KABUL, Afghanistan — The end is near.
Photographer Tom Brown and I made it here yesterday, arriving on a Canadian C-130 plane from Kandahar Airfield during one of the last travel legs of our six-week assignment in Afghanistan.
The flight put an end to a bumpy 36-hour travel process that began at Camp Leatherneck, where we were summoned Saturday morning for an 11:30 a.m. flight from adjacent Camp Bastion to Kandahar, the home of Regional Command-South’s headquarters. Unfortunately, there was confusion somewhere along the way. It became evident that we were dropped off at 9:30 a.m. for a flight that took off shortly before midnight. GUH.
It’s all good now, though. We were in and out of Kandahar Airfield — commonly known as KAF — in less 12 hours. The brief visit gave me a chance to catch some late-night sleep and walk the base’s famous boardwalk, which was hit with an insurgent rocket recently, but remains a place to relax, shop, play volleyball and enjoy the sun.
By 1 p.m. yesterday, we were high over Afghanistan’s majestic, snow-capped mountains in the C-130. The plane’s dinner plate-sized windows allowed me to catch glimpses of the terrain, which would be phenomenal for outdoor hobbies and extreme sports if the country can ever get a handle on its security situation.
For now, we’re staying in a quiet, low-key spot in Kabul that is frequented by journalists from across Europe and the U.S. For security reasons, I won’t say where, but it’s safe to say it has a reputation for avoiding the violence that Kabul’s name-brand hotels have experienced. It also has showers, good food and high-speed Internet, all of which are laughable concepts for many Marines in Helmand province.
The drive from the military airfield in Kabul to our lodging was uneventful, but gave me the chance to see how wild the traffic in this city is. Even New Yorkers would shake their heads at the chaos on the roads — right of way laws are sporadically enforced at best, and the average 15-minute drive probably leads to a driver using his horn at least five times.
During the next few days, I’ll be combing through my notes and photographs for anecdotes I haven’t had a chance to share in this space. Some will hopefully be amusing, and others will hopefully simply help explain what Helmand province is really like.
As always, thanks for reading and making this blog a success. Marine Corps Times plans to keep it alive going forward, well after I’m back in the U.S.