Under the Boardwalk

Kandahar Air Field

There is no doubt that General Mc Crystal is not happy with the lifestyle of troops at the ISAF base here in Kandahar. The reality is that whilst many consider that Kandahar is a key strategic location in the war, the place at times resembles a shopping mall.

Consider what is on the main area known as the boardwalk, a wooden enclosed square purpose built entertainment area. Starting by the Tim Horton’s (Canadian) Coffee shop overlooking the rink, where hockey and football are played. Past the Kebab shop whose slogan is Gyros for Heroes, next to the 24/7 Pizza Hut, which attracts a crowd of all night and day. They also offer home delivery to your bunkhouse or office. Then there is the Subway store and the Burger King, which has a sign apologizing that the Whopper is not available at the moment.

Sunglasses or lingerie no problems available at the Oakley franchise on the corner. Continuing along there is the Canadian PX store, no to mention the German PX and the French PX, which also includes a patisserie offering smoked salmon baguettes and croissants freshly, baked. The Dutch PX is off the boardwalk but like the French is a two storey complex where Play Station and Plasma TV’s are available.

The American PX is modest by the standards set by other nations, offering the necessities of life here similar to other American PX’s in Afghanistan.

If there is a danger at Kandahar then obesity rates higher than the threat faced by Taliban. Watching soldiers from various nations shoveling pizza down at 8am is not unusual, and these are not guys who are dirt encrusted from days out on operations.

When you consider that to put a US soldier into the war her costs approx a million dollars per deployment, you do start to question what the hell is the need for a shopping mall in war zone. It seems like some are more concerned with the frills of life than the mission.

There are DFAC’s (Dining Facilities) all around the base offering food and drinks over four meal sittings a day. All fully paid for and staffed by third world nationals earning a minimum wage catering to troops based at Kandahar.

For soldiers on the frontline a meal from a bag and water sustain them and they enjoy a far greater satisfaction from their efforts than the troops based at Kandahar Air Field. If as much effort was put into the war itself and less emphasis on maintaining a lifestyle enjoyed at home, then after 8 years would we still be bogged down in a war that is going from bad to worse with each passing month.

I have learnt to tune out to the words of Senior Officers as they describe how well it is going, because I heard the same words eight years ago. One soldier barely twenty years old by his appearance told us that the US defeated the Taliban after seven months. Which puts the war at an end in July 2002. Well a 300% increase in attacks on coalition forces between 2007 to 2009, a figure stated by General Mc Crystal reveals the ignorance of some soldiers, as to how the fight is going.

Perhaps that is why we are hearing that the boardwalks days are numbered and whilst it may only be a small step, hopefully actions like that may refocus some soldiers minds on the operation, because if things have not turned around drastically within a year the war can be clearly be termed a complete failure and hundreds of lives will have been lost for no reason and the Taliban, like the Viet Cong in Vietnam will claim victory and world opinion will be with them.

I never doubt the resolve of the young soldiers I meet and film at Combat Outpost’s for they are true heroes. But for a dose of reality the big news of Boardwalk yesterday was that donuts were once again available at the Tim Horton’s Coffee Shop.

The war continues.