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Common Scenes & Common Thoughts

A helicopter roars into FOB Jackson in Sangin, Afghanistan. Medical tents are just next to the Helicopter Landing Site (HLS) so casualties can be quickly loaded.

The actual mission today for the Gurkhas (and a few Afghan police) was to escort other British soldiers who are administering development projects in Sangin.

School bombed by Taliban idiots.  Growing up, I was taught not to call people idiots, but as a writer it can be difficult to substitute the perfect word for a euphemism.  The Taliban are idiots.

Recently, the same Gurkhas were supposed to have come to this school for some business, yet they were distracted during the patrol and changed course.  At just the time the Gurkhas were supposed to be here, the Taliban detonated explosives in the school that the British had been constructing.  The hole in the floor by the wire is the seat of at least one blast.

Parked at front of school.

Most bombs around here are made from fertilizer, or what Brits and Americans call “HME”: Homemade Explosives.  A clever high school kid would have no problem making these bombs.  This is farmland, and weapons-grade fertilizer is sold just off base.  This enemy is not smart but the home field advantage is crucial, and as the saying goes, we have watches while they have time.  Yet context is crucial: large parts of Afghanistan are not so savage or beset with caveman mentalities.  The British like to say that Helmand Province is medieval, but I say the British give Helmand far too much credit.  Medieval is space-aged compared to some of these places.

Though again, context is crucial: cities like Jalalabad and Mazar-i-Sharif are good places to visit and far more advanced.  There are even—despite the war—pro-American sentiments among many people in Helmand (location is key) due to American development last century.  Many Afghans complain that the Kajaki Dam is not supplying massive amounts of power, forgetting the fact that Americans built the dam to begin with.   Nevertheless, Americans who helped develop Helmand many decades ago left positive feelings.

The Gurkhas and other British soldiers patrolled through the market in Sangin.  These sorts of metal lockboxes are commonly available in Afghanistan.

RPG strike on a guard position.  The RPGs are small, cheap and can defeat most vehicles other than our most heavily armored.  In the race between armor and bomb, the bomb eventually always wins.  This has been true for centuries and shows no signs of changing.  In the Sangin area, we are better on foot wearing only body armor.  British citizens today are concerned about the same things that Americans were concerned about during the early phases of the Iraq war: armor.  Fact is, we can drive down these roads in the best tanks in the world, and be blown upside-down on and set ablaze.  The enemy is increasingly good at blowing vehicles into ditches or rivers to drown the occupants.  They did this to the Soviets, too.  In many places, such as Sangin, the roads can be a death sentence no matter what you drive, and the enemy can seed IEDs far faster than we can clear the routes.

Pharmacy across from checkpoint where RPG struck.

Pharmacy in Sangin.  Chinese fans that break easily are luxury.  When they work.

Karzai’s picture seems omnipresent.

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