Kandahar Rocks

This is a post from March 2010 re-posted now as a reminder of how unstable most of Afghanistan has become in the past five years. There was a Taliban attack outside of the Kandahar Airport that killed over 50 people (Cartman says 61 in his reporting) two days ago. For those of us who spent time at Kandahar it is hard to imagine a two- day siege going down just outside the wire. There are Americans still stationed at that airfield today and one has to wonder just how secure they can be given their reduced numbers. There was a time when internationals who knew what they were doing could operate safely even in kinetic places like Kandahar and this is a story from that time…it didn’t have to end this way.

I’m still on the road trying to make my way back to Jalalabad from a big implementation working group meeting in Lashkar Gah. Step one of the journey back was to hitch a ride to Kandahar where Panjawaii Tim promised to pick me up and take me out to his compound for the night. It is a large, comfortable place which has something I have been looking forward to… cold beers. The plane was late which was annoying – driving around Kandahar at night is risky. But there’s cold beer and piss up at stake so this trip was obviously mission essential.

We were delayed getting across the Tarnak River bridge by an American convoy – the bridge was blown up a few days back and the convoy was trying to maneuver around it in the river bed. Michael Yon has the story about the loss of that vital bridge here.  It turns out the delay was a good thing because as we cleared the bridge area and headed towards the city the sky in front of us lit up like a flashbulb. “That’s not good,” said Tim as his cell started to ring. The boys back in the safe house reported a large explosion in the vicinity of the Karazi compound about 300 meters west of our destination. Then we saw what looked like a smaller (yet still pretty impressive blast) followed by another very large boom. Then Tim’s cell phone went dead, which was completely uncool. The the night sky just lit up with a few more big bangs and we both shut up – I reached into the back seat for a long gun; the shit I’ll go through for cold beer….I’m retarded.

The boys standing to on the roof of the Team Canada safe house. Of course I did not have my good camera so this shot looks like crap. The four expolsions bracketed this house on three sides and were very close.
The boys standing-to on the roof of the Team Canada safe house. Of course I did not have my good camera so this shot looks like crap. The four explosions bracketed this house on three sides and were very close.   There was still a lot of small arms fire going off when this shot was taken – seemed to us to be coming mostly from the Afghan security forces.

We were entering the city by then and could see an American QRF force racing towards the area where most of the international compounds, Afghan government offices, the Sarposa prison and our safe house are located.  The roads were being cut by Afghan Security Forces (ANSF) and during times like this trying to talk your way through security checkpoints is a bad idea so we switched to plan B. Panjawaii Tim knows Kandahar like I know Jalalabad; he started working his way through side streets that were full of people milling about looking towards the blast clouds. There were lots of broken store windows the closer we got to home; in fact all of them were broken as we worked our way parallel to the main road closer to the area targeted in the attacks. We had to clear only one ANSF checkpoint  – it is always funny to see the police react when Tim and I drive up in local garb with our ISAF (contractor) ID’s and tell them we’re with ISAF and need to get through. They get confused when we start talking Pashto and look at us like we’re ghosts, or Jinn, or just plain crazy.

One of the Team Canada guys is on leave so I was given his kit to use tonight - a poor shot I know - my little pocket camera sucks
One of the Team Canada guys is on leave so I was given his kit to use tonight – don’t know what is going on with me eyes in this picture – my   pocket camera sucks

Here is Panjawaii Tim’s report on the incident:

“The first bomb was at the Al Jadeed market: 10-20 killed, unknown number injured; second was a large bomb at the Sarpoza prison.   20 -30 killed and 100 injured allegedly; third was the bomb near PHQ, unknown number injured/killed; fourth was bomb near Mandigak mosque, unknown number injured killed. First bombs lured the ANP response out of PHQ and then they were hit. US and CDN units seen responding with ANSF assets. No reports of a prison break at this time. We heard Taliban propaganda broadcast over a megaphone in our neighborhood within half hour of attacks. Many ambulances and other vehicles seen transporting casualties to Mirwais (Chinese) Hospital.”

You know what all this means?  It means no sitting on the roof and drinking cold beers with my buddies. It also means that I have to get up in the middle of the night to pull sentry duty. Fucking Taliban; killing civilians for no damn reason, damaging people’s stores and homes for no damn reason, and spoiling what looked to be a good piss up.   I hate them.