A young man's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk...and apparently, back again.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

The details of my life are quite inconsequential, really. Summers in Rangoon...luge lessons...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Qandahar, pt. 2

TLS Terminal (for Taliban's Last Stand) at Kandahar Air Field. In Dec 2001, it was one of the last battlegrounds for control of the city. And yes, I immediately noted the irony of the name.

Continuing to recap the great trip to Qandahar's 205th Corps and its Coalition advisors, my first-ever visit (and hopefully not the last) to the south of the country...the freedom of action and movement that comes along with being further from the land of many headquarters simply was a breath of fresh air, even if the air itself was hot and muggy.  Advisors at this command put up with hardships but get to just make shit happen in return...a foreign concept to some of the entrenched Kabul hands!  It's not that colleagues in the capital don't work their tails off; it's just that inertia and top-heavy layers of personalities make it harder to achieve results at the higher levels.

Sign in the advisor team's main office, behind the Tea Bar. Touches of civilization that some allies of ours bring, you know...

Esmat takes his turn posing by the FOB Lindsey centerpiece.

Ahh, the open road! Giddy at the feel of driving...later I'd be shuttling two Afghan officers between bases, with no interpreter. Good thing I dig local music and know how to find it on the radio in a hurry.

The big day for the Afghan National Army 205th Corps Public Affairs Office came on July 28, as they hosted their first-ever Regional Communication Conference.  The following photos are of that event, which may be considered a success in that the Afghans truly led it, and that different (and often competing/squabbling) agencies, organizations and departments came together to better coordinate their communications and public affairs efforts.  It was further considered a success by me because the Afghan lunch afterward was scrumptious, and the company delightful.

The conference center banner reads "Allah. Hewat. Danda" (or, God. Country. Duty.) Below it is roughly "A great army must have management and discipline." The Dari/Pashto language blend made it tough for even my translators to decipher.

The mosque of Camp Atal. Each base we help the Afghans build has one, as does KAF itself.

The decor inside was like that of a souq (Arab market) within a pre-fab sheet metal building. Rough translation: "Honesty and faithfulness will bring mission success."

Now on to the talky-talky conference...and here is where the lack of ability to post decent video (even if I had the tools to take some) kills me.  After the always-stirring mullah's prayer, a deputy commanding officer gave his opening monologue, seen below in digital photo form -- which alternated between pleas, warnings and exhortations to duty.  Along with that was an incredibly bizarre ramble or two in between his excellent points, perhaps to stretch things out as he'd only exceeded allotted time by 30 mins at that point.  Let's just say the man can talk.

 Cameras pointing every which just know then that it's gonna be a good day.

I like this pair of photos for the guy turned around, snapping away at those of us in the back row (he's on the L in top photo, the R in the second). Of course he could post on a bizarro mirrored blog (AmeriSamir?) the shots of me doing the same damn thing!

And this one I couldn't resist because of the blurred hand second from the right. This spokesman was one impressive gesturer -- he couldn't say anything without whipping his arms into a frenzy.

Eyes please on the robot moves taking place to the side of the podium...!

My colleague, advisee and travel buddy Sobhan makes an offer that you just can't refuse. I never knew he had so much Godfather in him until I saw him address the conference. 

Can you play "Where's Waldo" and spot AfghaniDan in these pics? I was actually dragged into the center spot by my good friend, foiling my plan to duck into the nearby 'tashnab' during the group photos.

Between the conference and lunch, I chatted with Sobhan and his old friends...two of whom were classmates of his at the Kabul Military Academy 32 years ago. I keep hearing amazing stories like that. Survivors, man -- they're still around and doing more than their part.

A few photos of the eerie appearance of late night at the desert camp close this out.  They're not great, but I couldn't get over the orange glow in one direction, the nearly full moon high overhead, and the relaxation I felt at simple, spartan surroundings once again.  Still more to follow...


Blogger yomistast said...

Maybe the guy with the hand gestures is a fan of the office. That's how Dwight was taught to speak in public. Yelling and making maniacal hand gestures.

As always, entertaining.

Mets stink.

August 9, 2010 at 1:28 PM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Timmy, thanks. That guy was nothing compared to the general- who I'm pretty sure DID take lessons from Dwight Schrute! Mets? Who are they?

August 11, 2010 at 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Slappy said...

Young Senator Gookakis would be proud of the overt use of hand gestures ...

August 14, 2010 at 7:03 AM  

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