- 01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003
- 02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003
- 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004
- 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004
- 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004
- 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004
- 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004
- 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004
- 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004
- 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004
- 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004
- 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004
- 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004
- 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005
- 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007
Time to once again open my life up a little in order to share the plethora of wealth I'm about to absorb. I'm going to be back in Iraq through September, so hop on board and check back every couple of days, I'll do my best to update as much as possible. Questions? email@example.com And check out the site I'm working with: http://www.billroggio.com Support independent journalism!
Thursday, October 28, 2004
I decided to walk down to Chicken street where the grenade attack happened a few days before. I was interested in talking to the multitudes of vendors to find out how business was. I took a left on Flower Street, which is just an extension of Chicken Street, walking through the carpet shops and food stands of downtown. Back in the 60's and 70's, this place was a hippie magnet that has now fallen on much harder times. If you use your imagination, the feel is still there; it's clearly a place that caters to foreigners with incredible deals on antique weapons, carpets and looted antiquties of all sorts. It is a place where someone with money can make a lot of money.
I spend a couple hours talking to store owners, including the store where the bomber blew himself up in front of. Everyone was desperate and looking for sales. No business, at all, for three days. These people are great salespeople, but there was nothing I could do, I was broke as they were. Which really is too bad because I was being offered some deals. My favorite was an 1850's flintlock pistol that was decorated with gold and camel bone. Authentic as hell... $50!! Holy cow! Of course I can't buy anything so I shoot some pictures, do some iinterviews and head back to the office.
On the way I notice Apache choppers overhead. That means two things: First, there's an important person moving about town or second, there's trouble. So I trake some shots and move on down the road when I spot two U.S. Humvees stopped in traffic. You can never get enough video of the patrols because it's hard to get. I get harrassed nearly every time I take video of the coalition in Kabul, this time would be no different. I raise my camera and get a nice shot of the hummers going by when one of the turret gunners points me out. This brings three soldiers to my side, one grabbing me pretty hard with them demanding I give them my camera. I politly make a protest and give it up. They tell me I can get it at the front gate.
So I head toward the Kabul Compound where I get to wait a half hour for the Provost Marshall to join me. Two guys in civillian clothes come up and protest they can't watch my tape because the battery was dead (ooops). So I replace the battery, show them the harmless tape and they let me go. Real anti-climactic, but a definite pattern in the way journalist are treated here in Afghanistan.
Back at that office, I learn that three UN workers have been kidnapped in Kabul (chopper). So we all moved into overdrive and filed two different stories. One was on the abduction and mine was mutated into a "city on the edge story". Since I had fortunately shot the security out and about, we were able to have a good day of solid, good looking video for a story that is sure to become a big imnternational situation.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
The 10 days since Kandahar has not been good, obviously. I feel like I'm in jail, even though I can leave. I am just waiting as the time ticks away, trying to be available in the event I'm needed. Mix this up with the fact that the news here in Kabul is nearly non-existient, time is just crawling by.
All of this has been dragged down even further with the extra stress of finding new employment after this gig is over next month. Then the horrible news a last week that a good friend of mine was in a motorcycle accident last week and just passed away on Monday. Oh yeah, and my wretched back just healed (still a little sore). What a run!! Wow.
Anyway, all the sitting is driving me a little nuts. I may end up going down to Ghazni for a few days to do a couple of stories. I'm a little weary of that now that I'm short, but I'm not sure how many more days I can sit around trying to motivate this office into productivity.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Abdullah brings me into the kitchen to tell me that Ahmet is uncomfortable with the situation and wouldn't be returning until late. Afterward, we went back into the living room where most the crew was waiting for me with a cake. We were able to talk things out and learn a little bit about the issues concerning our relationship. So it was positive for sure and enabled me to regain some trust that I had lost.
I'm still not sure what to do about Ahmet. Not much I can do. I guess I'll just let the big guys deal with that issue. I can't see the situation changing much, so I'll use my energy somewhere else and get ready to move on
Saturday, October 23, 2004
We made it out of Kandahar on Wednesday the 13th. We decided that our health and sanitation where suffering too much to stay and get back with the military. Besides, we were told Thursday, at the earliest, to get to Kandahar Air Field. Then it would take another 3-5 days to get back, so we decided to find a truck for the trip home.
I have to admit, I was not keen on the idea. I had made the trip twice before, but travelling from Kandahar to Kabul during the elections was asking for trouble. However, Umit and I both decided to take the risk as Abdullah went home by taxi the day before and we were near desperate. No money, little sleep, no clients... it was time.
Our first attempt to get a truck fell through as I learned the guy setting it up didn't even know the driver. Didn't like that, so we moved to plan B. That was to get the Reuters guy to help us get a truck. Afterall, neither Umit or myself speak Pashtun, let alone the fact that we cannot speak to each other in the first place.
Everything went fine with plan B. The Reuters guys helped out in a big way and got us an Afghan extened-type van and a driver for about $115 (8 hours each way). But the drive would be dangerous and for the first time sine I have been in Afghanistan, I actually put a headscarf on to cover my face.
After loading all of our stuff into the van, my back which I strained the day before, was shot and I could barely sit or turn around. The drive would be nothing less than hellish. I remember saying to myself that if this driver leaves the road, I'm cuttiing his throat. Within five minutes of leaving the stadium, we were parked on some side street wwith the driver no where to be found and me in too much pain to cut anything. After about 10 minutes, some Talib looking guy comes up and is checking out the vehicle. Then he walks up and starts talking to Umit, who understands nothing of what the guy is saying.
I just sit in the back and hope the guy goes away and the driver comes back. After a few hairy minutes, the guy leaves. Five minutes later, the driver came back and got into an argument with the curious Talib-guy, but back he was and we were off.
The security on the road was pretty good. Lots of checkpoints and no trouble at all. One ANA guy laughed in amazement when he found out I was American. I assume most Afghans I run into out here think I'm nutty. Regardless, everything went fine and we made it home alive.
The ensuing week leading up to my birthday has been one long drag. I can't get into the meat of the problem because it is a personnel issue, but the fact is that things between Ahmet and I are history. He plainly told me he was doing things his way and if I didn't like it, too bad. Unfortunately, Ahmet is too valuable to lose at this buraeu. Since my time is up at the end of November, I wrote HQ to request that I come back to Turkey as the earliest conveniance and was given permission.
It really is too bad. I came here to help these guys and I got nothing but non-compliance from the get go. For three months I've been demanding morning meetings, but still, people don't get up until 11:00. The guys do what they want, whhen they want and use the communication barrier as a tool against me. So to make a long story short, there is nothing left for me to do here and it's time to wrap it up. I expect to stay until the president is announced here, then I'll head back to Istanbul and finish out my contract editing the news for english readers.
Back in the states, things are also hairy. I never said this, but at one point over the past few months, Heidi was offered a dream job in Raleigh, but negotiations fell through and the job offered turned down. I'm now in the process of looking for a new job outside of Roanoke and have offers being considered in Greensboro and Washington. All I can do now is wait my time out here so I can begin a new chapter in life somewhere else, with my wife this time.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
The night was miserable. Period. No other way to put it. We had broken down the gear the night before, tarped it and rode out the storm. It was a good one. After a while I decided just to get up and take shelter inside until the sun rose, which wasn't far off.
I was told the night before that the stadium would be taking voters, so I had planned to stay at the stadium for the coverage. Well, 0800 rolls around and there's no one around. The polls open at 0700. So I quickly decide that we're going to have to find a polling center. Turns out there's one across thee street about a quarter mile. So I tell Abdullah to get ready to go with me since the BBC feed wasn't until 1100. He flat out refused. He went into a speech about how I told him he didn't have to leave the perimeter (which I did). I reminded him that this was one of the most historic days in his country's history and that he needed to get moving. He didn't budge. "But it's dangerous." For just a second, I couldn't help myself, "Well no shit Abdullah, I'm an American!" as I pulled at the skin on my arm. After 10 minutes of patriotic stuff, I told him that if he didn't come, it was his last paycheck with IHA. A few minutes later he comes up to me with this concerned look and said, "We can go now." "Oh... it's ok with you?" I ask.
So we head out of the perimeter and toward the polling site. The view was amazing. My heart started to race as we looked down the street and saw hundreds of people streaming to the ballot box. The excitement was feverish because as soon as I start shooting the sequence, Abdullah starts hoping around, all excited about what was happening. "Told ya." I said. "This is so great!" You could see he was genuinely excited.
We made our way to the ballot center, but they wouldn't let me in because I didn't have a voting card. It took about five minutes of wrangling, but eventually they let us in and I started shooting. The feeling was such a good feeling. There was an atmosphere of excitement that is hard to explain. We didn't stay long because we wanted to get the first pictures out, to me this was a huge, historic moment and we were going to win.
We make our way back to thee stadium and begin the feed process. Wouldn't you know it that there's trouble in Istanbul or in Kandahar. Regardless, it's somewhere and we miss our feed opportunity before the Reuters booking. I must admit, I was a bit disappointed. The problem was that the guy in Istanbul didn't know how to accept my NTSC format. Of all the feeds they've taken from me, the one day that we've all been waiting for and they have a novice at the helm. Unbelievable. Never have we had this problem.
We had to shake it off and get over to the hospital where the women were designated to vote. Now, if you know anything about Afghan culture, looking at other women, let alone taking their picture, is a big social no-no, so it's like walking on eggshells for this part.
When we get to the high school, like at the other site, there's people streaming in to vote and all of them women. Burkhas of all shapes, sizes and colors heading up the street. Few women wore less than a bhurka. That is completely understandable considering the conservative nature of the region we're in.
Once again we get stopped at the gate and it takes a ton of sweet talking, but they let us in. I have five minutes. I gingerly start shooting, slowly working my way into where I want to be. A few women covered their faces in haste, one asked why I was taking her picture. I just told her that it was a very special day and the world wanted to see.
As quickly as we came, we were gone. No time to spare and none extra given. We hop in a taxi thing (this three wheel covered mini taxi that is colorfully decorated and is an eastern cousin of the go-cart) and make our way back to the stadium where we feed again then get set for the impending breaking news.
We waited, and waited and the news didn't come. The news did come, just not like everyone thought. Very little violence reported in the country except a few small incidents. In Kandahar, a police officer was killed by an IED, but other than that, it was very quiet.
Not only was it quiet in and around Kandahar, but so were the TV stations. A couple of feeds, but no live shots. Some agency's we knew were in town, like Al Jazeera and APTN didn't even feed anything. We come all the way to Kandahaar and no one cares because things went GOOD. That's the news: SECURITY IN AFGHANISTAN CARRIES ELECTIONS FORWARD
It really is too bad to see that correlation, but it's there and there is no other explanation.
Sunday, October 10th 2004 0600
I woke up with the same foul indigestion I had when I got sick at the Bagram Burger King and I knew I was in trouble. Before long, I was losing everything and the sickness was back.
Almost first thing in the morning, this New York Times photographer stopped in to see how things were going. After a second of talking, he says, "You're not Dave are you?" Turns out this is a good friend of my former-partner, Paul, who now resides outside Denver. Wow, what an odd finish to our two emails!!! Hated to do it, but the conversation was cut way short as I made my way to bed.
The day was the worst yet. I could hardly move, making it up just long enough to shot the necessities like trucks and choppers bring in the ballots. The choppers were U.N. white Mi-8s and flown by Russian crews. They would take their time and land on a small slab of concrete just inside the stadium. Quite the sight.
The rest of the day I just tried to sleep. I was seriously ill and could think of nothing but how bad I felt. It's that sickness where you say to yourself, "This can't get worse...". Then the twice an hour trips to the worst bathroom you've ever had to use awaited like clockwork. The worst part was digging through the trash heap and the old rations bags looking for the toilet paper no one uses... except me. Please help me sleep this off.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Earlier that night, the U.N. guy told me he would set me up with a ride because we had no clue how to find the guesthouse where the media was plannned to stay as well as the military PAO. Just before dark, I realized the guy had gone and left us hanging. So not only can we not find our satellite, but we have no food, no water and no clue where to get some. We put our best foot forward and pitched the cots on the roof of the stadium for a brisk night under the stars. Even though I had three blankets, the wind still managed to find its way into my slumber, keeping me up much of the night.
Thursday, October 7th 2004
The sun pops up around 0530 here and when it does, I do as well, so I took a tour of what we were setting up in. The stadium is in the middle of renovation which is supposed to be done for the elections, but won't even come close. Hardly any windows in the place which allows the dust to permeate the building at will. Guarding the place is about 35 Afghan local and national police. Most under 23, I'd say, most smoked a ton of hash. The bathrooms were nothing less than horrendous. Afghans don't use the typical toilet we do. They have a porcellin hole in the floor which requires great aim from all direction. Toilet paper? Forget it. There is a water squirting hose that everyone gets to use. Best part is that the bathrooms weren't finished either and were quickly turned into huge, disgusting messes.
If there is one thing I cannot understand or stand about the Afghans, is that they have no concept of cleansliness. They crap and piss in public, anywhere they please. There is no concept of litter whatsoever and just everything in general is dirtier than dirty. It's just so ironic because these people wash five times a day before praying, but after that, it's back to a complete disregard for sanitation. It was so bad in fact, I could hardly walk down the hall without thinking about what it was I was walking on.
Things got better later that morning when we finally found the satellite. Ooops... wrong satellite. Keep trying. Two hours later... BINGO! Odd... a bird that is supposed to be at 10 degrees east, is actually 10 degrees nearly due west? What? At heast we found it. Unfortunately, now the ampliphier doesn't work and it appears as if things are heading for a major dissapointment. BBC has been waiting to feed now for two days, and I can't promise them they will be able to feed tonight. "Call back in two hours." All I can think is that the trip damaged it somehow and Umit doesn't look happy.
Night is on us again and BBC is worried. Finally, as BBC calls back again, I'm able to give them the great news that Umit and Istanbul figured out the problem and we were in business.
So BBC starts to feed, but there's audio problems. Istanbul says all is fine there. London says it is not there. I have no idea and can only watch as Umit tries to get it fixed. Meanwhile, the BBC cameraguy is starting to raise his voice at Umit, and since it is in English, Umit has no clue what is up with him. So I have to remind the guy we have come sx days and spent the last 36 hours trying to get the system up. That got everything to normal and we pushed on. Eventually they had to settle for mixed audio on one track. Better that a four hour feed over the internet. Time: 2345.
Friday, Oct 8th 2004
Another freezing cold night, but as the sun rises, it quickly burns off and gets hot quick. I was the only one up when Govorner Pashtun made a surprise visit to the stadium. He wals up on the verranda where he sees Umit snoozing away and the place looking more like a dorm room.
I immediately greeted him, though I don't think he recognized me. Why should he? I've only met him four times, twice over lunch. Hell, he's a busy man. So I give him a rundown of the operation, he thanks me and moves on. I must've been a break for the police because he spent the rest of the time chewing them and the contracters out. I don't speak Pashtu, but I do know a few words and they were not nice. Afterall, the governor was about to host the world media and this place is a dump.
A few hours later I get a tip from the UN guy who abandonned me a few nights before: They were getting ready to blow a tanker full of gas and explosives. Sweet!! Spot news! Reuters happened to be there as well, so using my tip, their contacts and car, we sped off to find the fireworks. After grabbing the Al Jazeera guy, we made our way to Kandahar's main gate. Like many cities in the Middle East and Central Asia, you literally drive through high, arched gates to get into a city. At this gate, the road forked: One north to Kabul, the other east to Pakistan. No coin tossing here. The Reuters guy asked the guard where the action was and he pointed off toward Pakistan. Barely a mile up the road, we were stopped by an ANA (National Army) roadblock and they weren't going to let us in. Just then, an American ETT (Embedded Training Team) pulled up with ANA soldiers and were getting some direction from the guards. That's where my nationality works well (that and the guuuy was from the 76th Indiana). "Hey, I'm with the press." as I show him my credentials. "Mind if we follow you in?" Ding!! So we head toward where the EOD was staging; the truck half hidden by a ridge a half a kilometer away. At first the military seemed a little squirrly, but after a few minutes warmed up to us and even gave interviews. That's really all we needed because a dust storm was setting in and the time of demolition was unknown. Not only that, but we would be kept back far enough that we wouldn't see much through the storm. We raced back to the stadium where I fed. As we'd later report, the truck was filled with gas and explosives in the tires. Three Pakistanis arrested. The sobering news: It was desitined for the stadium in which we were camped at.
We'd been living on MRE's for a few days and the internet has been off and on with the electricity, so I decided it was time to find the guest house. I knew the walk was just four or five blocks, but none the less, I felt like I was about to jump out of a plane. This is where I get a wierd sort of adrenaline rush from adventure traveling. It's the time you get to see the native land in its rawest form. Bad part is that a warning has just been issued by the State Department concerning kidnappings and I'm hiking through some neiighborhood in Taliban-infested Kandahar, alone and with no weapon. Just breathe....
The walk was really uneventful, a number of surprised looks followed by genuine smiles and a wave, "Salaam Aliekum." in which I would say, "Aliekum Salaam." No problems. Very interesting.
I find the guesthouse and the room in which the PAO is in and ask to fiile my story from there. He has no problems and I get to work. an hour later, I'm ready to go find some food. I don't really look to hard because, well, it's Kandahar. But I do take a detour to a rug shop where I find a great deal on a nice 3x10 runner that will soon be on my neighbor's floor. With business done and the wind picking up, it's time to head back and ride out the storm, which is kind of fitting; tommorow is election day and there has been no trouble to speak of, yet.
Monday, October 11, 2004
My last entry touched on that boredom some, but I did leave out one of the nice stories. At Bagram is located one of two Burger Kings in the country. That gave me an opportunity to introduce Abdullah to Americana, which he liked. Other than that, we were stuck with a French TV crew who didn't like TV and would turn it off as soon as they stepped into the hooch. Other than that, three days at Bagram was quite uneventful.
The big question was when would we finally get a plane? Flights to Kandahar are few and far between and the terminal was filled with soldiers trying to get there. After two days of not getting a flight, I finally plead my case to the Army as to the importance of our mission. That convinced them to go to a higher authority to get us "priority" status, putting us at the top of the line. By Monday, we still hadn't a flight, so in the morning I went to the terminal myself to see what was available.
That morning a plane would be leaving with just six passengers. A quick check at the terminal showed that we were NOT priority, and therefore far down the list.
So I hoofed it back to the PAO office where they assured me we had the clearance, which was backed by a signed order. Back to the terminal. There, the fly guys took the order and put us down as priority. I was number two on the list. Great news.
Back to the hooch and Abu and Umit were still farting around. I told them to hurry and pack, but like usual, no one listens to a word I say and they decided to go take a shower. A long shower.
Up until this point I've been able to keep my composure, but eventually I had to go to the shower and "hurry them along". It kind of worked, but also like usual, there was no sense of urgency at all. So once again I had to light their fire. Keep in mind, we have more than 700 lbs of gear in all which is an absolute logistical nightmare in Afghanistan, unless you're Geraldo. IF you are Geraldo, the shiny red carpet rolls out and you get your own choppers. Not today, not for us. So we go with what we have.
At the terminal, the fly guys start calling off names. Like expected, I'm #2, but my guys are not #3 & #4. Big problem. A quick check and it turns out they didn't put Umit and Abu on the same list, so I had to do some major scurrying to get that fixed.
Of course being a journalist taking precedent over soldiers does not fly well, but we had no choice. I had expected to be in Kandahar setting up by this point, and we weren't close.
So we all make the list and start to pack all of our crap on a pallet when someone asks if we have the proper paperwork to ship our generator. "What paperwork?"
Another hour and a dozen phone calls later and we get what we need to get the generator on the bird... or at least the pallet.
Three hours after we were supposed to take off, I'm told the flight is cancelled. Fortunately there's another flight in the late afternoon, so they tell us to leave our equipment on a pallet and continue to wait. Eventually we get on a plane and make our way to Kandahar. By now it is Monday night and we're running late. BBC is already looking to do business, and we are out of the game.
That night I met with Major Myers who tells me that since we were so late, we couldn't get a convoy to the city until Wednesday because Tuesday's convoy was already full. So we spend a night in a hootch that I've gotten used to since I've been in country (probably slept three weeks total in it) and we wait. Tuesday slides by in a most uneventful way, leaving me to catch up on some phone calls and email.
That night, Major Myers informs me of two exciting new details. First, there is a convoy on Wednesday for our gear, but: A. There is no room for us. B. If there was, we had have to ride in the back of an open truck with no armor protection.
This whole trip continues to slide downhill. I ask him to do his best to change the situation and once again we set back and wait.
Wednesday, October 6th 2004
Wednesday rolls around and I'm under the guidance that our convoy is loading up at 12:30. Knowing that our gear must be on the bottom or else... At 12:15 I decide to head to the PAO office to find out what the hold up is (a good 1/2 mile walk). So I hoof it up to the office and to my surprise, everyone's sitting there watching the aftermath of the Vice Presidential debate. "Are you ready?" Sgt. Clawson says. "Uhhh, yea. Been waiting for an hour". After that, the process turns into a chinese fire drill as we speed around and bust our asses to get to the HQ for 3/7 Artillery. They'll be taking us into the city. Keep in mind, during this whole time, we are moving a load of gear that is beginning to physically take a toll on us and it will only get worse.
At 3/7's HQ, we drop our gear and wait for a truck. An hour goes by and we're told that we would be loading our gear into a truck that is filled with sandbags. Fortunately, we had some Romanian soldiers too help us load. Unfortunately, the truck is filled with sand and sandbags, putting us in the position to have to pile our gear in anyway we can. Considering we have a 500k system, my guts are starting to rumble with anxiety.
Everything gets loaded fine (keep in mind, our total gear, including personal gear, is more than 750lbs) and we are told that we get "uparmored" humvees in which to travel. That is great news. The bad news is that the driver doesn't want to make two stops, so we are told we'll be carrying our gear the final 250 meters. I realize that doesn't sound like a lot, but if you saw what we have, you'd understand.
The trip into Kandahar would be the scariest. If there was a time we would get hit by an IED, this was the time. To make it all worse, I'm the only one of my team with body armor. That means I can't put mine on either. I have had to make some poor decisions concerning my well being based on my leadership style. This is one of them. Had I put all my gear of, my guys would have been looking at me with the fear of god. Instead, I played it off hoping it would keep their anxiety level to a minimum.
The drive in went fine. I've made the trip several times over the past few months, so the sights are nothing new. One thing is for sure, the kids give the Americans a very warm welcome just about everywhere I go. Kandahar is no exception. The best part is, is that this is Kandahar; the ideological hub, the capital of, the epicenter of... the Taliban. If things went well here, it would be proof that Afghanistan is moving in the right direction. Proof that could not be slanted in the general media. Something I've known for months now.
We made our way to the center of USA 3/7's operations. This is an artillery unit attached to the 25th ID who is tasked with the security of Kandahar. They are also going to be our lifeline. Since we have very little money, we are basically about to begin a grueling week of survival using some Army and a lot of whit to get by.
We convince the driver to dump our gear at the entrance to the stadium, which is separated from 3/7's HQ by anti-shrapnel barriers and a platoon of Romanian soldiers.
We haul all of our stuff into the stadium and look for a place to set up the gear and start testing for a signal. The stadium is more like a small rodeo stadium. It's made of thick concrete with the stands rising no more than 20 feet. I knew I recognized the place. Turns out is is the infamous stadium that many of the RAWA tapes show as the site of very gruesome executions: Hangings, stoning, attempted beheadings. It's because of this past that the U.N. chose it as a site to count votes.
Inside the "pressbox", if you will, workers were hard at work trying to finish the place in time. It isn't going to happen. This place is a wreck and will need a miracle to be finished in time. One guy said, "Hey, it's Afghanistan." Understood.
We had no luck getting a signal, which was supposed to be at 10 East. Yes, that is nearly a horizontal shot. Over the next few hours, we would move several times, eventually making our way to the roof where we set up our cots and prepared for a long night. Long night it was and when we went to bed in the wee hours of the morning, we still had no shot established and I was starting to lose faith in Umit. I started thinking about failing, especially after Abdullah tells me the last time they had to make a link with this system, it took three "pros" more than two days. Boy I could use a beer.
Friday, October 08, 2004
United States Embassy
October 8, 2004
To U.S. Journalists Living and Working in Afghanistan:
The United States Embassy in Kabul has received a credible threat against
U.S. journalists in Afghanistan. According to the threat report,
anti-government forces are planning to implement a policy of kidnapping
foreigners as a political tool. They plan to kidnap U.S. journalists by
luring them to meet with kidnapping operatives under the guise of providing
video tapes on the activities of the anti-government forces.
As of this time, there is no information on specific journalists who might
be targeted as part of this plan. The threat report does not indicate a
date as to when this plan is supposed to be implemented, nor any dates,
times, or possible locations of proposed kidnapping operations.
At this time, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul would like to remind U.S. citizens
to maintain a high level of vigilance and security awareness. The Embassy
recommends that all Americans living and working in Kabul restrict their
movements, observe the strictest of security measures, and defer any
unnecessary travel around the city.
The Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul encourage all American
citizens residing in Afghanistan to register their presence and obtain
up-to-date information on security conditions at the Consulate at
http://usembassy.state.gov/afghanistan/ or by calling the Consular Section
on 020-230-0436 ext. 2226.
Russel J. Brown
United States Embassy
Sunday, October 03, 2004
A great example or three happened the day we left. Two days prior, I told Ahmet that he was in charge of getting the truck that we would need to transport our gear to Bagram. His reply, "No problem." By 11:00 the day we were to leave, he was having a heart attack about getting the truck insisting the Abdullah do it "Abdullah never des anything". Of course, that is the wrong answer because the plan has been worked out two days and Ahmet WILL be geeting the truck. This turns into two seperate 15 minute sessions in which all the laundry comes out. Of course, none of it has origins with Ahmet.
Example #2: Since Umit has not been credentialed, I have to figure out how that will get done and get the packing, etc... done so we can go. The plan was, Ahmet gets the truck and Abdullah goes with Umit to get credentials (Umit needs and English-speaker). So what happens? Ahmet takes it upon himself to take Umit, then complain that he has to get the truck while Abdullah does nothing. I tried like mad to convince Ahmet the he was making decisions that were out of his authority and that, in fact, I am the boss. I got nowhere, so I was forced to raise it up an octive to remind him who the boss was. I hope it doesn't have to happen again.
At Bagram, the games would begin. I had no trouble getting through, but the M.P.s were not so cordial with the gear truck. These reservists from Florida could not have been any more asinine and cocky if they were paid a million dollars. As I sit in my escort truck waiting for them to search the truck, this smart ass PFC comes up to me and says, "We have a problem..." "What's the problem?", I said. "Well, we found two telephones and a knife.. sir (in a real condescending way). So I get out of the truck, and sure enough, the driver has a 3 inch pocket knife and a cell phone. The other phone was Abdullah's. "Listen, we're journal;ists and we can keep our phones. That's how we do our jobs." "That's fine", he said, but the national can't have his..", and so on. At first, they refused to let the driver in at all, then they did. Then they took all of the guy's cassette tapes and threw them away in frnt of him while making more smart ass remarks. "Why would you throw those away.
"General's orders... SIIRR." When I heard that I couldn't contain it, so I chuckled.
"You can take it up with the General, SSSIIRR." "No that's ok... I just think it's funny." If they treat a random American like this, I can only imagine how they treat the Afghans. Whatever. We got inside, I tipped the driver for his lost belongings and he left us to wait an indefinite fate at the hands of the U.S. Air Force.
I've been here before and know how things work. We got here on Friday, hoping to make it by Monday, but soon it was clear we may not be going anywhere. Our flight orders are called "Space A", which means we get anything left over. Not only that, but there are very few flights. This also means that we are in deep trouble considering we have 600 lbs of gear. What we need are some sort of special orders that gives us some sort of pull, because if we are left to the wind, we will never get to Kandahar. So before hitting the sack, I tell Sgt. Holt that if we are forced to drive through Taliban-land to Kandahar, I'd have to talk to the general first.
Apparently someone did because the next day we were given priority orders that should ensure us a plane by Monday. We'll see.
To me, the point is simple: We pulled one of our dishes to go to Kandahar as part of a plan drawn up by the coalition, IHA, the Afghan government, and the United Nations, so in my opinion, this should have already been settled. In fact, I believe our mission is one of the most important in the country, not just for us, but for the coalition and Afghanistan as a country. The fact is, without us, there will only be stories from Kabul. Us moving to Kandahar broadens the exposure of the elections as well as allows a more complete story. Nevermind the fact the IHA will make pretty good money.
So, as it stands, we're still waiting on a flight, but it appears we will get one soon. Great news because I did not want to ride shotgun through SE Afghanistan just a week before elections. That's one risk too many.