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Jeff's Afghan Diary: Kabul
February 5 , 2007

     Kabul, Afghanistan.  We are waiting again - it seems we move at a snail’s pace towards our ultimate destination.  We were to fly out today to Sharona, a small city in southwest Afghanistan, on our final leg to Khayr Kot, a hamlet we will stay at and train out ANA counterparts, whenever we finally get there.  But weather delays have us staying in a tent outside Kabul International Airport, waiting until we’re allowed to fly.

      It’s been over a week, and most of our time has been spent waiting for transportation.  It’s been frustrating to many of us, because we are anxious to start our mission.  We have been relatively comfortable in our living accommodations while we wait, but it’s not what we came here for.

      I have spent some of my time trying to find things we will need when we finally get to Khayr Kot - things like a vehicle jack, a spare radio, some things for cooking (we understand we will be cooking for ourselves), lining up contacts for maintenance support, etc.  I have been complimented for finding some of these things, and I suppose I’ve been helpful and found some useful stuff, but I see it as just my way of contributing to the team.  Every team needs a “scrounge,” and if no one else steps up to the task, I’ll happily take on the role.

      I have had more opportunities to see Afghans - there are many who work at Camp Phoenix, coming in to help with everything from cooking and cleaning to maintenance and minor construction.  I see them arrive in groups, at the beginning and end of their shifts, some wearing traditional Afghan clothing, many wearing Western-style clothing.  Usually they are talking amongst themselves, ignoring all the others who may pass by.  We come and go, strangers in American uniforms.  Sometimes I see one of them glance my way, and I nod and smile a bit, and the smile is almost always returned with a nod back.  These Afghans are the fortunate ones, the ones with jobs - good paying jobs for this country.

      When we left Camp Phoenix to travel by bus to Kabul Airport, we saw many more Afghans who seem not as fortunate.  There were rows of mud-walled houses, lined up along the mud-lined road, with men trudging along the road in muddy shoes.  There are not many old men to be seen here, it seems, and very few women appear on the streets.  Again, I had to wonder how many Afghans I saw were looking at us to report back to some hidden enemy about our activities, but having spent a week in Camp Phoenix, I understand that many Afghans like us, as well.  As long as we are not attacked, it isn’t much of a problem or concern if a particular person likes us or not - after all, it is their right not to like us, if they so choose.  There are Americans I am not so fond of, so I can understand how many Afghans may not appreciate our strange habits and customs, which seem so contrary to theirs.

      Now we sit at a NATO military base, waiting again to go downrange.  This base has soldiers from France, Australia, Romania, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands - it’s an amazing tapestry of multi-hued uniforms and languages.  We eat in the same dining facility, and pass each other everywhere.  Most speak English to a fair degree, even the Mongolian soldiers.  We Americans are the only ones who have difficulty communicating in another language, although in our team, we have an NCO who was trained to speak Russian, an officer who speaks German, and a couple of us speak some French.  But for the most part, we only speak our native language.

      There are shops in the base from different countries, along with some Afghan shops.  We have spent a little time looking through shops - I bought a soccer outfit for my son in an Afghan shop.  It’s a simple way to pass time.

      We have spoken to other American troops who have been waiting for several days to leave this base, which is disappointing to hear.  Patience may be a virtue, but patience does not accomplish much by itself… sooner or later, action must be taken to make any progress.  While it’s interesting to spend time with soldiers from other nations, I hope we don’t have to stay too long.  We have a job to do.

-- Jeff Courter

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Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.