14 September


This post will be slightly different, and probably isn’t appropriate for younger kids (I don’t know if any younger kids read this, but just in case…..). It’s not funny, or necessarily enlightening, but is a stark description of the reality of life here in Kabul. If you aren't comfortable with this, I'd suggest you stop and come back later for a more entertaining post. If you are, then read on.

I’ve been in country for over 3 months now, but my stay has been pretty uneventful. I’m working a good job, and I’m lucky enough to be living and working at what is probably the most secure site in all of Afghanistan. I live in the “Green Zone”, the term given to the section of downtown Kabul that houses NATO Headquarters, several foreign embassies, the Afghan Presidential Palace, Parliament, and many other government buildings. I wear a loaded pistol on my hip all the time, but I don’t walk around in body armor, and no one has shot at me (that I know of).  It’s easy to forget that I’m in the middle of a warzone.

Ahmad Shah Massoud, an ethnic Tajik from Northern Afghanistan, was a mujahedeen who fought the Soviets with such ferocity that he earned the nickname “The Lion of Panjshir”. A moderate Muslim, he rejected the extremist views of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. When the Taliban was fighting for control of Afghanistan, he was a leader of the “Northern Alliance”, a loose confederation that battled against the Taliban for many years.  On 9 September 2001, two suicide bombers, posing as journalists, detonated a bomb during an interview with Massoud and killed the charismatic leader.  9 September is now known as Massoud Day (or Martyr’s Day), and the memory of Massoud is celebrated all throughout Afghanistan.  One of the focal points for the celebration is Massoud Circle, a busy traffic circle that happens to be just outside the Green Zone. Local leaders were expecting as many as 15,000 people there this year.

Ahmad Shah Massoud
There’s a US base just down the street about ¼ of a mile.  It’s an easy walk; the most dangerous hazard are the swarms of local Afghan kids, some as young as 7 or 8, who try to sell you gum or candy or some little trinket to make a buck. They are there everyday, swarming over the pedestrians on the street, with dirty hands but bright, shining eyes and an attitude that tells you they don’t really care what your nationality is. They should be in school, but instead they are trying to make some cash and help their family. There’s a small store directly across from the gate that sells carpets and rugs.  There’s a large curb there…this is where all the kids hang out, waiting for the next potential customer to step out onto the street.

The end of Ramadan, the celebration of Martry’s Day, the upcoming recognition of 11 Sep—all of these were enough to make the international troops very cautious.  Force protection conditions throughout Afghanistan were raised, none more so than here in Kabul.  Many roads were off-limits, and foot traffic outside of the base was absolutely forbidden.
Alaska, Ecuador, Mexico, Bulgaria, Italy, Kenya, Afghanistan--I've seen it all around the world.  Adults are often too polite and timid to approach the foreigners, but kids don't have that problem. In a matter of seconds, you could have a kid on each arm with several more waiting their turn. In a country where the average adult might make $800 per year, the kids were more than willing to talk to the (relatively) rich soldiers. They knew we would never hurt them.

Kushi & her friend

These kids, some of the estimated 60,000 children who work the streets instead of attending school, were involved with "Skateistan",  an independent, NGO that works with youth from a range of ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds through a combination of skateboarding and educational activities. They were a mix of ethnic backgrounds..some Pashtun, some Tajik, but they had formed an unusually close-knit group who looked out for each other, even sharing their profits so everyone managed to take home some money at the end of the day.

Mohammed & Esra

I was sitting at my desk about 1130, thinking about lunch when I heard a loud explosion.  It wasn’t loud enough to make me worry and dive under the desk, but it definitely got my attention. No more than 10 seconds later, the alarms started to sound.

Late that Saturday morning, a young boy in his middle teens (although the Taliban would later claim he was 28) managed to enter the Green Zone and get through all the layers of security and guards. He was driving a motorcycle and under his clothes, he was wearing a suicide vest. No one knows why, but he detonated in front of the Base gate. In front of the carpet store. No US, coalition or international injuries, but 6 local Afghans were killed.  Five of them were young children who worked on the street.

Why did I tell you this story?  Honestly, I don’t know. I didn’t really have a meaning I was trying to convey, and I don’t really know how to end it. I didn’t write this to start a discussion about the morality of war, or whether or not the US and her international partners need to be in Afghanistan.  I certainly didn’t write it to gain personal sympathy or attention. I wrote this to somehow grieve the loss of 5 innocent children, who probably didn’t care about international politics and weren't interested in our upcoming elections. It’s easy to continue our American lives, uninterrupted by the reality of war in a far off dusty place. And in the midst of this dusty place, it's easy to lose touch with the things around us. I get lots of emails asking how things are, and what it’s like here. This is part of what it’s like.

Maybe the best stories are those where you find your own meaning.


I pulled out of base today in my armored SUV to make a run to the airport.  The street was empty, except for a couple of men painting over a blackened smudge on the storefront with no glass.