Saturday, February 11, 2012

Afghan Heroes

As time wears on, and some of those around me have started to count the days until their departure, the frustration, resentment and fatigue are taking their toll.  Even the "can do" sometimes painfully optimistic approach of my green suit friends is fading a bit as their tours march toward the end. While often expressed in the general terms of "let the Afghans fix their own *!@*)^ country, I'm outta here" a more honest sentiment I have heard is disappointment at constraints that prevented efforts we wanted to make, and not seeing more progress.  In short, wondering if it all made a difference. A question I'm not going to try and answer.

For me, I'm trying to be sympathetic, but am being careful not to catch a case of short-timers disease. Certainly there are reasons to worry about the future of Afghanistan, and I do, but my theory is to worry less about Afghanistan and more about Afghans. For every Talib or corrupt warlord or dirty cop, there are men and women struggling and dying to make their country and community a better place, and I try to hold onto those when I get the cynical sniffles.

Afghan inspiration #1 - unnamed bus driver  As we drove up to the Salang tunnel our interpreter pointed out a landmark I couldn't even see, which I think was a just a pile of stones. While I have learned enough Dari and milspeak to get by, I haven't learned Rock, which is something of a lingua franca in Afghanistan - and is used to mark routes, give warnings, and commemorate events. 

At any rate - the rocks marked the spot where a passenger bus had hit some ice and was sliding inexorably towards a drop that would be quite fatal. Seeing the catastrophe in the making, another bus driver made his calculation, picked his spot and laid himself beneath the tire about to go off the cliff. All the passengers survived, the driver did not.

#2 This year in one of the Kabul bombings a suicide bomber was spotted by police in the line approaching the checkpoint and they raised the alarm. Seeing that he was caught the bomber moved to detonate his explosive. Meanwhile, as one of the often-maligned Afghan National Police was running at him through the panicking crowd. He tackled him and covered him with his body just as the bomb went off.  There were no other serious injuries.

#3 As I returned to our base together with the Afghan security forces that had led the mission, I watched the most senior officer stop at a traffic circle that had become a slushy mess. He ordered two of his men to get out and walk a good kilometer back to their base, then told a father who had been struggling along the street with his young son to hop in the truck and tell the driver where to take them.

#4 One of the people I know and like best in Afghanistan has been tirelessly helping to promote efforts to reconcile with the Taliban and find a lasting peace despite the fact that he could easily have been killed in an attack on the office where he works. He mentioned in passing that he had been held by the Taliban in solitary confinement in a cave for over three years.

The Morning Commute

In other words, just like at home there are rogues and rascals, but there also many extraordinarily brave and decent people (and some who are both) who are trying to pull together a country that hasn't known normality for more than a generation.

1 comment:

  1. wow, I have tears in my eyes. that was so inspirational, thank you!