It had been relatively quiet for the latter half of November. There are several theories as to why. It has been the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Adha which may have limited hostility. Also, perhaps the "surge" which has been at it's peak this fall has had some effect on insurgent activity. Finally, it has been the normal pattern for the Taliban to halt activity in the winter, reportedly to resupply and take refuge at home. We had thought that this may have accounted for the slowness. However, the weekend has proven that the war has not taken a seasonal hiatus yet as there have been daily cases. One case was particularly grim.
Afghanistan is the most heavily mined country in the world. Between the Soviet invasion and the current war, this country has been at war for 20 of the past 30 years and, as a result there is an enormity of unexploded ordnance (UXO in army lingo) throughout the country. The United Nations puts the number of mines and UXOs in Afghanistan at 10 million, a number that is frankly hard to fathom. Whatever the exact number, a Google search for "Afghanistan landmines" shows dozens of images that display the magnitude of the devastation from UXO. It was only a matter of time before this fact collided with our reality. That happened yesterday.
A 12 year old boy was brought to us. He had been scavenging through a trash dumpster when he found a mortar round. Mortar rounds, along with rocket propelled grenades, are often set so that they explode after completing a set number of revolutions. This round must have been close to that number because it detonated in the boy's hand. He lost his right hand, burned his left hand, and suffered abdominal and head injuries. The good news is that he survived. The bad new is that he faces a difficult future.