The Long Road Ahead

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And most of it unpaved

Tarin Kot, Urozgan Province, Afghanistan

Road projects in Afghanistan are improving lives and providing jobs. Many of the engineers and managers are from countries such as Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines, but the majority of laborers are local.

Hard to imagine what those eyes have seen.

A Laborer in Urozgan Province, April 2006.

This Central Asian Development Group project is being managed by a Pakistani engineer. (Wearing hardhat on left.)

Tarin Kot is extremely dangerous, but the enemy has so far left this road crew unmolested (although a car bomb exploded recently on a road they’d just finished). A few weeks earlier, when I was in a different part of Tarin Kot, a car skirted past the road crew’s check point. The Pakistani engineer pictured above did a most unexpected thing. He jumped up on the hood of the car! The car stopped and the Afghan guard pulled out the driver and roughed him up a bit. I asked the courageous Pakistani engineer, “What were you thinking? I can’t believe you jumped onto the hood of a car bomb!” Turns out it wasn’t a bomb, but the Pakistani man thought it might be and was trying to stop the vehicle to save his workers.

Road Crew and passersby.

There is deep distrust between Afghans and Pakistanis, yet the Afghans seem to hold Indians in high-regard, and when an Indian was murdered here recently, there was uproar in both India and Afghanistan. The Afghans who are not actively trying to kill Americans seem to hold us in high regard. Many Afghans – just like many Iraqis, especially the Kurds – asked me to tell the American people “thank you” and “please don’t leave yet.”

Many of they Afghans get their news from small transistor radios that can be seen nearly everywhere. With all those radios, the Afghans are ripe to play a “War of the Worlds” prank on.

A crew member wearing his work.

This Afghan man was just sitting there, staring at his door.

Whereas in Iraq there is a large, educated class, Afghanistan seems to be locked into a world centuries passed. But they’ve got relatively modern weapons.

The Afghan men tend to keep their weapons clean.

The local ER.

I always hope not to get sick or shot in places like this where there is little or no back-up.

A traffic circle in Tarin Kot.

When Afghan authorities kill Taliban, the “Mayor” of Tarin Kot has their bodies dumped in this traffic circle. In the background is a road sign denouncing poppy. But the entire area is surrounded by poppy, in some places as far as the eye can see.

Not much of a guard dog, either.

An Afghan farmer warned that his dog was ferocious. The farmer made us stay back until he could tie up the beast. Probably the friendliest dog I saw in Afghanistan. Sensing his pride of ownership of a “vicious” dog, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’ve seen a lot of dogs in my travels. I know the difference between a good dog and a bad dog. His stretched out pup, eager for a scratch, is NOT a bad dog.

THIS is a bad dog: he was gnawing on a human corpse when I startled him.





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