20 December 2010

Lest I Forget...

There was an attack in Kabul yesterday, a few minutes down the Jalalabad road.  The base is tightly locked down right now, prompting one soldier to remark that he just remember we’re in a war zone.  It’s surprisingly easy to forget.  Earlier this week, I was joking with some co-workers about the absurdity of a small-arms fire drill which had us napping in bunkers for two hours (there’s not much else to do inside a bunker).  Then, it was an inconvenience.  Yesterday, people have bled and died.  

Since the onset of the attack, the whole compound has been tense and quiet.  There is a distinct strain in the air, rather like the anticipatory dread you find in ER waiting rooms.  Even so, it’s not nearly as strong as it was yesterday.  The action continued for several hours, with conflicting reports pouring in every few minutes.  Per the intel guys who work just down the hall, it was a RPG attack on a US military convoy of up-armoured Land Cruisers.  One of the testers heard from his own sources that it was a suicide attack on the UN compound.  Meanwhile, Reuters (yes, the attack happened a few minutes from where I’m sitting, and I still found the details through Google) claimed it was a SIED and small-arms attack on a convoy of ANA traveling to Jalalabad in mini-buses.  With the distance of a day, it appears that Reuters had their facts the straightest – five ANA killed, nine wounded and both Taliban attackers committed suicide.  A co-ordinated attack in a northern province saw the deaths of another five ANA.

Knowing the outcome of the event does little to ease our disquiet, though it is a bit of relief from yesterday’s extreme confused tension.  We’re still left wondering if there is an attack coming our way, and if so, are we ready?  In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the gate was completely closed and many of our Afghan co-workers were left standing outside (because chilling outside of an American base is exactly where one wants to be when they’re being attacked.  Yeah – we’re here to protect the people).  When they did finally make it on base, one of the guys told me he wasn’t even aware there was an attack going on until he got to work, though he lives just minutes away from where it happened.  Apparently, some of his neighbors have a rather dramatic family feud.  Dramatic enough that they occasionally take to gun-fighting in the streets, and he just thought it was another episode.  It certainly makes my grandmother’s passive-aggressive comments over the holidays seem much more trivial…

I think that I could handle the tension a bit more gracefully if I had more work to do.  Unfortunately, we’re in a bit of a lull here, made worse by the lock-down.  There are no new linguists to test or process, no traveling to outlying FOBs for inspection, just…waiting.  My co-workers and I took the opportunity to catch up on some house-keeping issues, filling out tax forms, checking on investments, and (in my case) writing Christmas cards.  Wishing friends a peaceful New Year, though, proved to be a particularly jarring juxtaposition.  I know that yesterday’s violence was by no means unique in the history of Afghanistan and will probably be forgotten in days by many, but it’s very much felt right now.

I was peripherally interested to note that, while searching for ‘Kabul suicide attack’, the ads selected by Google were about bouts of depression and suicide prevention.  Not quite what I had in mind, Google, but thanks for caring.  Also – DADT was finally repealed!  Even (and especially) now, a cause for celebration!