First Snow

First Snow

Yesterday, Kabul and the surrounding area received its first blanketing of snow for the 2013 winter season. Snow had been promised in previous weeks’ forecasts, but nothing materialized until now. It was quite a surprise to see the gorgeous layer of white, having been outside late the previous night for a fire drill. Someone who opted to remain anonymous incinerated a bag of popcorn in a communal microwave. The sky was completely clear, twinkling stars and all. At some point between 10:00pm and 6:00am, the skies saw fit to cut loose with several inches worth of white wonder. For the most part, operations on the compound didn’t miss a beat. People trudged through to their respective destinations. Once windows were cleared, vehicles were drivable save for a few dead batteries. Throughout the day, snowball fights ensued and snowmen were sculpted. Interestingly, the Jordanians were particularly skilled in the latter art. Who knew. As with snowfall in many areas, the beauty and novelty quickly gave way to a slushy and often icy mess. The comedy of numerous near slips-and-falls by KAIA residents on the scattered patches of ice relieved a bit of the sting of the frosty temperatures. The snow made many Afghans happy. Perhaps like many Americans, they believe a winter isn’t a winter without at least one good winter wonderland. I emphatically disagree and am counting the days until the temperatures begin to climb into something even resembling a habitable...
KAIA – A First Look

KAIA – A First Look

KAIA is the abbreviated name of the NATO ISAF compound located on the north side of Kabul International Airport. It is home to roughly four thousand military and civilian residents from dozens of nations. It is a hub for ISAF operations in the region, particularly in terms of air transportation, medical support and mentorship of the Afghan Air Force. Sights. Kabul resides in a river valley corralled by mountains that dominate the horizon in virtually every direction. To the north and west lie the magnificent peaks of the Hindu Kush range that are blanketed with snow during the winter. These mountains form a basin that contains not only Kabul, but some of the worst air quality in the world. A persistent haze plagues the city – a mix of dust, industrial pollution, vehicle emissions, smoke from whatever Afghans can burn to stay warm, and who knows what else. On the rare clear days, the views are stunning and the neighborhoods of Kabul that creep up into the foothills can be seen from the airport. While the KAIA compound in many ways resembles a typical military installation, it also possesses some unique features. Due to the dozens of member nations that support the ISAF mission here, a parade of military uniforms exists that sport every variation of desert camouflage you can imagine. Some nations defy local fashion and instead flaunt their native woodland camo of greens and browns – the French and the Czechs come to mind. Then there are the guns. So many guns. Virtually every military member and many civilian contractors are armed 24/7 with either assault rifles,...