Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
A piece of America in the heart of Taliban country
Reuters correspondent Michael Georgy is on an embed in Kandahar airfield where U.S.-led NATO troops are preparing an operation against the Taliban in their southern Afghan stronghold. Here’s a glimpse of life on the base.
By Michael Georgy
I walked by TGI Friday’s and a Canadian brand coffee shop as men and women playing volleyball looked like they were enjoying
the beach in California. People were drinking milkshakes along a lovely boardwalk. There was a French-style patisserie for those seeking a bit of European culture.
It felt like I was back home in the United States, not thousands of miles away in the heart of Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, a centuries-old country that has fended off one foreign power after another. Is there something terribly wrong with this picture? Is this huge, growing air field a glaring example of what critics say is Western insensitivity to other cultures, even though it is securely contained in a place most Afghans will never see?
Just outside the airfield are some of the people that America has vowed to save from Taliban “terrorists” by pounding the militants and helping to build solid government institutions.
There were children beside heaps of garbage. They could not dream of getting their hands on the types of toys sold in sprawling department stores in America, where the nightly news usually offers short clips on developments in Afghanistan,
President Obama’s top foreign policy priority.
Will they just be forgotten like they were after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989. American interest in Afghanistan faded. U.S. troops will start pulling out from Afghanistan in 2011. One day Kandahar Air Field’s Western-style
restaurants will close. There will be no more volleyball matches. Players at an improvised hockey rink will no longer be cheered. They will all head home after their countries struggled to understand Afghanistan.
Afghans, who witnessed civil war in which warlords carved their own fiefdoms with astonishing ferocity, may brace for more bloody mayhem. The only thing that’s for certain is outside powers are highly unlikely to stay in the country, as evidenced by the long rows of Soviet tanks that were left by Soviet troops, just outside the airfield.