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.

http://www.mridukhullar.com/journal/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/kabul-beauty-school.jpg

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