Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Sense of Urgency... Or Not

As spring arrives, troops prepare for a rotation, and the withdrawal of coalition forces (CF) draws ever closer, I am sensing an odd mix of urgency and lethargy.

On the one hand there is the urge to rack up tangible accomplishments before hanging up ones boots, on the other is the contrary instinct to fade quietly into the sunset and not tempt fate. In the middle of this mess is the change of season, and the expectation that "fighting season" will soon get started. Taliban don't like fighting in the snow any more than we do and like taking their holiday in warmer climates just the same as us.

Ski Season is Just About Over...
Anyhow, I'm trying to just muddle along as best I can without fully embracing the (very American) fallacy that if we just work harder and longer Afghanistan will be reshaped in the next 2-4 weeks, nor the fatalism that often starts with the phrase "it is what it is" and ends with excusing oneself from trying at all.

In that vein, I had a chance for a nice stroll in downtown Charikar this week (going to a KLE not to stop at the corner grocery). I wish I had more of an opportunity to take pictures, as it was charming, colorful, and (at times) friendly.  The highlight was a series of three boys, who were probably 6, 4 and 3 years old, standing by the road (in that order) giving high-fives to the soldiers walking by. Older children enjoyed using the smattering of english they have picked up.

I Stuck by the Medic, Just in Case...

Others were more reserved, but didn't hesitate to return the greeting of a hand on the heart and a brief nod which has become instinctual enough that I catch myself doing it with non-Afghan colleagues. Mostly, our group seemed to get about as much attention as a flashy car driving down the street; enough to catch your attention and merit a comment to your neighbor, but not enough to interrupt business or a conversation with your friend. 

The Ironies of Afghanistan, A Soviet DSHK Machine Gun on a US Humvee

While our guard was certainly up, the guns generally were not, and the only real adrenaline rush came when CPT Esquire showed his soldiering skills by spotting an incoming motorbike with a gun-totting passenger and alerting our group to this event. Luckily, the weapon was not the typical AK-47 (which one is allowed to carry around for self-defense), but something that looked strikingly like a revolutionary war era flintlock rifle with a 3-4 foot barrel, and was probably being used for duck hunting.

On balance, it was nice to see the normalcy of a "city" street, and remember that mostly, people just want to have a job, earn enough to feed their family, have clean water, and go about their business.

Our Welcome Home

1 comment:

  1. It's hard to believe you've been there almost a year already. Great post, thanks, as always!