Blogs from Kandahar, South, Afghanistan, Asia

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Asia » Afghanistan » South » Kandahar August 12th 2010

It's been quiet enough in Kandahar City for the last few weeks, perhaps a lull before the storm or a "Phony War", but according to reports in fact the time when the Coalition has been tightening the so-called "Ring of Steel" around the City as part of "Operation Hamkari". We've had the occasional "crack and thump". For the non-military, an AK round makes a "crack" as it goes overhead... the "thumps" are usually the Bad Guys getting whacked in return... A bit like a Monty Python sketch - Bad Guy pops off a couple of rounds, then a big THUMP and he's gone. Anyway, yesterday afternoon (first day of Ramadan, Wednesday 11th August) things seemed to change. There was a lot of helo activity (Kiowa gunships) over an outlying district to the South-West of the City ... read more
View towards Panjwayi District

Asia » Afghanistan » South » Kandahar August 7th 2010

The shura or meeting is a fundamental part of community life in Afghanistan. In some sense it's democratic. The tribal elders come together to discuss and listen to what their senior members or representatives of the government are saying. In these days the shura is usually attended by members of the ISAF-NATO forces and civilans from USAID. This shura was to discuss a fruit tree sapling planting program under a USAID program (AVIPA-Plus) that aims to stabilize the communities in the Arghandab River valley. Previous posts have discussed the Arghandab which is now also the home of units of the 82nd Airborne Division. We arrive at the District Centre on a beautifully cool morning and wait for the elders to arrive, passing through multiple checkpoints; these people take their lives in their hands to visit a ... read more
Shura in Arghandab
Free saplings

Asia » Afghanistan » South » Kandahar July 6th 2010

The following is an article I wrote for www.afghanistan.gc.ca and will appear online later in July... At present, there are about 50 Canadian Civilian Police Officers working in Afghanistan, these officers, known as CIVPOL, hail from municipal and regional police services across the country as well as from the RCMP. Our mission involves improving the capacity of the Afghan National Police (ANP) through training and mentoring. This is accomplished in several ways. The training component refers to good old fashioned classroom instruction in a police academy setting. Young recruits are put through their paces and senior officers are taught leadership skills that will enable them to lead their officers into the future. A few of our CIVPOL officers are also senior mentors. They regularly visit high ranking ANP officers at Police Headquarters to discuss various ... read more
Me with a weird grin
The initial ascent
curious kids

Asia » Afghanistan » South » Kandahar June 19th 2010

Forty years ago I was a fit young soldier in the British Army, backed up with the full force of weaponry and, not least by any means, the lads in the squadron. Not much happened apart from the beginning of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and one scramble when we thought the Soviets would attack (they did in 1968, but stopped in Prague, ending the so-called Prague Spring). Scroll forwards to June 2010: I'm a civilian, an old(er) man, no weapons (at least, not that I can carry personally), some limited back up from our really excellent force security provided by the Global company, and I'm right in the middle of the "Battle of Kandahar". The irony is pretty funny when you think about it. Our compound is right in the middle of Kandahar City, currently ... read more

Asia » Afghanistan » South » Kandahar June 12th 2010

Our mission: to look at the possibilities for agriculture south of Kandahar City. Where we got to: Tarnak Agricultural Research Station, better known as Osama Bin Laden's training centre, famous for the videos of Al Qaeda recruits running over the assault course. Tarnak Farm is where it all started. All this frightful mess and loss of life we've suffered in the last ten years. 9/11 was planned here and the leader, Mohammed Atta, apparently made his will here before he left to attack the Twin Towers. OBL moved to Tarnak in 1998 as a guest of the Taliban government (yes, the Taliban WAS the legitimate Afghan Government between 1996 and late 2001) when his residence near Jallalabad was threatened. There is a suggestion that the Clinton Administration planned to kidnap him at that time which would ... read more
In the Ruins
On Patrol
On top of OBL's Place

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Asia » Afghanistan » South » Kandahar June 3rd 2010

I've been pretty serious in the last few posts. This one is just photos taken by Andy Burridge who is a colleague of mine working here. What a shame that the insurgency prevents tourism, because this place has some AMAZING landscapes.... read more
Another View
Arghandab Valley looking North
Afghan Colours

Asia » Afghanistan » South » Kandahar June 2nd 2010

Stuck in the high security prison - sorry compound - with the bad guys on the outside, we are in the centre of Kandahar City waiting for the "surge" to occur; I hope readers appreciate the irony of the folks from the most powerful nations of the world, here to help (we like to believe) cowering from a bunch of illiterate peasants armed with small arms, nothing more powerful than an AK rifle or an RPG. Time for a little reflection. The big picture is this: these powerful countries, led by the USA, would like to see an Afghanistan re-built in their image - a glance at my post on the history of Helmand and a look at the link to what AGF was like in the 1950s gives some idea of what the Western Powers ... read more
MRAPS

Asia » Afghanistan » South » Kandahar May 25th 2010

Spin Boldak aka 'Spin'..... the name has a ring to it.... on the main supply route from Kandahar to the Pakistan border and thence to Chaman and Quetta. All now beyond the writ of the authorities and firmly in the hands of the Taliban who extort tolls from the convoys that bring much needed consumables to Kandahar from Pakistan and further afield via Karachi. Our mission (which we chose to accept): to visit our Field Coordinator, Justin, a tough young ex-Marine, who is based out at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Blackhawk a few miles out of Spin Boldak district HQ and adjacent to a large semi-permanent shanty town of 'Kuchi" or nomads. These are the poorest of the poor and move with their herds from one collection of these huts to another. The main supply route ... read more
Howie takes charge
FOB Blackhawk
The locals

Asia » Afghanistan » South » Kandahar May 24th 2010

It is HOT in Kandahar at this time of year.... VERY HOT! The journey from Kabul was not the most pleasant of my life - delayed flight, old ex-Turkish Airlines 737 and a mad scramble for the bags - Kandahar Airport (aka KAF) has not yet invested in a carousel system. Then into the body armour for a dash to our secure company compound in the centre of the city. Secure is, of course, a relative term since KAF is regularly rocketed and our compound is right where NATO-ISAF forces have yet to "clear' the Taliban. We are the only NGO remaining in the city which is the heartland of the Taliban (aka "Afghan Opposition Groups" - why does officialdom always try and dumb things down?). The compound is like a fortress or a maximum security ... read more
The Rose Garden

Asia » Afghanistan » South » Kandahar May 24th 2010

Our first field mission outside the compound was to the Arghandab Valley to the west of Kandahar City. The Arghandab River is a major flow from the Hindu Kush into the Helmand River and waters an enormous irrigated area that was constructed in the 1950s - by the USA. The valley is a veritable Shangri-La and used to be the food basket of not just Afghanistan but much of the region. It grows a profusion of pomegranate, grapes, wheat and all kinds of vegetables. Conflicts over the last 30 years have reduced its productivity, but the potential remains. We drove from our secure compound in the centre of KC, kitted our in body armour and enclosed in armoured cars with teams of "shooters" hefting AK-74s (an upgraded '47) to the district HQ, in a fortified post ... read more
View North
Farm in the Valley
Pomegranates




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