12 April 2011

Threats are real, but still pale by comparison

KABUL, Afghanistan—The advent of the spring fighting season in Afghanistan and the deteriorating security here in the capital is being felt a little closer to home.

On Sunday residents of my guest house discussed the concerns of the security forces protecting our next door neighbor, the second vice-president of Afghanistan. “They believe they could be attacked by the Taliban,” explained one of our residents who spoke the VP’s security detail.

Security measures next door have been stepped for months. Sandbags filled with a front-end loader are more than 10 feet high and surround much of his property, a new gate was being installed this morning, and the vice president has been acquiring nearby properties in an efforts to “securitize” the neighborhood. The “weak link” in his protection is our guest house, a three-story building, gated and surrounded by a concrete and metal wall ringed with razor wire, and protected by two guards 24/7. Woefully inadequate, according the folks next door.

Our guards share one automatic weapon, which is stored in the guard shack, and the guest house’s security could easily be breached a well-armed and determined attack team, which could then easily get to third floor, where it could launch a strike against the vice-president’s compound some 10 meters away.

A related concern: How determined a fight should anyone expect from private security guards who are paid about $200 per month to protect foreign workers, who earn exorbitant salaries relative to theirs and are increasingly resented by much of the Afghan general public? I have heard unsubstantiated stories that some of our guards and escorts do not discuss the nature of their work with their peers for fear of censure.

Within 24 hours, my employer decided to shut down the guest house and move seven of us to accommodations elsewhere. I am packing at the moment.

I leave with one caveat: The danger foreign workers face in Afghanistan is miniscule relative to the threat ordinary Afghans live with every day. Even when foreign workers are the target of an anti-government attack, the victims are overwhelmingly Afghans and Muslims. I cannot offer an informed perspective on this brutal, misguided war from their viewpoint. I cannot hope to genuinely understand the sustained trauma and fear experienced by most Afghans. My perspective, for whatever insight it might offer, is privileged and pampered by comparison.


  1. peter Pohly2:08 PM

    The sooner you are out of there the better

  2. Anonymous8:15 PM

    Isn't it time to be leaving? Take care and know I keep thinking of you.