Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Spectacle of Kandahar

It would be actually incorrect to say that I have seen Kandahar.  What I saw was the air field at Kandahar, or "KAF" as it is known, which is really a sprawling military installation.

It is hard to describe all of the sites and sounds of the place.  The air terminal was old, decaying and vaguely colonial.  It seemed like something out of a movie.  Whereas Kuwait was sandy, Kandahar was dusty and that dust covered everything.  The stench from the sewage "pond" could be overwhelming at times.  There was a maze of the tents, cargo boxes, plywood structures, trailers, and concrete barriers.  Large areas were fenced off as construction zones.  We were warned about procedures in case of the apparently frequent rocket attacks but none occurred during our brief stay.

There was activity everywhere.   It was a remarkable hodgepodge of American military units, NATO units, three-letter government agencies, and civilian contractors.  There are also many third country nationals from places like Bangladesh and the Philippines who perform much of the menial labor such as construction, food service, and cleaning.  There were compounds within the compound (Here's the Canadians, there are the Brits, down the road are the Dutch, etc) The roads were jammed with military vehicles, trucks, and some of the fleet of white SUV's.  The air field buzzed with all variety of military aircraft.    It all made one wonder how any one person or entity could have their thumb on all of these parts.

The hospital was brand new and, dare I say, nicer than the hospital that I came from back home.  It gave new credence to the saying that real estate is location, location, location.   I was glad to see it's fantastic trauma capability.

Everyone who passes through KAF hates the place.  Places you need to go are far away.  Accomodations are sparse.  Lines are terrible.  We spent the night in a 250 bed open-bay barracks for transient personnel.  It was as luxurious as you might imagine.  Just what was that smell?  Which leads to another truism.  Don't ask questions that you don't want to know the answer to....

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