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...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One year later...

It wasn't this one, I am sure...

It was perfectly bizarre, and ironic, and somehow appropriate, to see and hear a helicopter in the airspace ahead of me as I left the Boulder Vets Center today.  There are rarely helos ("choppers" if your service insists on that term) above this town, so rare that it's practically jarring to hear the rotors.  It caused me to smile and shake my head, as I'd realized earlier why the dates of January 8 & 10 consciously stood out to me -- they were the dates I left Kabul and Bagram, respectively, one year ago.

Kabul, Jan '11: Conference Room in Winter

Jan '11: Bagram bus stop

Jan '11: Bagram, amidst the haze...

Jan '11: Dawn over Hindu Kush...and barriers

Jan '11: Final departure...for now.

Not that it's the first time I find myself marking the passage of time since a deployment shook me from a completely different life in the U.S. and then returned me half-dazed...but as this latter experience was longer, and somehow more personal, I find that I'm paying more attention to the anniversaries.  The blog has definitely languished again, and for that I'm less than pleased with myself.  There are the experiences I never caught up to recount, as well as the developments and incidents which continue to unfold, including major shifts in strategy, organization and approach.  I'll highlight a couple of those here, and hope still to finally post photos and stories from the archives...and I tremendously appreciate every reader who has encouraged me to keep this active.  While my motivations for blogging from Afghanistan were many, that isn't the case for blogging from here.  In contrast, it's only the occasional urge to keep it up that motivates me to do exactly that, especially a full year removed.

Jan '11: Last glimpse of Afghan mountains...

Dec '11: Usual glimpse of Rocky Mountains

It gets harder and harder to find news out of Afghanistan, which often is attributed to 'war weariness' -- an excuse I truly doubt when such a small percentage of the U.S. population is even aware that the war trudges on.  The news that does emerge usually covers the latest attacks, which tend to occur outside of Kabul, therefore rarely are covered at the site by western media...and therefore lack context as a result.  A typical rundown from today follows, with discouraging news from completely different and unconnected regions cobbled together (and a quote from my old colleague Maj. Gen. Azimi)...

10 die as Taliban storm Afghan government building

More relevant to my forecast from last month's post about bitter divisions coming to the surface between Northern Alliance leaders and Karzai supporters is this intriguing development, brought to my attention by my former colleague and NTM-A counterpart Joe Holstead.  I find it significant that some of the leaders with whom the United States sided in 2001 now feel so threatened by the concentration of power in Kabul and the government's future direction that they openly warn against the peace process that our Coalition officially supports, something not much heard openly just a year or so ago...

AP Photo/Ferdinand Ostrop

Afghan opposition urges caution in Taliban talks

I hope to have more on-scene accounts of the 'view from the ground' as some good friends are either back in parts of Afghanistan now in various capacities, or on their way.  In addition, my cousin should be on the ground there by late Spring, and my younger brother continues to play an unheralded part in the war effort, as he and his soldiers train Jordanian forces to serve in the Coalition.  I look upon their deployments with a big brother's concern, but I admit a touch of envy too, as the restlessness rises to not only find relevance again in this pivotal struggle, but to see my Afghan friends again, and to witness firsthand the changes that are sure to come in the next couple of years.

Finally, here's wishing everyone a very belated Sal-e Now Mubarek (Happy New Year)!  I joined the Twitter beast at last, and have been forwarding insight, analysis & updates on Afghanistan -- I post much more often when it doesn't keep me up all night.  Follow me: @ MayorDelMundo