But this picture is the epitome of the past weeks insanity.
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 Afghansitan. I 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.
Sometime during my tour in Afghanistan, I got outside the wire. I tend to do this from time to time. Get out and wander around with a friend or two.
This particular time, I was doing some business with the ANP Province Headquarters. While there, I crept out with a few guys and one ANP Colonel and strolled over to the Masjid Jami in Herat. COL Khoda Dad spoke with the head Mullah there and asked him to give me a tour of the Mosque. After intros were made, I was escorted about and taken to almost every part of the Mosque. One of the more interesting parts of the tour were when they showed me the room where all of the repairs are made for tiles and such. They do all repairs by hand. Exactly the same process as hundreds of years ago when the Mosque was first created. They even hand paint the ceramics onto the tiles.
I took these pictures as I walked around in awe of the agelessness of the place.
I’m very lucky to have been able to have had this and other experiences in Afghanistan. I’d venture to say that not everyone has such incredible and unique adventures over there.
Spent the past week in Laos on my Visa run.
Had a great time with Unny. Can’t wait to do it again. It’s so cool traveling with her. Everything seems more enjoyable to me.
We spent a couple of days doing the backpacker gig. Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiene. Kayaking and drowning in the Nam Khan! Then we flew back home and the plane damn near kills us…well, the pilot or the wind
But we made it and I laughed my ass off while the girl next to me puked her guts out!
Last few days in Herat.
I had asked General Akrummuddin and COL Zahir to arrange a tour of Herat for me. There are hundreds of architectural and historical wonders in and around Herat. The Primary locations being the Minarets, the Citadel and the Masjid Jami. All beautiful with centuries of history. These structures have been witness to Alexander, Tamerlane, Genghis Khan, Babur Khan and a host of other historical figures of greater or lesser renown.
With about a month to go, I felt safe to get the tour underway. COL Zahir and General AKs Securty Deputy were worried. What would happen to them if I were kidnapped or harmed in some way under their watch. Probably would be a mess. Not that I’m a huge target or an important target.
I talked to General AK and COL Zahir again. They arranged everything.
I was given a two vehicle entourage with security guards for protection. I was driven around the city and taken to the Martyrs Museum, the Citadel, an ancient aqueduct, a couple of Shi’a Shrines in the area the names of which I can’t remember right now (I’ll have to update this later) and to the Minarets and the Ghowharashad Shrine.
The Minarets had to be magnificent in their day. They’re still a site to behold. Especially considering the age of the things. The Citadel was extraordinary. I was able to get our and mix it up a bit with the locals right around the Citadel.
It was an incredible adventure about which I plan to write more in the future.
For now, I simply wish to share the photos from the event.
Hope you enjoy.
These are my favorite two Buddha statues that I’ve purchased over the years.
The statue on the Left is Buddha meditating under the Bodhi Tree where he reached enlightenment or Nirvana (nibbana). The state on the Right is Buddha resting atop and being shaded/protected by Naga. Both of these are important events in the Buddhist tradition. I have not seen a duplicate statue of either one of these. I like that they are both unique and detailed. These statues tell a story. I like that.
Unny, Bupe and I took a taxi over to Sukhumvit Soi 11 to eat some Mexican food at Charley Browns. The food was decent. A bit bland, but, near enough to Mexican food so as to please te palate. Afterward, Unny and Bupe were craving Oysters and Somtam. So we headed over to Soi Cowboy.
Soi Cowboy is one of the “SexPat” areas of Bangkok. Go Go Bars and Prostitutes galore. Everything an old guy who can still get it up with a viagra induced libido could desire. And the old fellas were out in force as usual. It’s hilarious walking around the SexPat areas. You see everything there. Let your imagination soar. It’s probably there or right around the corner.
As we pulled up to Soi Cowboy, a group of men came running out. Must have been ten or twelve of them. Once we got to Sams 200o–the bar that serves Oysters, we were filled in on the details of all the excitement. It seems that yesterday an ExPat attempted to depart Spice Girls Go Go Bar without paying his bill. The bouncers ganked him up and proceeded to rough the guy up. The next day or that same night, Mr. (s)Expat paid a group of Thai hooligans to go to the Spice Girls Go Go Bar and raise a little hell. This was the group that we saw running out of Soi Cowboy as we pulled up.
Apparently, they ran into Spice Girls Go Go Bar and beat down at least one of the bouncers. When we passed by the Spice Girls Go Go Bar, a crowd had gathered and was rubber necking the situation. I laughed. One of the bouncers was sitting on the floor of the deck at Spice Girls Go Go Bar looking dazed and confused. Obviously, he’d gotten the worst of the beating.
There was an air of excitement on Soi Cowboy, but, for the most part, it was just another day for the gals on the strip. I assume that they’re used to the violence and insanity that consumes their lives and the strip called Soi Cowboy.
I just laughed and yelled; “Get some!” And laughed some more.
Later, the police showed up and probably took statements. Nothing will come of it, of course. I’m sure the hooligans were attached to some organized crime element in the city. The police will be paid off or more than likely will let it quietly subside and go away.
That’s life in the big city. Life on Soi Cowboy.
Excitement. Insanity. Laced with violence and sex and anything goes…
We ran into a group of Thai Catholics. Something that you’d think would be pretty rare and I suppose it is.
It was Songkran. So we hung out for a bit and everyone threw water on us and we drank some whiskey with them. Arik ran down to 7-11 and bought them another bottle of whiskey and we sat for a while and watched them throw water on passersby. All in good fun. They put the white powder on us and we all sat around laughing and having a good time. Later that night, we met Unny and Bupe at Thanon Khaosarn for drinks. A little battle broke out around us with folks throwing beer bottles. Unny and Bupe hid behind a beer tub and Arik and I went out and tried to get pics of the mob.
Good times all around on my 4th night in Bangkok. ; )
Rocked it with my little Bro in Frankfurt GE. Sometimes, it seemed like we were in the Turkish Province of Frankfurt. lol Kinda like walking around in parts of Northern VA wherein one could be forgiven for thinking that one was somewhere in Southeast Asia.
I kinda liked that about Northern Va, though. lol
We were out walking all day and we decided that we wanted to hit Hard Rock Cafe. Only problem. There is no HRC in Frankfurt. They do have them in Cologne, Munich and Berlin. Just not Frankfurt.
We jumped in a cab. Told him HRC. He acted like he knew where it was. We drive past the Hauptbahnhof and through a shopping district and arrive at this place called Wallyz. The Cab driver swears up and down that it’s HRC.
Turns out that he was half correct. Wallyz used to be a bootleg HRC. Looked like it. Served food like it. Even had the same name. Just different enough to avoid copyright infringement.
That placed closed down and was replaced by Wallyz Irish Pub. Wallyz looked cool enough and they were playing futbol on the “telly.” So we pulled up a stool, got some eats and a few drinks.
Jonathan brought his camera along and we took pics of random stuff and we did some of those silly jumping pictures that I love so much. lol Enjoyed ourselves, thoroughly.
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.