Reich in Afghanistan: Welcome to Bagram Airfield City


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War Is Boring reporter Jason Reich is in eastern Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division.


The Soviet engineers who first built the control tower at Bagram Airfield in the late 1970s could never have imagined that 30 years down the road, their meager control tower would be surrounded by a Burger King, Pizza Hut, Popeye’s Chicken, and around 20,000 American soldiers and airmen. Since its capture in the early days of the American-led invasion in 2001, Bagram has been growing at a staggering pace. Tents and trenches have been replaced by concrete barracks and paved streets. Most importantly, a critical $68-million upgrade to the runway in 2006 allows even the heaviest cargo planes to unload some of the 14,000 tons of cargo flying into Bagram every day.

Most of the changes in Bagram are made with “sustainment” (a.k.a., long-term logistics –ed.) in mind –- a telling sign of the U.S. and NATO’s plans for a long commitment to Afghanistan, or at least to the troops stationed here. In the past few years, the tents that once sprawled across the open landscape have been removed and replaced with B-huts, small wooden caravans with electrical power and in some cases running water. Now, even the B-huts are being phased out and upgraded to RLBs (relocatable buildings) and concrete barracks. Heavy construction equipment is already stacked alongside the numerous minefields surrounding the base, ready to be put to use the moment a minefield is cleared.

But for all these improvements, Bagram still projects the image of a massive fortress: isolated from the population, heavily defended and out of sync with the counter-insurgency doctrine currently employed in the surrounding provinces. While standing in the old Soviet control tower, looking out over a sprawling city of asphalt roads, concrete barracks and Hesco barriers, it is easy to see how much the U.S. is striving for “sustainability” in Afghanistan. But I wonder if the surrounding Afghan villages, mere specks from my vantage point, are getting the message.

(Photo: Jason Reich)


14 Responses to “Reich in Afghanistan: Welcome to Bagram Airfield City”

  1. Great meeting you Jason. I hope we see more Air Force posts in the future. Thanks for hanging out with us.

  2. Sarah Caras says:

    I think they need a burgers bar to add to the collection of fast food places over there. great post. keep em coming!

  3. David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/30/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  4. Mirit Z says:

    Seems like an interesting first couple of days and what a view! Waiting to hear more… how do I get e-mail updates for new posts?

  5. Shelzer says:

    Great post, Jason… I wonder if you’ll discover any relics of the Soviet era… other than the AK-47′s all over the place! Looking forward to your updates — keep the pics and posts coming!

  6. Christopher says:

    Keep up the good work, my friend!

  7. Gaby says:

    Nice article. I can’t wait until the next one.

  8. Donald Porter says:

    I wonder if local Afghani’s are building those structures, or is it all subcontracted to KBR and the like?

  9. dave B says:

    Well, I hate to say it, but it is no surprise to me that the villages are not getting the picture. How could they ever get the picture? They will never get the picture because no one gives a dam about them.

    It has always been this way in Afghanistan. From Ghangis Kahn to the soviets, even now…….

    This middle earth shall never be of its own…..

  10. [...] What’s our correspondent Jason Reich up to, a week after arriving at a U.S. Army Forward Operating Base in eastern Afghanistan? Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve gotten just one full post from him, and a couple brief emails. “Ridiculously slow Internet at this FOB,” he wrote, adding, “The good news is that I have a ton of material.” He managed to upload a few photos to Flickr, to give us a preview of future stories. [...]

  11. [...] Related: World Politics Review: In Afghanistan, Itching for a Fight that Never Comes Wardak, Afghanistan, in Photos Welcome to Bagram Airfield City No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  12. Chuck Waxman says:

    Great Caesar’s Ghost, as Perry White would say!
    Nice article. Ben-Aryeh is here for a few days. Good luck.

  13. [...] Related: World Politics Review: Remembering a Fallen Soldier “Elections Were a Joke!” Calm before the Storm Afghan Forces — the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Security and Governance in Wardak World Politics Review: In Afghanistan, Itching for a Fight that Never Comes Wardak, Afghanistan, in Photos Welcome to Bagram Airfield City 2 Comments so far Leave a comment [...]

  14. coleman tent says:

    Afghan villages are constructed as forts with observation towers and rifle slits instead of windows in the houses. , still in print 110 years after it was published, and notes that the same village described in the book is still a center of insurgency with an al qeada leader killed there by a predator strike.

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