Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pilgrimage to Panjshir

It was my good fortune and pleasure to have a legitimate business reason to go to the Panjshir valley

The Panjshir valley is probably best known for its prodigal son Ahmad Massoud, who earned the title of the "Lion of the Panjshir" for the losses he inflicted on Soviet troops which made the mistake of coming into his valley.  As the leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance he was widely expected to govern Afghanistan. Sadly, Al Qaeda assassinated him on September 9th 2001, making him a martyr, whose face adorns offices and windshields throughout the country.

Panjshir is also an emerging tourist destination (yes your heard me right) - based largely on the cult of personality that has built up around him, and the newly constructed Massoud's Monument (and tomb).

See - trees, water, nice road - what more can you ask for?

Paradise - complete with a Koi pond

Some of the Soviet equipment that never made it out of the valley

We were there to discuss the "transition" - which is the handover of security responsibility from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - to Afghan control.  In other words, we take a step back, Afghans take a step forward and take back full control of their country and destiny. Simple to say, hard to do, but there are positive things happening.

Ironically, one of the signs of success was a recent unsuccessful attack on the base. While it succeeded in sowing doubts and concerns about how the Taliban could strike deep within territory that is famously hostile towards them, the attack itself was a failure, just like the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul which did resulted only in cosmetic damage but captured headlines for weeks.

Anyhow - the change in venue was invigorating, and while I've pretty well mastered the tricks of getting in and out of the 4 point harness, I still can't get in a helo and feel the ground fall away and the green fields and brown mountain tops open up without taking a mental picture (and often a regular one) and thanking the higher power for having landed such an awesome job.

The most upsetting damage for residents was to the b-ball hoop


Winter on its way

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