I’ve been at Bagram Air Force Base now for a couple of days, having flown here from Salerno en route to going home. I will be here for more than a week. The Army doesn’t necessarily want me to waste time waiting for my flight, but it’s difficult to get in or out of Do China, so it was decided I should go when the opportunity came up to get to Bagram, where all flights home originate.
BAF (Bagram Air Force Base) is the largest base in Afghanistan. Situated a ways north of Kabul, it’s away from the city, but close to the Afghan central government, which is within reach by road. The airbase itself is a huge, multinational hub of both logistical support and international forces. South Korea has an enclave here, as do the Polish. Hundreds of civilians work here, both from the US and from Afghanistan, as well as other countries (many Russians still work in Afghanistan, for instance). Walking along the sidewalk, one can hear conversations in several different languages. But American servicemembers, men and women in US uniform, still make up the largest group on the base.
I share a small room with Army, Navy and civilian men who are passing through BAF, another transient living space. We are simply spending time here until we move on to our next place or next assignment. The civilians are mostly former servicemen who got out of the Army and now work for the Department of Defense.
One of these men told me how he travels through the country, working on electronic equipment. He surprised me by saying there are almost no Americans in the northern or western parts of Afghanistan. I knew from my first in-country briefing that these were under NATO control, but I had forgotten this. I also did not realize how extensive the NATO involvement had become.
This encouraged me immensely, and now gives me hope for further progress in this country. My little “worm’s-eye view” of Afghanistan, from the viewpoint of southeastern Paktika province, has missed the bigger picture of international support and development of this country.
Perhaps our mission here will not be in vain, after all. There is progress, and we are all part of it.
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
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,
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.