Archive for May, 2009


May 18, 2009







With some extra R and a twist of R.

Enough rain already

May 14, 2009

I glanced at the reports about the damage done by flooding in the last few weeks (41 killed, hundreds of homes and thousands of acres of land destroyed ), but none of it was in ‘my’ areas so I didn’t really need to worry.

Flood map

After last year’s drought, I was welcoming the weather systems that have been sweeping over the country, dropping more rain than usual across the north and central highlands and giving us some short but sharp thunderstorms in Kabul. It was beginning to get a bit boring, but I told myself it was for the best.

But no. It’s gone too far this time.

Floods have hit a corner of one of ‘my’ provinces. Nobody killed but from the reports we’ve had so far, over a hundred jeribs of farm land destroyed and some 100 houses, plus roads wiped out and animals killed. Piddling compared to other disasters, but try telling that to the folks up to their arses in mud. Some people have lost every little thing they had, with nothing left for them and their families to live on and no hope of a harvest this year.

We’re doing what we can in response, though the roads are so bad getting enough food aid there is no easy task. Then there’s Mullah Troll-Under-the-Bridge, ‘taxing’ trucks that pass by. And the one small plane in the whole country that can reach the area is still being repaired after it crashed the last time it tried to land there. The usual fun and games.

On subtlety

May 13, 2009

The ‘Enemies of Afghanistan™’ are getting subtle. Like chemical warfare is subtle. But more subtle than just throwing acid in girls’ faces.

“Another 98 Afghan girls were rushed to hospital Tuesday in the latest in a spate of mysterious poisonings to hit three schools north of Kabul in a fortnight, officials said.”

Tricks of the trade

May 12, 2009

One day after the job position was announced, I was told ‘We can’t find any good person. But I have a cousin in Pakistan who can come.’ Ah, yes, well we might have to think about that…

Many managers are accused of recruiting only people from their tribe or ethnic group. Luckily we have a fairly broad mix, so no one group dominates, but that doesn’t stop the accusations. I know of some international NGOs where all the senior Afghan managers come from the same village, and all the drivers are related.

We of course have policies to try and prevent nepotism. To get round such problems, person X from NGOX may make a deal with person Y from UN agency Y: neither can employ their own relative, but they can ‘swap’ relatives without anyone knowing, both agreeing to employ the others’.

There are similar tricks when it comes to purchasing. There is a constant horde of people wandering the shops of Kabul getting the requisite three or more quotations for international organisations, buying everything from printer cartridges to cars.

To make everyone’s life easier, many shops will write out three different quotations on different bits of stationery, with three different signatures, and one quotation just a little bit less than the others. They make sure they get the sale, and the purchasing officer gets an easier ride or a little kick-back.

These examples pale into insignificance compared to much of the corruption that goes on. But they are perhaps interesting in the simplicity with which rules can be circumnavigated.

[Coincidently, this arrived in my inbox just after writing here: Assessment of Corruption in Afghanistan (pdf), from USAID.]

Taliban discovered in fake cow carcass in Norfolk

May 6, 2009

I’m not sure I should be finding this as funny as I am, but ‘news’ that the UK army has spent 14 million pounds recreating an Afghan village in hot and dusty Norfolk has tickled me pink. The captions to the photostory are just wonderful.

14 million pounds obvious wouldn’t pay for a real life Afghan village complete with health posts, schools, micro-hydro power, public toilets, running water, parks, public library and swimming pool. But still, considering they’ve had to do it on the cheap with nothing but mud, they’ve managed a ‘meticulous level of detail’.

Even going so far as to emulate the smell of rotten meat, which must be emanating from these plastic sheep carcases hanging outside the butchers. Where a nice Nepalese man (wearing ‘traditional Taliban clothing’) serves kebabs and fries.


Thanks Roberta for pointing this out.

Elsewhere, news that Karzai has been re-elected. Plus a scary goat and great photoshopping.

Huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ (for jesus)

May 5, 2009

“We hunt people for Jesus,” the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan told his flock at Bagram airbase. “We do, we hunt them down.”

Yes siree bob. We hunt them Taliban down and shot them in the head unless they convert.

As if the US military didn’t have enough of a challenge, it now seems, according to a video from a year ago that’s just surfaced on Al Jazeera, that some soldiers tried adding the distribution of bibles to their other duties.

I’m slightly incredulous, a little scared, rather amused, and not really all that surprised.

Good god but the US army make it easy to take the piss out of them sometimes. I guess it is a chaplain’s job to convert infidels an’ all, but then I’m now wondering if hunting people for Jesus is covered in the COIN doctrine and Human Terrain System gumpf.

The army have said “there is no effort to go out and proselytise to Afghans.” Bah, such half-hearted defeatism, they’re just not putting their backs into it.

This post is written in a hurry (with so many piss-poor jokes left unsaid, alas), so what Greg Julian, a US colonel in Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera no doubt applies here too: “Most of this is taken out of context … this is irresponsible and inappropriate journalism.”

Can I get a witness?