FOCUS: ONE MONTH IN KABUL Pt 2
February 10, 2009: Along the Salang Pass
Breakdown in Afghanistan:
Snow made travel along many routes in northern Afghanistan difficult [GETTY]
I reckon the last place in the world you would want to be when you have a flat tyre in your 4x4, in the dark, in the middle of a blizzard is Afghanistan. Agreed?
Well, that is exactly what happened to us last night as we travelled up the highway from Kabul, through the Salang Pass, to the country's north.
The snow was falling heavily and some friendly locals were trying desperately to help us mend the sizable puncture which had appeared in our rear tyre while we attempted to fit snow chains.
It was almost impossible to see out of the front window – I hate to imagine what it must be like for the thousands of truck drivers travelling along this route every day carrying hundreds of kilogrammes worth of goods in their cargo!
We are travelling along what will soon become the US and Nato's brand new military supply route. They have managed to negotiate a deal with Moscow which would allow supplies to come through Russian territory.
Basically, the US and Nato have had such problems with their current supply route, which comes along the Jalalabad highway from Pakistan, that they have had to find an alternative.
For sure, this new supply route is less prone to suicide bombings and roadside IED's (improvised explosive devices), and there have been very few incidents of violence in the north of the country.
But the dangers may come from elsewhere. These roads are not in good condition, they are treacherous at night and probably not well-equipped to cope with the added burden of countless more trucks passing through with military supplies.
The people who live in this region seem pretty fearful as well. They take pride in the fact that theirs is one of the safest parts of Afghanistan, but there is justified concern here that once the Americans and their Nato allies begin trucking tonnes and tonnes of equipment and supplies down these roads, this region too will become a target for attacks by the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.
The local police have already asked for reinforcements.
This has so far been a spectacular road trip, but the highway from Kabul through the Salang Pass toward Turkmenistan doesn't seem to be the fail-safe alternative the Western forces seem to think it is.
We've got our tyre fixed now and are about to continue on our journey.
Will keep you posted on our journey through one of the most beautiful parts of Afghanistan. Photos to come in the next few days.
February 7, 2009: Somewhere outside Kabul
iPhones and the Taliban:
Mullah Zaif, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, says he is 'addicted' to his iPhone
I could not believe my eyes. We had arrived to interview Mullah Zaif, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan who is now under virtual house-arrest on the outskirts of Kabul, when he walked into the room, sat down on the couch and pulled out an iPhone.
A former member of the Taliban! An iPhone! How times have changed.
During Taliban rule, which ended when the US and its allies rolled in and took control of Kabul in 2001, the leadership had banned just about anything associated with modern technology.
There were no televisions, no computers, no radios, no music and though iPhones were not around back then, they most certainly would not have been allowed.
I asked Zaif about his gadget. His response was pretty much the same as everyone who owns an iPhone.
"I'm addicted," he said, "the internet is great on this, very fast."
He proceeded to show myself and our film crew his favourite websites. I half expected him to log on and show us 'Taliban Twitter'.
But there is a very serious side to all of this of course.
The Taliban and other groups opposed to US military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have been incredibly quick to latch on to new technology and methods of communication.
It has enabled them to wage their war in a sophisticated fashion, using not just guns and bombs, but messages and propaganda too.
When reporting from Afghanistan I am always amazed at how quickly we get information from all sides of the conflict with vastly different accounts of what happened.
It is fair to say that no single version is the truth, and that is why we always try to report what every side is saying.
Source: Al Jazeera
The original article with pictures http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2...747620542.html