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.

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Graduation — First Class of 2008

I wrote this up in Feb 2008.  Made it Private for the Military.  Now, I’m putting it out here.  Most of these folks are moved on.  So it’s safe.

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We graduated our first class of 2008. The Big Man–MG Ak– wasn’t around so BG Ali Khan was our Master of Ceremonies. The ceremony usually consists of the General giving a few “encouraging” remarks to the class. Then I stand up and announce the names.  I may make a few remarks first.  Sometimes, I don’t.   The students walk up as I call their names off and a ranking officer and I and a guest or two congratulate the student and hand them their course certificate. The students walk up. Salute the General. Sometimes, I get a little confused. Because I feel like they are saluting me as well. So one in a while, I’ll return an awkward salute. The student is then handed their certificate and whomever the presenter is shakes their hand and congratulates them.

Everyone involved seems to really enjoy these ceremonies. The Generals get to show up and wax poetic or harass the loggie students. The students get recognition. I get a buy in to my classes and my job security. haha Our guests and other attendees get some nice cakes and cookies and some of that good old Afghan (Indian) chai. And, of course, I enjoy talking to the Generals and other Officers. I thoroughly enjoy this job. In case, anyone hasn’t caught that.

After the certificates are presented and a few more remarks by the Regional Press Officer COL Arkuni (I think), BG Ali Khan invites me to sit beside him. He offers me a cookie from the desert tray. Once I take one, that is the signal for everyone else to eat as well. It’s all so formal that it makes me laugh at times. Then we sit and chat for a bit. I didn’t realize it at the time but everyone was watching and listening to us talk. I get fairly animated in conversation as you can see in the video. Sometimes, I don’t pay attention to anything or anyone else. I tell the General that this class was our best. My favorite so far. The Officers were engaged. They actively participated. Even got heated a few times . I enjoyed the exchange even as the students attitudes towards one another sometimes confused me.
Once the General and I conclude our conversation. BG Ali Khan gives a nod and his assistant barks the room to attention and he exits.

That concludes the festivities.

This class was exceptional on many scores. At one point, LTC Khoda Daad was talking too much for one of two of our other students. Sayeed Mohammad stood up and told him that if he knows so much, he should teach the class. At first, I thought he was telling me that I was a poor teacher and that he’d rather hear LTC Daad. I finally realized that he was telling LTC Daad that I was the teacher and he should listen more and talk less. I laughed. It seems that in every class we have what I call the “question man.” This is a guy who will ask a question or two every hour. Sometimes more. When Afghans ask a question, it is extremely formal. They stand up and very respectfully state their question and it seems that it goes on and on. Usually, the question is loosely based on the class. Often, they will be asking something to the effect of how should they enact a certain policy if their commander will not enforce it or actively opposes it. This is a large and loaded question. In Afghanistan, policy quarrels can result in death. Often times, the issue is money. Active property management may keep a corrupt official from earning his extra-occupational funding for the month. An active logistician will keep money out of a corrupt officials pockets. In Afghanistan, these things are often settled in violence. It’s a hard line to follow. If the Logistics Officer is hard line, it could well result in violence against him. Is it worth the risk to life to call out your Commandhan over a policy matter. You may be staking your life, your families health or your career. I have to present the course and answer question with that in mind.

On breaks, we sat and talked politics, religion and culture. We even watched Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and Katherine McPhee videos. We talked much of Pakistan and the eastern frontier. This is the area bordering Waziristan. The no man’s land of Pakistan’s western frontier. The home of the Taliban. They asked me why the US did not declare war on Pakistan. I often times wonder tha same thing. Politics plays heavily there. War on Pakistan and destabilize a country with nuclear capabilities. Dangers. The unknown. Who knows what becomes of the region in that instance. Could be better. Could become much, much worse.

After the ceremony, the students invite us to visit them in their respective districts. Abdul Qhayooum tells me that if I visit Bala Baluk that I should be his guest in his house. I have to tell him that this is impossible as the military and my company requires that I stay on a FOB or PRT. He understands. But that doesn’t stop other students from extending the same invitation.

Afghanis are a hospitable people. It’s part of their national characteristic. This country was famous for it’s hospitality prior to the Soviet Invasion. That is why it was a primary stop on the hippy trail of the 60s and 70s. Afghanistan is a fascinating country. It has much to offer. If the insurgents and bandits would step down and accept law and order, Afghanistan could have a thriving tourism industry. Trekking in the mountains. The history of this country extends from pre-Alexandrian Bactria to the time and conquests of Alexander to the Genghis Khan to the Moghul Empire of India. Buddhism once thrived in the North. Zoroastrians once traveled across these lands. The whirling dervishes of Sufist Islam and the poetry of Jami, Rumi and Ansari. Herat once was a major center of culture and literacy. These lands and this people trace their history back to antiquity and beyond. Such incredible adventures that could be played out in the dramatic landscapes of this country.

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I’m in Kabul. Again…

This is an old post that I had made private due to the Military.

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My holiday has commenced. I woke at 5 a.m. to grab a ride with the SECFOR. Got to the Herat airport shortly thereafter. I was supposed to fly with Kam Air to Kabul. As I was waiting for my flight, fortune smiled on me. There was an Italian PRT flight preparing to depart for Kabul via Chagcharan. PRT flights are run by NATO. Mostly Spanish or Italian. This flight was scheduled to depart at 0800. So I was excited to be getting out early and without the hassle of flying with Kam Air.

The Kam Air flight was supposed to depart at 0900. I’m guessing that it probably landed in Herat at 12 noon. Typically late.

I signed up for the PRT flight. We departed at approximately 0900. The aircraft for Kam Air hadn’t shown up yet.

During the flight, a rather ancient Afghani fellow sat next to me on the flight. Apparently, he had never flown before. I had to buckle his seat belt for him. During take off and each time we hit turbulence of any sort, this fellow reaches across and grabs the seat in front of him and white knuckles it. It was a little humorous. I felt sorry for the guy though. He was pretty frightened. Once we landed, he jumped to the ground and wouldn’t let go of the aircraft.

So now, I’m in Kabul. I need to get pages added to my passport (again). Monday, I’m off to Dubai.

A few days later, I’ll be standing in front of the Taj Mahal with my brand new Olympus e-Volt SLR. Awesome.

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As an aside, I have to wonder why everything that involves the US military is such a hassle. With US Mil Air, you have to sign up 3 days in advance. You need two copies of your orders. One must be “officially” stamped. Then you must show up 4 hours early for your flight to get manifested with the “officially” stamped orders and ID Card in hand. Then stick around for four hours waiting for the aircraft to show or be cancelled. They collect all ID cards as you are manifested. In order to board the aircraft you must wait until they call off your name and return your ID Card. When you land, they collect you ID Card again. You have to wait for another 30 minutes to an hour to get it back and your bags may take an hour.

NATO PRT. I showed up expecting to take a commercial flight. Asked if I could hop on the PRT flight. They said sure and took my name down on his list. I waited about two hours and boarded the aircraft. 90 minutes later, I was in Kabul. I exited the aircraft. A German ground controller escorted us off the tarmac. He asked who was continuing on to other destinations and told the rest of us to have a nice day.

Bureaucracy. Idiocracy. US Mil Air.

The Taliban Song and a day in Class

Another old post that I’d made private due to the Military

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These are some clips from the Taliban video that I placed on here earlier. I thought it would be fun to piece it together with Toby Keith’s The Taliban Song.

I teach a logistics class here in Herat. For each class, we take a group picture. At graduation, we present the students with a certificate and this picture in a folder. The certificate gives them credentials as a “trained” logistician. This is an MoI ANP requirement. The picture is a memento of the class from our group of instructors.

While taking the pictures, my fellow instructor asked one of our students if he was nervous about having his picture taken with Americans. The taliban catches him with the pic, he’s liable to find himself in a bit of a pickle. The guy in question is from Bale Baluk which is down south in Farah Province. Farah is “Indian country.” It’s a hot area with a high level of bandit/taliban activity. Bale Baluk’s immediate reply; “f*ck the taliban.”

We all had a good laugh at this comment.

Earlier in the week, Bale Baluk told me that he was Muslim because his parents were Muslim. But that it wasn’t important. He and another student went on to tell me that Islam is the religion of the Arabs. They brought it here and left it. But it has caused many problems for the Afghan people. They stated that “Afghanistan would be better off without it.” A profound statement. An unexpected statement.

I am not real fond of Islam as a religion or as an institution of any kind. Because of this, a friend of mine recently asked me why I would come to a Muslim country in support of a program that would modernize Muslims. This endeavor could very well serve to elevate them into a more serious threat in the future.

I see his point. That said, there are days like today and guys like our Bale Baluk student who make it seem a worthy endeavor. 40 is probably the median age of our students. We’ve had a couple of guys who were in their mid to late 20s. A few guys who were pushing 60. Most are around 38 to 45. Senior guys who were around for the Russians, the taliban and the War of the Warlords in Kabul. Now, they are on board with America and our attempt to modernize their country.

I try to engage our students in each class period. Sometimes, they are willing to talk when pushed a bit. Some of them don’t really say a lot to us. They listen. They might ask a question or two. Mostly they sit and learn a bit to take back to their districts. About half of them will engage us in conversation.

Our current class is a little different. There are three guys in the class who have come back for reinforcement training. A second go round. They felt like they could learn more by coming back. These guys are extremely open. At the end of each class, thus far, they have taken to engaging ME in conversation. Asking my opinion on world affairs. Asking me what I think about Karzai and Bush. Asking why I think Bush has not attacked Pakistan.

Something that some of you might find surprising is that Afghanis have no love for Pakistan. They (rightfully) blame Pakistan for the rise of the taliban. These guys have no love for Iran. But they absolutely abhor and completely distrust Pakistan. They think that we (the US) should turn our guns on Pakistan as that is the origin of much of the trouble in this country. The taliban is trained in Waziristan. Peshawar is a hot bed for insurgents. Hekmatyar Guilbuldin is in hiding somewhere in the neighborhood of Peshawar.

Guilbuldin is one of the worst of the warlords from the time of Civil War in and around Kabul. He fought against Massoud for control of Kabul after the Russians retreated across the Amu Darya.

Massoud is another surprisingly complex conversation. Not all Afghanis consider Shah Ahmed Massoud a National Hero. He is not universally loved as some of the international press would have the world believe. Massoud launched many a rocket into the civilian population of Kabul. He, also, is said to have treated often with the Soviets during the 80s. This allowed the Northern Alliance to lick it’s wounds. But it came at the expense of the rest of the country.

Afghanistan is a complex country. There are no easy answers here.

Some of these guys are pretty intense. Some of them are extremely reserved and dignified. You have to be careful. They can’t lose face in this society.

These guys. This class. They are extremely laid back. One of the older guys asked me to play him some sexy videos because he hadn’t seen his wife in a month. He’s from Farah and has been waiting for our class in Herat for a couple of weeks. Travel here is difficult and time consuming. Earlier in the week, I had been playing my Ipod and they all wanted to listen to it. I promised them that I would bring my personal laptop to class the next day. I have 100 gigs of Itunes music and videos on my laptop. They all wanted to hear and see the music videos. And, of course, they wanted to see “sexy videos.”

I connected my laptop to our Sony video projector and a set of speakers that I had one of our Terps purchase downtown when I first arrived in Herat. They wanted sexy, so I played Jennifer Lopez. They loved her. I played a few others like Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood and Katherine McPhee. Katherine McPhee would be a Superstar in Afghanistan. They seem to love her. One of my terps told me that I “can not compare anyone to Katherine.” “She is the best.” I could only laugh.

The funniest part of the day came when Bale Baluk jumped up on the table and started to dance. I never thought I would see any of these guys do such a thing.

It was a good day. A day I am not likely to forget.

Enough of my ramblings…

Below is a video of one of our classes and a few pictures of our students and us cutting up.

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Above is Bale Baluk. He was our table dancer. Now tell me you could predict that one. lol

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One thing that is humbling for me is the respect that these guys show me as their mentor. I don’t feel “worthy” of such respect. When I chance upon one of my students on a visit to the Regional Headquarters, they address me as “Teacher” and place their hand over their hearts as they greet me. I get the full hand shake/hug and double cheek kiss as well. Most of these men are older than me by ten years or more. They’ve been through war and terrifying experiences. Some of them risk their lives just to attend these classes. I’m always humbled by their greeting and by their sacrifice. These men have a quiet dignity with which they carry themselves. I feel greatly honored when they feel comfortable enough with us to let down their guard and to allow us a glimpse of themselves on such an informal level. This does not occur so often in my experience. It’s an awesome feeling to sit on an equal step of humanity with these men.

Monetary Notes of the World


Unny and I had this table custom made for our new digs out in the ‘burbs.  Cost a bit, but, not too much.  It’s made from teak wood.  I wanted something in which to display the monetary notes which I’ve collected from my travels.  I only wish that I had some of the notes that are in my storage room back in the States.

There are notes in there from China, Dubai, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, India, Iran, Bahrain, Egypt, Vietnam, North Korea and a few other countries.  As well as notes from old French Indochine.  The note with the tiger is from Vietnam during the US war era.  I actually got that one from ebay.com because I thought it was cool.

There are also coins in there from all over (Japan, Malaysia, EU, England, etc).  Some old ones but mostly newer coins.  I placed my three French Indochine Silver Dollars. They’re probably counterfeit, but, I don’t care.  That actually makes them a little more interesting to me and I paid a pittance for them.  3 or 4 bucks.  Nothing to cry over.  I knew or thought that they were fakes when I purchased them.

I also placed of couple of Greco-Bactrian coins in there.  Supposedly, they’re silver and over a thousand years old.  I don’t know.  So many fakes being sold in Afghanistan these days.  Even so, those coins are supposedly a dime a dozen over there.  Chances are they’re real.  They’re not rare, though.  At least not for anyone who’s traveled in Central Asia.  They’re all over the place there.  It is said that one can find them walking out in open ground or on fields and such.  They’re that common place.  Neat little pieces of history.

The necklace is a Kuchi piece that I purchased at a bazaar in Herat.  It’s made of brass and copper with a few worthless gems thrown in for good measure.  It has an old animist relief on it.  Looks to be an old Ganesh likeness to me. I also placed my Bamian Buddha stamps in the lower right corner and four little jewelry/snuff boxes.  The two with Camels depicted on them are from Dubai and made from silver and glazed to make the camel likenesses.  The other two I purchased in Herat.  Those two are supposed to be silver as well.  Though, I doubt it.

There you have it.  My little collection of monies (and sundry items) from around the world.

Masjid Jami

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.

Khoda Hafiz!

Touring Herat with the ANP

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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.https://hereticdhammasangha.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/p1200792.jpg

https://hereticdhammasangha.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/p1200794.jpgI 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.

Farewell Party

I planned a Farewell Party for my guys (and me, of course).

I had Shoaib bring in a Kabob guy from downtown Herat.  Had the whole Afghan Kabob platter.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, lamb, beef and chicken.  Nan (Afghan bread).  Apples and Oranges.  Soda and water.  The meat was grilled right there on Camp Zafar by the Kabob shop owner.  He knew he had to get it right because of our guests.  I don’t reckon it would be good for his business to piss off the Regional Police Commander.  lol

That morning (18 Feb), Shoaib was dropped off downtown.  He picked up the fruit, drinks, the kabob shop guy with all of his supplies and meats and such.  Yama drove them all to the gate.

At about 1030, I headed for Camp Zafar.  15 minutes later, Shoaib calls from the gate.  The ANA (Afghan Army) didn’t want to cooperate.  They wouldn’t let the kabob guy into the base.  I jumped into one of our vans and raced to the gate.  We were running late.  I had expected everything to be set up and smokin’ by 1030.  I rolled up to the gate like the Po Po in Miami Vice and started my routine.  Talking loud.  Shaking hands and walking straight through to where Shoaib was being held up outside the main gate.  I stormed up to the ANA sentry and loudly proclaimed:  “Hey, these guys are with me!”  I pushed them all to the gate and started walking that way myself.

No problem.  It’s fairly easy to deal with the ANA if you are an American.

Finally, my man was on the scene and ready to start cooking.

Fortunately, the ANP are always late.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen them on time.  It’s that whole “insha’allah” mentality.  Things happen according to God’s will and timeline.  It’s just part of dealing with Muslims in general.

We got the kabob guy set up and cooking.  I had told Shoaib to have different types of meat.  I wanted an Afghan style party.  All we needed was for someone to get up in the middle and dance and we’d have been on it.

MG Ak and COL Zahir arrived with about 20 ANP Officers and the security detail at 1200 hours. We greeted them at the side of our class room building and brought them inside to start the party.

I got everyone seated and then stood in the middle to get everyone’s attention.  It was time to give out certificates to my guys ~ Milton, Wahid, Farhad and Shoaib.  I gave a short opening remark then brought my guys in along with MG AK and Al, our MPRI Team Leader, and we gave each of them a Certificate.  I also gave Milton an Afghan Flag on a marble mount with Herat, Afghanistan 2007 ~ 2010 inscribed on it.

I gave a little speech in effect saying that all of my success was due to these guys and that it was an awesome opportunity for me to have worked with them and the ANP as well as all of the MPRI team members.  Over all, Afghanistan has been an excellent experience for me.  I feel honored to have been able to take part in this grand adventure in some small capacity.

MG Ak stepped up next and presented me with another Cert and a beautiful carpet that I’ll probably have framed and hang at home.  It depicts the Minarets and the Ghowharashad Masjid.  It’s quite colorful as well.  I liked it.  He gave a little speech and saying that he’d enjoyed our time together and that I was a true member of the team and had become a part of the Afghan family.  So much so that they had given me the nickname “Dawood Khan.”  Everyone got a laugh out of that.  He presented Milton with a Cert as well and talked him up a bit.

Milton spoke a bit after that.  Thanking everyone for the successes out here and saying that the Herat Team was his favored place of the teams with which he had worked.  And this is true.  We’ve had our squabbles.  Some ongoing.  For the most part, though, we’ve got on like family.  To include the squabbles.  lol  Some of it reminds me of sibling rivalry.  Some of us just want to do the job.  We don’t care about recognition or awards.  Some want to be heroes and want to be recognized as such.  All part of the game.

We had a good group out here.  And it was a joy to work with these guys.

I gave a few last remarks and then said; “Alright, time to eat!”

Then I walked out and started pushing the guys to get the food in to our guests.

At some point, I sat down to eat with MG Ak.  We talked about my plans after Afghanistan.  He asked me if I’d be coming back at some point.  I told him that I didn’t plan to do so, but, that only God knows the future.  Of course, sometime during the conversation he told me to take care of my health because I’d gotten a bit heavy since I’d been here.  lol  I laughed and told him that Unny was making me join a gym in Bangkok.  He got a kick out of that.  As always, he asked after family.  Wanted to make sure that I was keeping in touch with Momma.  I told him that, of course, I was.

I have to say that Shoaib did a most excellent job with arranging everything.  The guy has been key to all my endeavors out here.  I’m lucky to have had such a great friend and co-worker.  Gods blessings.

Everyone ate.  We joked.  Laughed.  It was a good time.

I stood up to ask MG AK for a last picture together.  Called COL Zahir over for the pic.

As soon as MG AK stood, the whole of the ANP stood and started filing out.

We took pics with the General.  All of us together.  Before COL Zahir got away, I grabbed him for one last photo.  He started talking about Bangkok and told MG Ak that I was soon to be married.  lol  MG Ak asked me about Unny.  I showed him a picture of her.  He complimented her effusively saying how pretty she was and that I should take care of her.  Not let her get away.  Get married and have a family.  I told him that this was in my plans.

Then we said farewell for a final time.  MG AK wished me well in my future endeavors and told me to give greetings and his thanks to my Mother for sending him such a “fine young man” to mentor his Officers.  COL Zahir started joking on me and we exchanged a few last jibes.

Then it was over.  As sudden as it started.  In with a bang, out with a bang.

It was a great end to my time here in Herat.

That night and the next day, all of the MPRI guys kept stopping by to tell me that it was a great party and they had appreciated being a part of it.

They had to be a part of it, though.  They were part of my time here.  It’s only fitting that they be in on the end.

I’ve had a great time here in Herat.  It’s been a joy to work here with my American colleagues as well as the ANP and ABP.  They’ve been a great bunch and have helped to make this “tour of duty” extremely rewarding for me.

Below are photos of the event.  There are a bunch, though.  lol  Enjoy and Khoda hafiz.

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment or two…