After a long plane trip with a few stops, I arrived in Afghanistan a few days ago and now make my home at the Kandahar Airfield (KAF), a civilian airport and military airbase located several kilometers to the southeast of Kandahar city. KAF was built in the late 1950s through American funding and was used by the Russians throughout the war during the 1980s. KAF is also known as the place of the Taliban’s last stand as Coalition and Afghan forces cornered the remaining Taliban forces in late 2001 in one of the bunkers located on the base.
A few kilometers outside of KAF is Tarnak Farms. This is the location of a former well known Al Qaeda training base frequented by Osama bin Laden. Tarnak Farms is also the location of the April 2002 friendly fire incident where an American pilot dropped a bomb on Canadian forces conducting a nighttime live fire training exercise killing four Canadian soldiers and wounding eight others.
Now, KAF is a bustling military base. It is the size of a small town with approximately 15 000 people living here, including military personnel, foreign civilian personnel and contractors. There are over 40 nations represented on base as well as over 1500 local Afghans who work on the base each day. It is a few kilometers from one end of the base to the other and there is even a 24-hour shuttle bus to transport people from one area to another.
A central point on the base is the known as the Boardwalk. Here is where you can find Tim Horton’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway and several shops operated by local nationals selling various goods. In the center is a large sand pit that has a floor hockey rink, volleyball nets and I have even seen a softball game being played in the center.
But KAF isn’t all fun and games. The heat and dust can be quite discomforting and at times, can be very overwhelming. Temperatures reach well over 45 degrees daily and have been recorded to reach over 55 degrees in the sun at the height of the afternoon. Rarely is there a breeze and when one is present, it is nothing more than a gust of hot air that only increases the discomfort caused by the heat. The earth is scorched leaving the ground barren and covered in a fine dust that is like powder. It constantly lingers in the air and every breath draws a healthy portion into your lungs. By the end of the day you are covered in a fine layer from head to toe.
However, all in all, KAF isn’t such a bad place. When military troops are required to make this their home for such an extended period of time, their governments do the best they can to make life comfortable. We have access to the internet and phones, there are good gym facilities, television rooms and the Americans have even set up a spa facility that offers massages for discounted prices.
Well that’s it for this week. I’ll try to post again next week and remember, if you want to send an e-mail, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, I am having problems posting photos due to firewall restrictions but I will see if I can work the bugs out for future posts.