Archived posts from category ‘Zach in Afghanistan’

Zach’s Things with Wings

“Does Buying Combat Aircraft Lead to Trouble?”
Combat aircraft made up about a third of worldwide arms purchases in time 2005-2009 timeframe. A new report by the renown Swedish International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) examines detailed buying trends and resulting political problems, and asks just what precedes what. Does buying sophisticated combat aircraft destabilize a country’s relations with neighbors? (H/T to Ares)

Leave a comment

Zach in Afghanistan: NATO Accident Sparks Kabul Riot

A blackened scorch now marks the spot where a U.S. embassy vehicle, one of two torched by rioters yesterday, came to rest. The vehicle, one of the ubiquitous SUVs that ferry foreigners all over the Kabul area, ran a civilian car off the road and into the median, killing four Afghan civilians. It is not uncommon to see NGO workers, contractors and even uniformed military personnel using the armored vehicles; the four DynCorp employees in the car fled under the protection of the Afghan National Police (ANP). Almost instantly after the accident an angry mob formed, composed, according to press reports, of hundreds furious Afghans.

Leave a comment

Zach in Afghanistan: The Afghan Kabubble

Kabul has perhaps the world’s worst tasting, but best guarded KFC rip-off, the notorious Afghan Fried Chicken. To eat this poor excuse for food and sip warm soda, one must pass by two AK-toting Afghan guards and step through a metal detector, possibly followed by a hand search. But AFC is among the more inclusive foreign-oriented
restaurants – at least they allow Afghans to eat there. It is worth noting that some of the most expensive cities in the world for expatriates are in the developing world. Much of this cost is undoubtedly due to the massive costs required to separate the expats from, well, the developing city around them.

Leave a comment

Zach in Afghanistan: Recent Developments in Afghan Corruption

First, it’s worth noting just where Afghanistan stands, and the Failed States Index is a good place to start. Note Afghanistan’s overall position as the sixth-most failed state in the world. The relevant measurement of corruption is “Delegitimization of the State,” in which category Afghanistan gets a score of 10 out of 10, the same score as Somalia, and just ahead of Chad and Sudan.

Leave a comment

Zach in Afghanistan: The Gizab Good Guys

In May, a group of irate villagers in Gizab, Daikundi Province, an area largely left alone by NATO forces, banded together to take on the local Taliban head first — and won. This is the local turnaround we’ve all been looking for: a spontaneous locally-inspired, -organized and -led revolt against the heavy hand of the Taliban. And people said Iraq’s Anbar Awakening couldn’t work in Afghanistan, the fools! Foreign government and military personnel greeted the news with unabashed optimism.

Leave a comment

Zach in Afghanistan: Losing Faith

On a calm April night at Combat Outpost Baraki Barak, a survivor is recalling the bomb that nearly killed him a couple of days before. He was in his MRAP when a command-wire IED blew it up; he pulled people out of the burning truck, got them onto litters, and picked up his weapon, ready to kill, but as in many of these attacks there was no clear target to shoot. The seriously wounded were airlifted and the surrounding Afghan population yielded no intelligence; the unit circled their remaining trucks and watched the stricken truck burn. He was sent to the hospital for a nasty cut on his head, only six stitches wide but down to the bone.


Zach in Afghanistan: So Your Enemy is an Idiot …

On a combat outpost in Logar Province, a group of young American soldiers sit around on guard duty, bored to tears, swapping stories about the Afghan National Army (ANA). Between drags of his cigarette, one soldier tells a story of his time guarding the COP’s senior medic. One day, it seems, a senior ANA officer came to the clinic complaining of an infection to his penis; after some time and much sheepishness, it emerged that the ANA officer likely contracted the infection when he had sex with a donkey. He was given antibiotics. Around the guard post, the other soldiers nod; they have similar stories.

1 Comment

Zach in Afghanistan: America’s Kandahar Conundrum

As the U.S. and Afghan armies gear up for the offensive in Kandahar (or not — in rumor-rich Kabul, various sources have it beginning anytime from tomorrow through the winter) the U.S. is increasingly in a political conundrum. On one hand, there’s no good to come from allowing the Taliban a free hand in Kandahar, and that whatever happens has to work, or else. While few suggest the Taliban can take the city over completely, they currently do enough to keep the population from conclusively siding with the national government. On the other hand, it is increasingly apparent that the U.S. may not possess the necessary political resources to win the population.

1 Comment

Zach in Afghanistan: The Justice/Peace Divide

Sidiqua, 18 years old, cries gently as she talks about her life. At the age of three, Hezb-i-Islami rocketed her home while assaulting Kabul; the first put a piece of shrapnel in her back that the local hospital had no capacity to remove. The second rocket killed her mother, brothers and aunt. Her father, bearing permanent mental scars, cannot bear the pain of seeing her; though he has a home in Kabul, she is not allowed inside it and he often sleeps in the streets. Without family, a crucial part of Afghan social life, Sidiqua is adrift. She is unemployed and broke. The government, which gives her 8,000 Afghanis a year — about $160, well below the cost of living — denied her request for land, Sidiqua says, because she is a woman and cannot build a house. To survive, she moves between the houses of her neighbors. “I need my mother,” she weeps, “where is my mother now?”


Zach in Afghanistan: Altimur Manhunt, Part Two

“Fuck! IED strike on Anvil!”

Leave a comment

Zach in Afghanistan: Altimur Manhunt, Part One

The building at Forward Operating Base Altimur — in Mohamad Agha district, Logar province — that contains the Tactical Operations Center is surrounded by a fence topped with barbed wire. To contact someone in the building, the unauthorized — interpreters, reporters, contractors — gather outside the gate, waiting for some kind soul with access to whom they can petition: So-and-so is inside, can you please tell him I’m outside?


Zach in Afghanistan: The Aeromedical Evacuation Shuffle

This mission is extra-urgent. Instead of the usual hour given to Alpha alert launches, flight nurse Major Richard Foote and his Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) team have only a half hour to set up an airplane, receive four patients and get into the air. Foote’s AE team, composed of two flight nurses and three medical technicians assembles in the hut’s tiny conference room for a hasty briefing.