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...

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Sal-e Now Mubarek!

Departing Mongolians group photo, July 2010

Or...Happy New Year!  Even though every one of my Afghan friends has incessantly reminded me that it's not their new year, which if I didn't know already, would be painfully obvious to me by now.  Sprinkled throughout this late late rambling will be more leftover shots from the past Gregorian calendar year...which has only served to remind me that there are quite a few entire entries that still must go up, from wherever I am in coming months.

Busted-up Soviet tank, Kabul - July '10

I just tried for the past early-morning hour to boldly go where the AfghaniDan blog has never gone before, and add some music.  I crossed my fingers, and said a prayer for it to work properly and play something for you all.  I've taken video clips a number of times this deployment, some even with sound! (note to self: read camera manual next time), and tried to post two clips of live music.  Alas, the weak wireless I pick up will not comply.  Until post-deployment then, you'll just have to imagine the sounds of local music...

This would be way cooler with music...
Afghan wedding, October 2010

And now, a page from my final week.  Imagine that you're in the pressure-packed world of Kabul, with its constant intrigue, jockeying for influence among bitter rivals, and ethnic and religious hatreds still simmering never far below the surface.  In this environment, the slightest alteration of a word -- or more common still, the choice to translate into one word instead of another -- causes senior gov't officials, military commanders, even heads of state to lose...their heads.  Imagine you are in the position of advising one of the most highly-visible personalities in the land, in his capacity as voice of the powerful Ministry of Defense (or the equivalent to our Pentagon, only proportionally even more influential...if you can imagine that).  Now imagine that in that capacity, when your own command's leadership wants desperately and instantly to know what the ministry said in the press about something, you find you have to rely upon versions like this piece of work...

MOD officials: “2010 was the bloodiest year for Afghanistan”.

به گفته ي جنرال ظاهر عظیمی سخنگوی وزارت دفاع ملي در جریان سال 2010  علاوه بر  کشته شدن صد ها فرد ملکی، پوليس و نیروهای خارجی بیش از 800 تن از سربازان اردوی ملی نیز جان های خود را از دست داده اند.

“During 2010 year, in addition to killing hundreds of civilians, ANP and Coalition Forces, more than 800 ANA soldiers were killed” said MOD Spokesperson.

سخنگوی وزارت دفاع ملي افغانستان به راديو آزادي گفته است كه علت اساسی افزایش تلفات افراد ملکی و نیروهای اردوی ملی در این سال جاز سازی ماین های کنار سرک توسط مخالفان دولت بوده است.
The main reason of ANA casualties pertain to roadside bombs, which have been done through the Anti-Government militants” MOD Spokesperson told Radio Azadi.

در همين حال عظیمی تاكيد كرده است که در جریان این سال به مخالفان مسلح دولت هم تلفات سنگیني وارد شده و بیشترين ضربه را ديده اند.
Likewise, General Azimi added: “During the recent year, also insurgents have been suffered heavy and further casualties.

You know how it invariably turns out, once each controversy runs its course?  That my guy just repeated something that the Defense Minister said that morning.  But such is the way it goes, I suppose...

Kabul, Summer 2010: Election Season

Almost as inundated with campaign signs as Virginia...
Whoa, whoa! I only said "almost."

On a related note (yes, I'm posting regularly now a portion of the nerdy stuff I spend hours reading each night...maybe it's a farewell thing?), I'm grateful to Anna Mulrine -- who also authored the link I sent about Khost province in yesterday's post -- for this story.  I'm even more grateful to the anonymous senior US military official for making the point that many of us in the Public Affairs "trenches" have made for some time: highlighting civilian casualties, whether caused by ruthless insurgents or not, likely only furthers the feelings of insecurity among the population, lessening their inclination to support coalition objectives.  This is the sense I get from conversations with Afghans from different age groups and backgrounds, and it's the policy of some experienced official spokespersons of Afghanistan's institutions for a reason.  We like to dole out the advice: "Find the Afghan solution," but we don't like to listen to it and implement it ourselves.  It ends up looking arrogant and counterproductive, if you ask me.

CSM: How Petraeus has changed the Afghanistan war

Actual moment of Petraeus flying in to take command, 7/2/2010
(I just happened to be on a roof at the airport compound)
What a weird period of time that McChrystal episode was.

 Another favorite: Bala Hissar, July '10

Hashing out "Strategic Communication," Sept '10
(under the grapes = best conference room ever)

Mongolian feats of strength, July '10
I love that his cap is airborne from the gut punch.

One terrified young groom.
Wedding of a police general's son, July '10

And as I've said before and will surely say again, the daily pressure I faced is absolutely nothing compared to the pressure faced by those who must make life-or-death decisions for their troops every day.  They are the ones we must never forget to honor and remember.  Two "wartime" deployments almost under my belt, and I'm still in awe when I hear the stories of daily life from a Marine or soldier who actually engages in armed combat on a regular basis...there is not enough we can do for these incredibly selfless warriors.

NC Times: Bell tolls frequently for local Marines in Afghanistan

I know that I'm preaching to the choir, as the saying goes...that you readers of this blog are the kind of people that keep brave men and women in uniform in mind.  And I know further that the work here in Kabul and in other safer spots is incredibly important.  I say all that more to remind myself of the reality out there.

ANA recruits at a special concert, October '10

Before I learned to not smile in Afghan photos...
Fazel, owner/president of Shamshad TV; and Ching Eikenberry, 
wife of the US ambassador to Afghanistan, July '10

Esmat, Esmat and Joe at a wedding - Oct 2010

Shafiq Mureed and Seeta Qasimi perform for Afghan troops, Oct '10

Dutch soldiers cheer on their World Cup upset of Brazil.
Kabul Airport, July '10

"Someone want to tell me already that the new dame is whack?"
Bala Hissar, Kabul - July '10

There'll be more...some more postings hopefully from the 'stan (should dwindling time permit), and certainly more galleries from after I've left and can sort through some more of it.  But it's on now to see what 2011 delivers...even if in Afghanistan, it's still 1389 for another 3 months or so.  No wonder people seem to think that they are "stuck in time" here!

Casper comes running...a sight I'll dearly miss.
She just became a mom!


Blogger 卷曲 (juǎnqǔ) said...

Happy New Year to you, Dan - from Hong Kong, where we are reminded the "real" celebration starts February 3rd for the Chinese New Year. The year ending is the Year of the Tiger and we are moving into the Year of the Rabbit. It seems you are headed back to the States soon - safe travels! Will you find a reason to blog when you return?

January 3, 2011 at 5:27 AM  
Anonymous LilSisArmyWife said...

Excellent 'year in review' (so to speak) in your last 2 posts. The political signs and posters you showed ARE indeed reminiscent of No Virginia/DC. As if seeing one candidate's name posted 502 times makes them more appealing than only 200.
I know you're as busy as ever as you wrap up your tour, but we'll keep up on the blog as you add to it.
And to your New Year's Eve non-alcoholic Becks...slainte!

January 3, 2011 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Jami said...

What a great collection of pictures! Will we get to see any pictures of Casper's puppies? I'm sure they're adorable!

January 3, 2011 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger Puertorican girl in Brussels said...

It sounds like you had a interesting deployment. I enjoyed your blog so much that it almost inspires me to volunteer for another deployment. Have a safe travel home, dust the lederhosen off, and let's have a grosse bier in DE sometime in 2011!!! Bisous!

January 4, 2011 at 6:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...there is not enough we can do for these incredibly selfless warriors."

AMEN to that, bro. And you're no slouch, either. Now get home ... I believe there are a couple dozen cold growlers with your name on them.

January 5, 2011 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Thank you EVERYONE for following...I'll still have lots more to post, but it won't be the same not being here...

January 6, 2011 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Juanqu- I hope so! And you're right, I'm excited to catch Chinese New Year somewhere - Tiger was my year, one of the reasons I added 'Zemarai' to my lengthy Afghan name.

LilSis & Slappy- Can't wait to raise a pint w/you for real!

Jami- No puppy sightings, but my successor promises to send me photos when they emerge from their underground lair.

Jess- Estas loco? I only highlighted the fun/interesting parts...the rest was miserable! Belgium > Kabul, believe me! And yes, a return to Deutschland is a MUST for 2011...

January 6, 2011 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger FrenchFried said...

Happy New Year to you all!!! Très bonne année 2011 à tous!!
Back from the cave where I've been hiding my shame after reading the results of the most stupid poll one can ever imagine stating that French people are the most pessimistic people leaving on the face of this pathetic world.....even more pessimistic than the Afghanis, Pakistanis, Iraqis...Have "we" been listening too much to the Sex Pistols "No Future" lately?? Is selfishness spreading like plague?? Well, nobody ever asked me but I feel like moving to Afghanistan now....
Seriously, every day people die there and all my thoughts go to them and those who fight to survive, to overcome terrorism of all sorts, to shape a peaceful country. Let's make 2011 a better year than 2010, Yes We Can...;-)
I wish you a safe return, lots of joy with your loved ones, and I hope you will keep posting the stories of another "erotic journey" of your life.
Bonjour de France, "le pays où il fait bon vivre".
A bientôt, Major Dan.

January 10, 2011 at 2:30 AM  

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