Apr 21 at 2:02pm by David Tate
In January and February 2009, US Marines with India Co., 3rd Battalion, Eighth Marines launched two operations to clear a road, called Route 515, that connected two district center in Farah Province, Afghanistan. The two cities, Deleram and Bakwa, are the hubs of social and financial activity for thousands of Afghans. The Marines objective is to open this road to allow people to get their goods to market and to stop Taliban and smugglers from making their way to and from Iran.
One of the first signs of success though is in the shape of brownies and smiles as the US mail uses this new route to keep troop morale high in a difficult environment.
Apr 20 at 10:10pm by David Tate
My final night in Kabul was perfect. I got some good eats from the hotel restaurant, we ordered a bottle of Stoli and spent time with some American contractors who had ventured our way for the night.
For the most part, we all just hung out talking and playing pool, which is really all you can do unless there’s work to be done. It was during this time I realized just how messed up the procurement system for these wars truly is.
I crept in on the backside of a conversation where one contractor was complaining to another about how a new company has a contract for $75,000 per month to maintain their six generators.
“Hell, we gotta guy on staff already that can do that,” said one of the men.
None of them could figure out why so much was being paid for so little service, especially when there was already someone on staff with the qualifications.
That’s when I chimed in about a program General Motors used back in the 50′s and 60′s to improve efficiency.
“What if there was a program in place that would reward people for blowing the whistle,” I asked.
“Hah,” replied one of the contractors. “They’d all pack up and go home. They already have their money.”
Just to reinforce this: Did you all know that Kellog Brown and Root, one of the biggest profiteers in both wars and billed an American company, is actually located offshore. In other words: They don’t even pay taxes! They make a killing off the wars and then get even richer by not paying taxes (robbing the very people making them rich). You really want to get pork under control? Get serious about accountability and oversight in Afghanistan and Iraq. I don’t even want to research how much has been stolen from the US taxpayers… I get too angry.
Thursday Febraury 26th
Packing for the trip home was a bit easier on the way out. While at the Mustafa I met a freelance photographer who seems to embody much of the spirit that drives me. While talking to her, she revealed that she wanted to do some embedding with military forces, but had no body armor. So we struck a deal that saw me leaving both armor and kevlar for her to use in exchange for a donation (and my gear back) once she returns (see, I’m not always an asshole). Of course, since this equipment is my #2 investement, she will also be responsible for it in the event it is ruined or stolen. Interestingly enough she is a grandmother. Check out Janet Killeen’s travels here: Zones of Conflict.
Another blog to follow into the fighting season is a young gent named Connor Powell. Connor is a VMI graduate who spent some time in local news before selling his life off to the adventure of freelance war coverage. You can track his travels here: Conor Powell.
I got a ride to the airport from Abdullah, the guy who runs the Mustafa. We drove by my old house and it really was a bit surreal leaving again, but I was ready to go. I had less than $10 in my pocket and couldn’t get out quick enough.
Other than getting searched eight times at the Kabul Airport, the trip to Dubai was painless. Once there, the plan was to try to switch flights and make it home a day earlier. That didn’t work out because only one plane leaves Dubai for Atlanta per night… and it is usually full. No different this time.
Knowing that a hotel in Dubai would cost me a ton of money, I was in the market for something economical. So imagine my luck when I ran into some other Americans in the same position as me. One guy was on vacation and heading to Virginia Beach; another was in Dubai trying to make a gold deal that fell through. The three of us ended up getting a hotel room, that split three ways, cost $105 each!! Best part is that I took the floor because I had sleeping gear. Imagine that: Spending the night in a ritzy hotel in Dubai, only to sleep on the floor.
Friday February 27th
None of us really had any money to spend in Dubai, so instead of taking a taxi around the emirate taking in the sights, we all chose to go to the airport and wait it out… 15 hours worth of waiting! Whatever… 17 hours after that, I’d be home.
This about wraps up the diary portion of this trip. I still have a bunch of videos to get out, so check back often!
Apr 14 at 10:10am by David Tate
A year before the Iraq War started, I ventured off toward the Honduran/Nicaraguan border in what would be my first excursion into a volatile area of the world as an adventure traveler/journalist. I’d just lost my job as a TV reporter and wanted to expand. I wanted to do more with my profession. And true to my nature, I wanted to do it my way.
Back then, the concept “Battlefield Tourist” included humanitarian issues like the “War on Poverty” and ecological issues like “War on the Aral Sea”, so when I went to Honduras, the idea was to find basic, ground level stories dealing with poverty. In doing so, I found myself taking all sorts of pictures of children. I learned that if you can make the children laugh and smile, the adults around them would do the same - regardless if you spoke a common language.
The next thing you know, I have hundreds of pictures of children and “regular people” from all over the world, and Afghanistan is no exception.
Below is the final of four photo slide shows from my most recent embeds in Farah and Helmand Provinces in southern Afghanistan, as well as some images from folks I ran into in Kabul. I run these photos to give you an idea of the people our friends, neighbors and relatives are fighting and dying for.
Apr 13 at 3:03pm by David Tate
In mid-February I was invited to go to Musa Qala, Helmand Province and embed with 3/8 Marines who make up the Police Mentoring Team (PMT) there. These Marines come from a variety of places throughout the battalion, including from the battalion commanders own Personal Security Detatchment.
The mission here is basically a legacy mission that began when the preceding Marine unit came here to help pacify the district center. Since then, 3/8 Marines have been strict on their mission of training and mentoring the Afghan National Police who secure the District Center. For 7km in each direction, British and Afghan troops secure the rest of the district center. Beyond that, the territory belongs to the Taliban.
Note: After further review, I pulled two images that showed overlook of ISAF bases that could pose a security risk. The other concerns were addressed and deemed fit to publish.