Reflections from 36,000 ft
Afghanistan Dec 2009
The Winnable War
The irony is that the largest explosion I heard in terms of enemy attacks in this war in 30 days on the frontline was this morning on the day we were to leave Kabul. In the capital not 300m from our bureau/residence, Greg & I were just editing our final piece before 10am when suddenly the whole room and building just went blank.
Describing a bomb blast like this morning is like trying to explain the first time you hear or experience a car crash. For a second your world collapses down into microseconds, as your brain comprehends before you feel the shock wave of the actual explosion. The sound traps you before the concussion holds you, and this all takes place inside a few seconds and then realizing that you have survived the next mode of capturing the story and pictures kicks in.
It is if your mind is in a fog for those first few seconds, reality is the sound of the explosion, which is not as loud as Hollywood makes it out, but your senses combine in that one moment to terrify you before you realize that you have survived.
Welcome back to Afghanistan Conor Powell.
Half undressed, half asleep Conor looked thru the window, as I looked the camera lens. Conor our Kabul/Afghanistan Correspondent had been back in the country less than 24 hours, arriving only the late evening before after a months holiday back in the states whilst Greg Palkot & I covered for him.
Conor has seen and experienced bombs in Kabul before so being thrown out of your bed by a morning explosion is nothing new, but the look on his face portrayed that this suicide bombing is yet one step closer to the our reality of living and working in Kabul.
A city so corrupted by corruption, that to find someone not asking for a bribe is the exception. Example for a quick ten dollars at the airport the check in guy will reduce your excess baggage quota, hard cashes no questions. Just hand over the dollars quietly.
Want to drive your car thru check points with a suicide bomber ready to go, would not require much more. In we had heard that there were three bombers/bombs ready and in place in Kabul prior to this mornings attack. And that is only the media’s grapevine; as per usual all the so-called security experts with their contacts knew nothing or had any warning.
Reality check. Foreign or International Security Companies in Kabul/Afghanistan are now (8 years into this war) are having trouble holding onto there own staff. Run by foreign companies that are only in Afghanistan to suck money from International organizations from the NGO’s (Non Government Organization’s) to Multi National Companies. These Security companies under pay their local so badly that it is now common knowledge that the Taliban pay a monthly salary that is 25% more than foreign security companies offer the majority of its security staff.
The Taliban is clearly and openly offering better employment opportunities, rather than the corrupted official channels or even worse foreign security companies who are sucking the blood out of the capital and this country.
It is pathetic to try and grasp how bad it has become in the capital, you are know at this point that honestly, it is dog eat dog. Yes you survive for today is today, tomorrow is tomorrow. Nobody cares as long as someone is making more money.
This is the “Winnable War” reality check.
Flying back to London offers no solace for within months no doubt I will be back there and it will only be worse.
Military & Govt Officials will massage figures to give the appearance of it is all going to plan in the coming months, I have honestly given up on truth in any respect to do with Afghanistan.
Covering war zones I get to see a very small but honest part and after a month in country the gut feeling is that after 8 years of rebuilding, reconstructing, retraining, 98% of the population hates and loathes the US and its Allies, for what it has done and is doing now.
In regard to the other 2% I have seen, all is well, by the way in a mountain village high in the mountains of Southern Afghanistan with no water or power the local school bus has a farm tractor and you know what children laugh as they climb up to go home.
A six year old asks nothing more than a chance to grow old and prosper. In Kabul on that, 8 people lost that chance and multiple more injured will never get the chance to grow old and prosper.