The Caves of Little Barabad

We recently took a trip across the river into Beshud District to the village of Little Barabad to photograph the old caves that line northern shore of the Kabul river.

When we show up at this village we often pick up and escort of local kids – the tend to segregate by gender and here are some of the girls from Little Barabad

The people of Little Barabad are Kuchi tribesmen who are dirt poor from a different tribe than the Shinwari’s who live up the river in the village of Big Barabad. Because the elders from these two villages can’t agree on anything Little Barabad suffers and cannot spend their NSP (National Solidarity Program) monies to build a well or make other infrastructure improvements. The NSP money comes from the World Bank and they have $2,000 for each household but that money can only be spent on projects which collectively benefit the village and the only recognized village in this area is Big Barabad

The San Diego sister cities project is scheduled to be build a foot bridge over the Kabul River which would allow the kids from Little Barabad to attend school. There is a large school just 300 meters away on the Jalalabad side of the river but it is an hour’s drive by road. The people of little Barabad do not have a vehicle or much of a road for that matter so their kids are not able to attend school.

San Diego and the La Jolla Rotary Club have been very active in Jalalabad which is a sister city to San Diego. How that happened remains a mystery but believe it or not they (both the city and its Rotary Club) have dumped a ton of money into Nangarhar University and Jalalabad. Here is the current method of crossing the Kabul River and the reason why a foot bridge will be such a God send. When you look at this float keep in mind the river is swift and none of the people in these parts know how to swim.

Fording the river Afghan style

One goal of today’s trip was to get a proper picture of my new SOMA FM tee shirt to send into their web site. Inshallah they will post it so getting the pistol in frame was important. From looking at my fellow donors at the Soma FM site I’m sure to be the only one who even owns a pistol. Soma is based out of San Francisco so I’m sure they’ll find the pic of an armed American to be innately disturbing. Guns = authority = bad to them. To me guns = keeping authority in check and small = good. Plus there is a war going on here and even though it is easy to avoid drama one must be prepared. Be friendly to everyone you meet but always have a plan to kill them. That’s a Marine moto that is worth remembering in this line of work.

Some of the boys who escort us around the area

 

Shem making friends – I think the boy on the left may have some Russian blood in his family 

T

Chai with the locals

The village kids love to have their pictures taken and always enjoy it when we come by to hike up to the caves. We hook them up with a bottled water and a dollar each for being our guides. See how blond the kid in the middle of the photograph above is? You see that a lot of that in Nangarhar Province. The Soviets kept it pretty quiet when they were here and even had an R&R camp in Jalalabad. They also let their troops off the base and into the bazaar where they could support the local economy. I go to the bazaar all the time myself and the local merchants seem to enjoy it when an international stops in to chat them up and buy junk.

Many of the locals think our troops are cowards because they only see them in armored trucks racing through the town and pointing weapons at anyone and who they feel gets to close to them.  The Soviets flooded the bazaar when they were off duty and I believe our troops and the Afghan people would both benefit if our military adopted the same liberty policy as the Soviets. Getting close to the locals is a good thing and the basic tenant of our counterinsurgency doctrine. Judging from all the blond and red headed kids we see in Jalalabad some of the Russians got a little too close to the locals which is a dangerous game to play in Pashtun lands.

The cave complex. Our speculation is they date from the Buddhist era around 178 AD

Little Barabad is really a collection of compounds belonging to one extended family. They have goats and sheep, three cows, plus a little corn and wheat but that is about it.

Last July the caves were full of bats.

The bats were “nishta” or all gone this time because they seem to occupy the caves during the heat of summer. We will have to wait until next year to get a good picture of the bats. Inshallah we will still be able to move freely then…Inshallah