Axeghanistan ’09: Birds, Beware


Categorie: Afghanistan, Air, Axe in Afghanistan '09, David Axe, Nature |

It was a war we thought we’d won. But after eight years of escalating violence, the Afghanistan conflict has morphed into something perhaps unwinnable. U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to deny sanctuary to Al Qaeda, a goal we’ve largely achieved. But in years of occupation, Washington has apparently conflated counter-terrorism with nation-building. Now the U.S., NATO and their allies are struggling to destroy a deeply-rooted insurgency in country with a corrupt, ineffective government, poor infrastructure and few prospects for everyday people, but to fight. David Axe visits U.S. forces to see for himself.



Bagram air base has a garbage dump. The dump attracts birds. The birds get sucked into jet engines and can cause crashes. So the Air Force has hired several Afghan farmers, who use birds of prey to scare off their own nuisance birds, to patrol the garbage dump.

The raptors are so mean, I watched them attack their handlers for no good reason.

The Smithsonian Institution, hearing about the raptor program, asked if the Air Force wouldn’t mind sending in some of the dead birds’ carcasses. Apparently, the world doesn’t know much about Afghan bird species. As a bonus, the Air Force’s efforts to protect its planes just might help advance aviary science.

(Photo: David Axe)

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4 Responses to “Axeghanistan ’09: Birds, Beware”

  1. Hann1bal says:

    Now that’s a story I’ve never heard. Thanks, David!

  2. adam says:

    Great story! something different yet very interesting.

  3. This is an off topic comment, David, so feel free to delete it.

    Now the U.S., NATO and their allies are struggling to destroy a deeply-rooted insurgency

    Deeply rooted only in certain parts of the country. The overwhelming majority of Afghans have nothing but disdain for the Taliban –even if they are also critical of foreign forces.

    These percentages have shifted somewhat (against ISAF and the US), but not by all that much:

    The Afghan public’s biggest complaints are civilian casualties (thirty years of warfare have made Afghans very intolerant of civilian deaths), foreign support for civil war era criminals and corrupt officials in Kabul, and widespread aid inefficiencies.

    In other words, Afghans are angry not because they want all foreigners or all foreign militaries out, but because they are disappointed foreigners have not made good on their promises from 2002.

  4. Oh, and birds freak me out. Something about beaks. Makes me ball my hands up and hide my fingers.

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