past. So much has changed. So much altered. Both progress and regression.

I wonder what it will look like in another decade. Will chaos rule again or will the Afghan people move ahead and persevere despite the leaders that look to profit from the violence and chaos?

Earthquake in Kabul

October 8 2005 ~ Earthquake

Initial take:
I awoke with a start.  My whole damn hooch was shaking so hard that I thought it was going to collapse in on me.   What the fuck was going on?  At first, I thought that someone had screwed up and was trying to airlift my hooch.  Helicopters flew over head all the time.  The helipad was only a few hundred feet away.  In my frenzied state, I imagined that some fool had hooked up the wrong container unit and was trying to airlift me in the middle of the night.  I was a bit intoxicated still, so, you’ll forgive my lapse in judgment.
I ran outside in nothing but my skivvies.  Thank the Gods that I didn’t sleep in the nude.  I didn’t think.  I ran.  Panicked.  I didn’t know what was happening.  Once outside, I gazed into the sky and thought; “Nope!  No helo there.”  That’s when I understood.  It was an earthquake.
It was about four in the morning.  Once I calmed down, I walked back into my hooch.  I knocked on Randy’s door to see if he’d felt it.  Randy was fast asleep.  Oblivious to the tremors and vibrating walls.  I don’t know how long it lasted.  Long enough to freak me out.  That’s all I knew.  Realizing that the danger was over, I racked out again.
The next morning I jumped on Google and read about the massive earthquake hundreds of miles away in Kashmir.  Kabul had been hit but not bad.  Four deaths were recorded.  One little girl had been crushed by a falling wall in her home in Jalalabad.
That was my first earthquake in Afghanistan.  Actually, it was my first earthquake ever.  I thought about the Muslim Extremists.  Every time a natural disaster occurred in the West, they sang God’s glory and waxed poetic about it being God’s punishment for our iniquity.  What would they say about this?  This had been a nearly exclusively Muslim felt natural disaster.  Would it give them pause?  I had no doubt that it would not.  They’d probably use it as another  excuse to hate the West.  It would be God’s punishment brought down upon the Muslim faithful for consorting with the corrupt heathens of the West.

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Revised:

I awoke with a start.  My damn hooch was shaking so hard that I thought it was going to collapse in on me.   What the fuck was going on?  At first, I thought that someone had screwed up and was trying to airlift my hooch.  Helicopters flew over head all the time.  The helipad was only a few hundred feet away.  In my frenzied state, I imagined that some fool had hooked up the wrong container unit and was trying to airlift me in the middle of the night.  I was a bit intoxicated still, so, you’ll forgive my lapse in judgment.
I bolted out the door in nothing but my boxers.  Thank the Gods that I didn’t sleep in the nude.  I didn’t think.  I ran.  Panicked.  “What the hell is going on!”   I started waving my arms to warn off the helicopter that was trying to fly off with my home.  After a few dazed seconds running in circles like an idiot, I realized; “Nope!  No helo there.”
“OK, why in the hell is my hooch shaking.”  Then it dawned on me — earthquake.
Once I calmed down, I walked back into my hooch and knocked on Randy’s door to see if he’d felt it.  Randy was fast asleep.  Oblivious to the tremors and vibrating walls.  I don’t know how long it lasted.  Long enough to freak me out.  That’s all I knew.  It was about four in the morning.  The shaking had stopped and I realized that the danger was over.  I racked out again.
The next morning I jumped on Google and read about the massive earthquake hundreds of miles away in Kashmir.  Kabul had been hit but not bad.  Four deaths were recorded.  One little girl had been crushed by a falling wall in her home in Jalalabad.
That was my first earthquake in Afghanistan.  Actually, it was my first earthquake ever.  I thought about the Muslim Extremists.  Every time a natural disaster occurred in the West, they sang God’s glory and waxed poetic about it being God’s punishment for our iniquity.  What would they say about this?  This had been a nearly exclusively Muslim felt natural disaster.  Would it give them pause?  I had no doubt that it would not.  They’d probably use it as another  excuse to hate the West.  It would be God’s punishment brought down upon the Muslim faithful for consorting with the corrupt heathens of the West.

Explosion on Jalalabad Road outside of Kabul

A series of explosions rocked Camp Gazi, a Coaltion Base outside of Kabul, today.  The blast was felt as far away as Camp Alamo.   It was reported that the explosion was accidental.  They were set off by an engineer igniting a series of propane tanks while he was working near them at the Ford Plant on Jalalabad Road. Here’s an account on the ground: “Tuesday 3 July 1400 and I have just made the arduous 3 day journey back to camp Alamo from Canada after 21 days of glorious leave, yes back to the mundane grind of daily routine and dealing with mindless petty orders issued by our commanders.   So its just after lunch and the building shakes, a feint boom could be heard over the 2 air conditioners running on bust in the office,  “that was an explosion;” say’s our resident Romanian born Canadian HQ’s Cpl, “yes it was i say” and we head out.  Of course my Battle rattle is in my room so i make my way there as the alarm sounds “BUNKER,BUNKER, BUNKER  THIS IS NOT A DRILL”  so I’m on my way back down the narrow alley toward my PEB when another detonation occurs, right in front of me, or so it felt, a huge plume of fire and smoke raise up in behind my PEB and I decide that I will take the bunker without my kit instead of risk moving onto the 2nd floor to retrieve it.  I move back to bunker 2 as the last time we were under attack i was in bunker 1 which was extremely arduous on the body (6 hrs of kneeling on gravel in a really confined area)  so bunker 2 we’re standing there (boss and I) and we’re calling the guys who are spread all over the camp.  So we get a hold of the guys and over the span of about 30 minutes we are rocked I’d say 3 more times, and then hear some small arms fire which i figured was friendly,  i thought to myself, self those booms were way to big to be RPG’s and 5-6 suicide bombers is a large scale attack,  I just didn’t think it was an attack and later on I turned out to be right, apparently the Ford dealership, across from Camp Gazi has several 50,0000 lt propane tanks which were “accidentally” detonated by an inept Afghan electrician, the result was 3 of these beasts detonating causing several hundred casualties and vaporizing a number of others, the small arms fire I heard was from Camp Waton where the guards fired warning shots above a panicked crowd of injured and terrorized locals attempting to escape by scaling the walls of the camp.  Once the all clear was given the Doc went next door to see how the KMTC TMC was handling itself and reported back,  the next day we sent a crew over to Gazi to check on our Greeks who were just about to head back to Greece.  On arrival the story told by the Greek OC was one of terror as the site of the explosion was adjacent to the camp with only the Hesco walls saving they’re bacon,  “I thought it was a nuclear bomb” says the Krakken,  poor bastards,  “I looked out my window and saw 3 men running on fire”  these were likely ANP who were manning a check point.    Of course later that night one of the duty TOC guys accidentally hit the switch activating the SECFOR alarm which pretty much had me up the rest of the night coupled with my jet lag,  “welcome back Sir”,  I received a disproportionate number of welcome backs due to the situation.” If the Taliban don’t kill ya, incompetent fools are now trying to do the job for them.

THE GREAT BRINGERS OF DEMOCRACY AND LIBERTY — A TALE OF BETRAYAL AND DEATH

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When we depart Afghanistan, we will be leaving thousands of partners who aided the US/Coalition effort.

Leaving them to their fate.

These folks, who are ALL MUSLIM, have risked their lives for meager pay. We pay them anywhere from 150.00 to 3000.00 monthly average but most make closer to 800.00USD. In the meantime, thousands of them have been beaten, threatened kidnapped and at the extreme murdered in cold blood along with their families.

I have huge problems with Islam and what I call the “Muslim mentality.” That said, these folks, all of whom are Muslim have aided in our efforts against the insurgency, al Qaeda and the Taliban. They’ve put their lives on the line for their country, for the US & Coalition and for us.

I can’t not admire that and I can’t help but feel some sense of shame for we shall abandon them just as we abandoned the Vietnamese, Lao, Khmer and, more recently, the Iraqis.

We did not have to come here. They did not have to accept us. Nonetheless, we came. We stirred up the hornet’s nest. We shall depart hailing ourselves as the Great Bringers of Democracy and Liberty.

They will stay, suffer and die. We are culpable here in the Stan just as we are for the events transpiring in Fallujah and Mosul.

 

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David Petraeus

I knew this kid.  He works in a nan shop in Kabul right near where I was.  I bought bread from him two or three times a week.  I used to give him a Snickers bar when I bought fread.  Five of those “loaves” hanging behind Petraeus cost about 1USD (50 Afs).  Best bread in the world.

General Dan Bolger is part of “Why We Lost.”

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Dan Bolger and commanders such as him are “why we lost” in Afghanistan.  I witnessed the results of Dan Bolger as Commanding General in Afghanistan. He may have been personally courageous and that’s fine. His decision to ground everyone on FOBs and bases and to make us all targets by mandating all travel in MRAPs, MATVs and giant uparmored SUVs (aka Taliban Targets)  has negatively affected the mission and, in my opinion, has directly contributed to the deaths of military and civilians.

It was an ignorant decision that was based on fear or self preservation.

I worked with MPRI in Afghanistan. The whole of the time that I was with MPRI, one MPRI civilian was killed. He was traveling in a military convoy.  Since Bolger’s change, the losses have kept on coming.  Why?  Because he turned us into targets when, before, we had always been anonymous.  A decade into a war, Bolger felt that we had lost and his decision reflected that attitude.  Bolger wasn’t trying to win. He was trying to survive without hurting his career.  I wasn’t impressed and I’m still not impressed.

His decision to Fobbitize the whole of the country has caused this war to be lost. His attitude bled down to the troops. “Oh…it’s dangerous out there. We can’t do that.” It’s a war zone. Of course, it’s dangerous. You drive on and accomplish the mission.  Prior to Bolger, a great part of the force was camouflaged…concealed and could move about the country relatively unnoticed.  We blended in.   After Bolger, we all had great big huge bulls eyes on our backs.  Bolger’s defeatism led directly to his preconception that it was a losing effort becoming a reality.  He carried defeatism into the battle and left his mark.  He is one of the architects of defeat.

I’ve walked the streets of Kabul alone. And? Personal bravery. Awesome. Personal bravery doesn’t always translate to wise or courageous leadership.  George Armstrong Custer was a brave individual. He was a suicidal commander. Gen. John Hood was a courageous man. Yet, his recklessness led to massive defeat. Gen. McClellan was a courageous man. Yet, his unwillingness to commit, lack of resolve and over-caution led to his defeat and ultimate relief of command. Grant abhorred the carnage of war. Sherman lost control of his sanity temporarily over his belief of what his war would become. Yet, both men committed and led their commands to victory by using the resources at hand and taking the fight to the enemy.

Bolger was a McClellan. He stayed in command in Afghanistan 365 days too long. He is partially responsible for Why We Lost.

 

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Operation Enduring Freedom — Afghanistan Part 4

These are a set of old photos circa 2003.  A friend gave these to me on a disk that I’ve had in my storage room for about a decade.

This guy traveled all over the country.  Ghazni, Bamian, Bagram, Kabul.  So the photos are scatter shot and I can’t tell for certain where each photo was taken.  Some are obvious.  The Bamian Buddhas or what’s left of them are, of course, in Bamian.  Some of the photos are obviously from Kabul or Bagram.

Well, it’s obvious if you’ve been there.

Enjoy…Dave

 

 

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Operation Enduring Freedom — Afghanistan Part 3

These are a set of old photos circa 2003.  A friend gave these to me on a disk that I’ve had in my storage room for about a decade.

This guy traveled all over the country.  Ghazni, Bamian, Bagram, Kabul.  So the photos are scatter shot and I can’t tell for certain where each photo was taken.  Some are obvious.  The Bamian Buddhas or what’s left of them are, of course, in Bamian.  Some of the photos are obviously from Kabul or Bagram.

Well, it’s obvious if you’ve been there.

Enjoy…Dave

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Operation Enduring Freedom — Afghanistan Part 2

These are a set of old photos circa 2003.  A friend gave these to me on a disk that I’ve had in my storage room for about a decade.

This guy traveled all over the country.  Ghazni, Bamian, Bagram, Kabul.  So the photos are scatter shot and I can’t tell for certain where each photo was taken.  Some are obvious.  The Bamian Buddhas or what’s left of them are, of course, in Bamian.  Some of the photos are obviously from Kabul or Bagram.

Well, it’s obvious if you’ve been there.

Enjoy…Dave

 

 

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Operation Enduring Freedom — Afghanistan Part 1

These are a set of old photos circa 2003.  A friend gave these to me on a disk that I’ve had in my storage room for about a decade.

This guy traveled all over the country.  Ghazni, Bamian, Bagram, Kabul.  So the photos are scatter shot and I can’t tell for certain where each photo was taken.  Some are obvious.  The Bamian Buddhas or what’s left of them are, of course, in Bamian.  Some of the photos are obviously from Kabul or Bagram.

Well, it’s obvious if you’ve been there.

Enjoy…Dave

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Fire on Jalalabad Road

Big Fire on Jalalabad Road. A Benzine (that’s gas for my American friends) truck overturned and BOOM!!! Up in flames. It was a helluva fire. I swear it was like 30 to 40 feet in the air and spread at least twice on the ground. Burned for a good couple of hours before they got it under control.

Kabul Beauty School

This is an old post that I wrote up a few months ago while I was in Herat, Afghansitan.  This happened between June and September 2007 in Kabul.

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I read the book Kabul Beauty School and decided to seek out the real place.  The actual beauty school.  Try to meet the author and get her to sign the book.  The books more about life in Kabul than just a Beauty school.  So I get there and decide to get a hair cut.  This is a few years back.  The reason that I decide to get a hair cut is that the receptionist is pretty as hell.  lol  Just an excuse to talk to her and stick around longer.  And she smelled so good I didn’t want to stop inhaling her scent.  Whatever it was.  Some combination of fruit and flowers that left my knees weak.  haha

I get my hair cut and while in the middle of that.  I’m talking to the receptionist.  I get her name ~ M….  She’s Afghani but had moved to London with her parents during the diaspora.  I figured she was about 24 or 25.  We talked for a while and eventually I talk her into meeting me for lunch at my hotel.  We exchange phone numbers.

Back to the hair cut.  The gal cutting my hair had underarm stench that cut the freakin’ wind.  A couple times I actually thought that I was going to start gagging or pass out from it.  It was strong.  Like she hadn’t taken a bath in a month stink.  I just started laughing.  I let her finish my hair.  She does an ok job.  I spike my hair up anyway so if they screw it up, it usually looks like I did it on purpose.  lol

Back to M.

M calls me up and asks me to meet her in the lobby of my hotel.  I get all excited.  Woohoo, I’ve got a DATE in Kabul, Afghanistan!  hahahaha  You have no idea how big a deal that is until you spend a few months in Afghanistan.

She shows up with a body guard and stinky hair cut lady as a chaperon.  We have tea and talk for a while down in the coffee shop in the mall area of my hotel.  And it’s actually a pleasant afternoon and good conversation.  I seem to have met a Kabuli socialite.

Her body guard has an AK47.  And stands there like he’s ready for the attack from hell.

Of course, I am the perfect gentleman during this meeting and each subsequent meeting under the watchful gaze of the body guard.  The last couple of meetings she didn’t bring the chaperon.  But she never went any where without her body guard.  She laughed at me for being nervous.

Turns out M is only 20.

And she is a member of the extended family of Agha Khan.

If you don’t know who Agha Khan is…look the dude up.  He’s so rich that he has his own consulate in London and a couple of other countries.  He’s the head of the Ismaeli Clan.  The Ismaelis are a sect of Islam.  Shi’a Islam.  They’re small.  Maybe 30 million worldwide.  The largest group is in Canada.  Agha Khan is their leader/father/benefactor.  He sets up scholarship foundations for them.  Businesses and keeps them organized and in touch.  He’s no Osama bin Laden.  Quite the opposite.  He believes in education.  For Muslims.  Men and women.

Anyway, I meet with M a few more times.  At first because I’m interested and I think I might get laid.  lol  Then later, I figure out that there ain’t a prayer in hell of getting laid and it’s just interesting talking to this girl.

Out of curiosity, I asked a guy named Sher Ahmad (a whole other story) who is the Security Boss of Rashid Dostum (look him up).  I asked Sher what would happen if I wanted to marry M.  He told me with a straight face; “David, they would kill you.”  I looked at him in disbelief at first.  Then I just laughed.  Realizing that he was telling the truth.  That’s when he told me that she was a relative of Agha Khan and she would be matched with another Ismaeli and never have a worry in her life.

She emails me out of the blue every once in a while.  She returned to London not long before I departed for Herat.  Apparently, they’d found out that she was meeting with some strange American.  Thankfully, I had sense enough to not make any Rico Suave moves on her or anything stupid like that.  The bastards probably would have killed me had I tried.  For me, it was enough to meet an nice, educated Afghan woman and learn a bit more about the culture.

I tell ya.  Lots of crazy experiences over here.

The first email that I got from her after her return to London:  “David, I miss you so much.”  I must have been her first crush.  It was a cute email.  She was a nice girl and pretty as hell.  Had this lilting sing song voice that made ya wanna break out in song yourself.  It was a great experience for me and a beautiful side of Kabul that not too many Westerners are privileged to have.

Kabul Blast ~ Afghans and Americans Slain by Islamic Suicide Bomber

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By ALAN CULLISON

KABUL, Afghanistan—At least 10 people, including six coalition force members, were killed and almost 50 wounded when a suicide car bomb targeted a U.S. military convoy outside an Afghan military-recruitment center in Kabul Tuesday morning, police officials said.

A spokesman from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said six “international service members were killed and several wounded” in the attack, but wouldn’t reveal their nationalities.

Gen. Khalil Dastyar, the deputy police chief of Kabul, said the dead NATO members were American. The Associated Press reported that five of them were U.S. troops; the nationality of the sixth wasn’t immediately disclosed.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that a car loaded with 1,200 pounds of explosives rammed into a U.S. convoy at about 8:30 a.m. local time.

The blast destroyed at least 12 civilian vehicles, one of them a civilian bus; its charred remains were left resting near the road. NATO said five of its vehicles were damaged.

The bomber targeted a small convoy of U.S. military vehicles that were moving along the road near the recruitment center, officials said. The road also skirts a U.S. military base, Camp Julien, that hosts a counterinsurgency training academy for both Afghan and U.S. military personnel.

I stood at this spot not two months ago.  This exact spot.  That pillar that is knocked over is from the 19th Century from the time of the Afghan Kings.  Off to the right of the pillar is the National Museum of AfghansitanI took a photograph standing next to that pillar when I stopped at the Museum.  Strange to think that this could have been me getting hit.  Wrong time, wrong place.  I was lucky.  Right time.  Right place.  No bombs.    Aside from the scant traffic, it was just begger kids, Afghan Police, a few other tourists and a few merchants. No talib assholes or other Wahhabist scum around.

Thank God!

May God Protect our Soldiers and Civilians in Afghansitan and may he protect the Afghan People as well.  May he strike down the scourge of evil that is the taliban.  Amen.

Last Stop in Kabul

I flew to Kabul to out process the company and depart for home.  First day back, I relaxed.  Chilled out a bit.  I set up a tour with the Afghan Logistics Service (ALS).  ALS is a company in Kabul that provides everything–Logistics services,  Security, Vehicles, Tours, Cars.  Anything you might need when setting up in country.  They also provide a “mini-cab” service.  They’ll take you anywhere in the city for 7 bucks.  They’re a pretty handy company to have around in Kabul.  I’ve used them quite a bit.

While working for MPRI, we’re only supposed to go to authorized areas.  The Green Zone, ISAF, KIA, etc.

I can’t do it.  I have to get out and see things.  How can you experience life with those “granny” rules?  MPRI is concerned with lawsuits and such.  I don’t care.  I want to do what I want to do.  Rules be damned.

I called ALS and set up a tour of Kabul.  The primary site I wanted to visit was the Bagha Babur.  The Garden of Babur Khan.  Babur Khan was a minor Prince in Central Asia.  He came to the throne of Ferghana when he was 13 or 14.  Young!  He was a scion of both Timurlane and Genghis Khan.  That’s a serious blood line.  He started out not so well.  He captured Samarkand and had it taken back twice.  The Uzbeks were a riddle that he wasn’t quite powerful enough to solve in his youth.  His Kingdom Ferghana was also usurped by his half brother while he was in Samarkand.  He left his 6 open and his half brother took advantage and left him a homeless bandit prince.

Later, he was offered the throne of Kabul when the King there died with no heir.  It was important to keep the bloodline of Genghis and Tumr on the throne.  He took the throne and used it as a base to forge an empire.  The Moghul Empire.  He carved his empire using modern technology.  He was the first to bring fire arms to bear in battle in Central Asia.  He purchased that technology from the Turks and used it to create Hindustan which is the approximate area covering what we today know as Kabul to Peshawar down to New Delhi and Agra today.  He named it Hindustan and called himself the Moghul Emperor after the Persian word for Mongol.

Babur Khan was a Muslim.  As a descendant of Genghis, though, he never forgot his roots and still openly courted the favor of the Great Blue Spirit of his homeland and the same deity or spirit whom Genghis worshiped.  The Mongols felt a great kinship with the land and nature.  This was reflected in the Moghul brand of Islam.  Babur also learned about the Hindu religion of his new Empire and took an interest in the animism, Sikhs and Buddhism of his Empire as well.  Like Genghis, he was open to different voices where God was concerned.

Having read about Babur Khan and his trek from Herat to Kabul through the Mountains of what is today Ghor province, I wanted to visit his Gardens.  Babur died in Agra, but, his wish was to be buried in Kabul.  His son, Humayun, had his body preserved in ice and transported back to Kabul where he was laid to rest in his favorite garden spot.  Today, this site is known as the Bagha Babur.

Like everything else, Bagha Babur was destroyed by the ravages of the Mujahideen Warlords in the post Soviet Era.  Instead of celebrating peace and the defeat of the Soviets, the Warlords became factional and turned on each other like animals.  No city suffered more than Kabul.  Doostum, Rabbani, Massoud, Hekmetyar and others fought for control of Kabul.  They bombed, rocketed, looted, raped and pillaged.  Many people hate the warlords today for these crimes against the Afghan people.

The warlords then, of course, lost everything to the taliban and most fled the country like cowards.

Recently, UNESCO and the Agha Khan Foundation repaired the garden and the walls of the Bagha Babur.  It was nicely done.  Even so, one can still see scars on the structures.  Bullet holes and nicks in various places on the Shah Jahan Mosque and the various grave stones in the Tomb area.  Like everything else in Afghanistan, funds are short and everything has a ragged quality to it.  Bagha Babur is no exception.  It’s a magnificent garden and tomb.  Hundreds of years of history.  We almost lost it all.  Thanks to UNESCO and Agha Khan, though, the people of Afghanistan have an important piece of their history to share with each other and the world.

I also drove around other parts of the city.  We drove out to the Palaces and the Kabul Museum in Darulaman.  The Darulaman Palace is all but destroyed as you can see from the pictures.  Another legacy of the Warlords.

The city of Kabul was virtually untouched as the Soviets withdrew.  Not until the Warlords started fighting each other did Kabul feel the ravages of modern war.  These are the same folks whom we (the US) supported during the Afghan War against the Soviets.  Later we imposed these same Warlords on the people of Afghanistan.  Many of them are no better than and in some cases worse than the Taliban.  I suppose you could say that they are “our” taliban.

Lastly, we cruised up to TV mountain where one can take photos of both sides of the city.  It was a cloudy, dusty day.  So my photos aren’t great.  Even so, they give one an idea of the dusty, central Asian city of Kabul.

Note:  Shah Jahan is the man who built the Taj Mahal.  He is the Grandson of Babur Khan.

Family Reunion in Kabul!

Spent last night on the New Kabul Compound.  Yep!  After 5 years, it’s finally open.  Not finished yet, but, it’s open.

I arrived last night about 5 PM and called Jonathan to meet me.  Wound up walking around the whole compound to find him.  Took all of 3 and a 1/2 minutes.

Passed a sign that says “Sniper, Begin Sprint.”  Then another that said “Safe, Walk again.”

The Army has a sense of humor.  lol

Apparently, someone thought that there were snipers along Airport road.  Fuckin ‘ Newbies!  I thought the Army was supposed to be brave and on top of that kind of thing.  Those hills were cleared out back in 2004.  I guess it feels tougher if you can tell yourself that you’re braving sniper fire daily.  lol

Jonathan and I spent the night hanging out and talking over cold sodas, beef jerky and potato chips.  All the while dreaming about having a Jack and Coke and wings.

The Army and General Order #1.  The downfall of good times in a war zone.  Meanwhile, the Italians, Brits and French are drinking heartily over on ISAF HQ and hundreds of ISAF bases around the country.

God Bless America!  Home of the Tali-Baptists and Fundamentalists Extremist Protestants who love to send their kids to war at the ripe old age of 18 and 19 but GOD FORBID they have a @#$%^&*@! beer!

Can you say RE-TAR—–DID!!!! (p.s.  yes, I know that’s mispelled…lol)

Good times anyway…thousands of miles from home in a safe and cozy little war zone with my little Bro.

Gotta love it.

Two New Buddies in Kabul

These little cuties run around in front of our safehouse in Kabul.  Cute as a button and a little attitude to boot.  lol

Bamiyan Buddha Afghan Commemerative Stamps

When I was a kid, I collected stamps. So when I came across this little gem, I had to pick it up. These stamps are from the time before the Soviet invasion. The time of King Zahir Shah. The last King of Afghanistan. They’re a link to a time when Afghanistan was at peace with itself. When it’s peoples were mostly just neighbors to one another. Before bin Laden and Mullah Omar. A time before sucide bombers and taliban and ruined cities and foreign occupations. This was a time when Afghans looked on their Western visitors as merely strange figures on whom they visited warm hospitality. It was a time when visitors were considered guests and were treated as such. ‘The pushtoon code meant something and the mehmet was indeed a welcomed and honoured guest whether they were Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or Jew. Westerners weren’t peace keepers. We weren’t soldiers or policemen or civlian contractors for America or ISAF or NATO soldiers. Westerners were merely visitors with strange behaviors. Strangers who seemed to have an even stranger affinity for opium and hashish. Merchants from the West in search of carpets and tapestries, emeralds and rubies and lapis to sell in their homelands.

Back then, the hippy trail ran through Iran to Herat and on to Kabul. Lone travelers came and left unmolested. The Mustafa Hotel in Kabul gave some respite and a chance to shake off the dust of the road. It still stands and the occasional brave traveler stops there for a night or two until he moves on into Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal and India. I have read that some of the hippy communities still exist in Goa. I’m sure that there are others. Guys who dropped out of the West and traveled to Asia in search of peace or freedom or a final escape.

Afghanistan actually knew peace back in those days. Before the communists came and ruined everything. The King was attempting to make reforms. Give women rights. Construct a constitution. Educate his people and move them into the 20th Century.

What might have been.

So this is a “peace” of that time. A memento as the Afghans like to say. A small reminder that Afghanistan was not always as it finds itself now.

Interesting PDF on the Bamian Buddha Destruction