Wednesday 26 March 2014 by Alison Wishart. No comments
Opinion, views and commentary, Personal Stories, Afghanistan, literacy, IEDs

Day 19 - the streets of Kabul

Today we went "outside the wire" again through the streets of Kabul. The insurgents keep thinking up new ways to attack enemy vehicles with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), so much so that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is struggling to create new acronyms to keep up with their deviousness! However, I felt quite safe in our "up-armoured" 4WD, wearing my body armour, helmet and ballistic eye protection and being driven by two experienced Australian soldiers. (By now you've probably heard the news that five soldiers - two from Australia and two from the ANA were injured in an IED attack on Easter Sunday).

IMG_0618 resized street in Kabul Nth
Street in Kabul - none of the roads we travelled on were sealed - some were graded

I managed to take a few photos of Kabul through the window.  We were travelling around the northern outskirts of the city, not far from where the book "The bookseller of Kabul" is set. I can highly recommend this book for its objective portrayal of life in an extended family who have lived through 30 years of Afghanistan's turbulent and violent political history.

IMG_0603resized houses, scrap metal yard behind CSD Kabul
Scrap metal yard and houses on the mountainside in Kabul

Alexander the Great conquered Afghanistan in 330 BC as did Genghis Khan in 1204. Venetian Merchant, Marco Polo travelled through Afghanistan and possibly stayed in Kabul during the 13th century. Kabul was the capital of the Mughal empire from 1504. Britain fought three wars with the Afghans before the Russians invaded in 1979 and the Taliban in 1996. The country has only known 40 years of relative peace and stability in the last 200. No wonder it's so impoverished.

IMG_0593 resized goats in Kabul
goats sometimes share the road in Kabul

I felt a sense of despair travelling through Kabul. The nation needs peace, and an educated workforce of men and women - but only 43% of adult men and 12% of adult women are literate.

IMG_0592 resized bicycle repair shop
Bicycle repair shop, Kabul - many Afghans are expert bush mechanics

The ADF is part of an international effort to build up the capability of the Afghan National Security Force (army and police); but what about building the capabilities of the country's teachers, doctors, accountants, farmers etc.?

Fruit sellers, Kabul
Fruit sellers, Kabul
girls herding hairy goats, Kabul
girls herding hairy goats, Kabul

Twelve months ago I went to the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) with the Australian War Memorial. I was working on an oral history-photographic project. The core part of the project was interviewing and photographing 19 currently serving members of the ADF - from the army, navy and airforce - before, during and after their deployment in 2013 to the MEAO.  In another 12 months time, you should be able to see the results of this work in an exhibition which will travel around Australia.

These blog posts were written while I was in the MEAO but were not uploaded to the AWM website at that time.

I am planning to upload one blog post each day, exactly 12 months on from the actual day I was on deployment. We left Canberra on 12 March 2013.