Afghanistan: Kandahar by Humvee

August 21, 2008

Afghanistan Chief Correspondent Jon Hemming, with Afghan children in QalatHere’s a great story by Jon Hemming (pictured left), Reuters Chief Correspondent in Afghanistan, on a recent trip he made to Kandahar with U.S. troops:

KABUL (Reuters) – Intelligence reports said insurgents planned an ambush or might have planted an Improvised Explosive Device under the bridge west of Kandahar so a patrol was sent to check it out. “Probably bullshit,” said the U.S. major. “But we got to go take a look.”

That meant driving four armoured vehicles through the centre of Kandahar, the Taliban’s former de-facto capital in southern Afghanistan and still a city where insurgents take pot-shots at international troops or blow themselves up in suicide attacks.

Normally as a reporter driving around Kabul, I take great care to avoid being anywhere near a foreign military convoy as they are the Taliban’s favorite target. But when you’re inside a Humvee, the tables are turned and you can’t help looking on every taxi driver or motorcycle rider as a potential attacker who might try to take your life with his.

“Watch the guy on the right,” the major sitting in the front seat tells the top cover gunner through the intercom. A taxi driver who was about to pull onto the road quickly slams into reverse and backs up to demonstrate his lack of evil intent.

File photo of Afghan boy/Goran Tomasevic“That kid just gave me the finger,” says the TC (top cover gunner). “Asshole. I swear I’m gonna slot one of these kids one day.” Silence, then: “I got a bad feeling about today.”

Something hits the windscreen. “Was that a piece of shit someone threw?” asks the major. “Don’t know sir,” says the driver, in a dead-pan tone. “There’s still some stuck to the hood though if you’d care to take a closer look.”

“Where is everyone today?” asks the colonel, coming through on the radio from another vehicle. “It’s time for their afternoon nap, sir,” replies the major.

We swing through town, cars, trucks, motorbikes and bicycles careering onto the verges as the top cover in the vehicle in front waves them aside and the major hits the police-style lights and sirens strapped to our Humvee. ”Hey did you see that?” the major says, obviously encouraged. “That little girl was pumping the well with one hand and giving us the thumbs up with the other.”

“I don’t see thumbs up anymore, sir,” says the top cover. “Only thumbs down.”

(full story continues here)

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