July 20th, 2009:
– “Daily Afghanistan Outlook” headlines: Last week – 145 Terror Attacks, 66 dead, 228 wounded
– Yesterday: Karzai backing former jihad commander Abdur Rab Rasul Sayyaf as commander of Kabul
forces and security …elections coming in a few weeks, fight fire with fire I guess
– Today: cleaning people accompanied by automatic weapons in room
– Breakfast: word is militants pouring into the city. Advised to leave now, while I still can
After breakfast I take a ride around the city. Only 25 bombings today. It’s early. A world gone mad. Afghan military everywhere. A NATO APC in a small convoy rolls down the street, the man wielding the 50 up top pointing it at anyone and anything that comes near. You can tell he’s scared, the gun rolling from side to side like a bobble head on the Paris Dakar rally. Kids run, laugh, and point, the gunner points back. A dangeorus game but the kids are bored, and like any kids around the world, can see the fear in the gunners movements, so time for some fun. Cars slow down, weave to the outside lanes, get out of the way. The convoy quickly rolls through, dissapearing as fast as they can.
We stop on the outskirts of the city at an old fort. A man invites me to his home for lunch, my driver says “No, too dangerous”. Everyone wants their pictures taken, the driver wants to go. The man doesn’t wait too long, he runs off down the trail. We pass by a half stadium looking building. “That is where they tried to assassinate Karzai”, my driver says. He turns on the radio. “Taliban song”, he says.
Sunset at the Gardens of Babur. A little bit of calm in a world gone mad. Locals picnicking, children playing. A bit of grass, newly planted trees. The women still in burkas …no pictures of women in burkas I’m told by the driver. Ah well, I won’t push, I’m sure they have enough to worry about without some American kid on vacation pointing a camera at them. Boom …in the distance. Make that 26. Time to go, its getting dark. Below, a view of the Pul-e Khishti Mosque from the Gardens of Babur in Kabul. Almost pretty, with the militant filled hills in the background, lacking any sign of the women in burkas ushering their kids home for another hot night in a house lacking electricity and running water, although the holes in the walls do provide some natural air conditioning. The sun filtered by another day of dust raised by the numerous bombings throughout the city. A picture does a great job of filtering out automatic weapon fire too…
I get out of the car on the street at the hotel wall. Down the barb wired entry, through the two manned bunkers, around the sandbags. I knock on the outer door, someone opens and I’m in-between the two walls leading to the hotel. Through the x-ray station, around the black masked guards. I hear a call through on the radio, I wait for the inner guards to open the steel door. A bomb sniffing dog sniffs me up and down, good doggie. The door slides open, five fully armored men with autos ready are spread out semi circle around the opening door. I smile and give them a wave. Into the courtyard, I wave to the sniper on the roof-top corner closest to me, he waves back, I smile. This is insane.
I get a half-assed standing ovation in the lobby, as well as a lot of laughter, from the mercs I met the past few days. They thought I was dead, out all day, after dark now. “You got balls, I’ll give you that” says the New Zealander as he slips another grenade into place. I talk a bit and than they are ready to go, heading out to only God knows where, fully armored, fully equipped, and apparently ready to make some money.
I head to my room and eventually go to bed. You can hear the rat-tat-tat of automatic weapon fire throughout the city, the occasional boom-boom-boom of something bigger. The soft of sound of mortar fire in the hills surrounding Kabul lulls me to sleep, calming and almost soothing, like the croaking of frogs and the clicking of cicadas in the country night, Afghan style. Sounds like the boys are making a lot of money tonight…