Tuesday, August 31, 2010


19th Century British Fortress at Qalat (taken from helo)
Qalat is the city (if that is the right word) adjacent to the base.  It sits in a valley at 5000 ft elevation, and lies along the road from Kandahar to Kabul.  It has a population of 10,000 and serves as the capital of Zabul province.  From a distance it appears to consist of mostly mud structures and tents.  What it might have as a core industry, I have no idea, except for the livestock that I can see from the base perimeter road.

Zabul province is within the Pashtun tribal region that extends into both Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The tribal region was split over a century ago in treaty forced on Afghanistan by the British.  The Durand Line was drawn to provide a buffer between the British and Russian sphere's of influence in Central Asia during the period of wrestling empires.  This line now serves as the frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Of course, little regard was apparently payed to the historic lands of the Pashtuns.  That fact along with the history of semi-autonomy explains why the weak Pakistani central government and nearly non-existent Afghani central government can't seem to control the area.  This helps explain the America's conundrum in meeting its objectives.

Most of the Taliban are Pashtuns but Pashtuns are not necessarily Taliban.  Still it is hard to know what they think about our presence.  Certainly the locals who work on base are friendly enough but I hardly assume that they are representative.  An army captain from one of the units here recounted an incident that occurred outside the wire.  He noticed some sheep straying from their herd so he tried to shoo them back.  His act resulted in a stone-pelting at the hands of some nearby teenagers.  I suspect that we have a ways to go to win their "hearts and minds."

Qalat 'burbs

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