Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting In The Groove Again

Riding in the C-27
Graphite on paper, 5"x7"

I'm back in Kandahar again.  My trip was pretty uneventful, just long (14 hours from Dulles to Dubai alone).  Fortunately, I had a stopover in Dubai and got a room in a pretty swanky hotel.  It had a "Belgian Cafe" on the terrace outside, with really good food and outstanding draft beer.  I really enjoyed myself - thank you, American taxpayers.  Up early the next morning and over to the airport, where an amazingly long line snaked away from the ticket desk.  We're all getting on the flight to Kandahar?  As it turned out, no.  They'd over-booked the flight and a number of people were bumped to at least the next day.  Well, if you gotta get bumped, Dubai's not a bad place to spend the time.  Fortunately, my name was on the manifest.  We made it to Kandahar more or less on time.  After processing through the passenger terminal, I walked the 100 yards to our office compound and back to my little room.  "Home" again.

Since then, it's been a game of catch-up.  Catch-up on over 1300 emails (note: the "Delete" button is your friend).  Catch-up on internal discussions that don't make it into emails.  Catch-up on the gossip.  After a week, I think I'm pretty much back to speed.  Not that much has fundamentally changed, but the crises of three weeks ago are not the crises of today.  Well, one is, and it's a big one, but I have a feeling that it's going to be resolved in the next couple of days.

Two days ago, I went on a quick trip to Uruzgan.  No, this isn't a place from a J.R.R. Tolkien novel (..."darkest Uruzgan, beyond which Mordor lies ...").  It's the province north of Kandahar.  We needed to have some discussions with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) up there, so we flew up in a C-27 in the morning and back in the afternoon.  I took along my sketchbook and did a couple of drawings during the short flights, one of which is posted above.

Yesterday, we had a reminder that this is still a challenging area.  The district governor of Panjwai, which is just to the west of Kandahar City, was killed by a suicide bomber.  The blast also killed the governor's two young sons and two police bodyguards, and wounded a number of others.  I had never met the man, but others in my office had worked closely with him.  He was pretty good at his job, which is why the Taliban targeted him.  You can read more about the incident here.  Another attack the previous day targeted BG Raziq, the Chief of Police of Kandahar Province and one of the most powerful men in southern Afghanistan.  Fortunately, the only one who was killed in that blast was the teenage suicide bomber.  We've made a lot of gains, but the insurgents can still reach out and touch someone when they really want to.

So it's back to work.  Gotta do what I can to piss off some insurgents.

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