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.

Jalalabad Road

This is Jalalabad Road. As the name implies, it’s the primary road from Kabul to Jalalabad. When I first arrived in the capital, it was not terribly dangerous in the explosive sense. It was and still is a dangerous place to drive from the perspective that Afghans are horrendous drivers. One need not be licensed to drive. One need only be able to afford a vehicle. But you didn’t have to look over your shoulder for suicide bombers. I think there were 5 or 6 hits in 2006. These days, the road gets hit 2 or 3 times in a month and Kabul will get hit a couple more times. Most of it aimed at Afghan forces. Mainly the ANP. By hit, of course, I’m talking about IEDs, VBIED, even bike born IEDs. Yes, these idiots will strap a bomb on their back, jump on a bike and aim themselves at an armoured vehicle.

The road is always in bad shape. When I was in the Capital three months ago, it was not much more than two mud tracks. Now they’ve paved it nicely. It may last a while in it’s new and improved incarnation. I suppose that depends on how many IEDs explode on it.

As you cruise down Jalalabad Road heading away from Kabul, you’ll pass most of the Major Afghan Military installations. It’s equivalent to Arlington, VA or Route 50 where you have 8th and I, the Pentagon, Fort Meyer, Arlington National Cemetery, the Hoffman Building and a whole host of other important US Military installations and buildings.

This video was taken back in August of 2006. I was preparing to leave Afghanistan to take a position in Kuwait. I was getting stir crazy so I decided to take my replacement on a tour of the local area. I took him to a Ciano Supermarket. Those guys had booze at that time. You had to ask for it and you had to be a non-National. You could get all the Jack Daniels you wanted but no Maker’s Mark. There are also a few places down in Wazir Akhbar Khan where you could get a drink or two at that time as well–Paradise, The Silk Road, Crazy 8s, 999 and a few others. You could pretty much get anything you want in the Wazir Akhbar Khan District. You can even spend the night with a little rented company if that’s your thing.

Alas, this is no more. All of the Cianas were shut down. There was a huge crack down on all of the underground funhouses. Some have been re-opened. But they aren’t near as entertaining as they used to be. You used to be able to go out and dance the night away. Now, it’s rare to find one of these places with enough patrons to make an impression.

Also, because of all of the recent bombings, US Forces Command and many of the Companies that hire for work over here have put Kabul, and by extension, all of these places off limits. NATO still frequents them as do many employees from your smaller companies in Kabul. Kabul is not quite the quiet backwater that it once was. At least once a week, you hear of some incident in the capital city. Suicide bombings, local nut jobs, IEDs. They say some of these cats are passing through Iran from Iraq to get here to spread their special brand of hell. You hear rumors. Never know what is complete truth and what is mere chaff in the wind.

It’s always exciting here. Enjoy the vid.

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That’s me driving and a billboard of the tea that is a daily part of every Afghani’s life. Imagine the injustice of putting her in a burqa.