Haji in a Dust Storm
Just another day in Kandahar ….
It started with a mix up in convoy guarding and routes that saw me receive a hell of an email from Higher that included the word ‘idiot’ and a call for heads among my staff. We sorted it out pretty quickly and the convoy rolled, well protected, but I had to respond to the email with an offer of my resignation – I’m old-fashioned enough to believe that I am ultimately responsible for the actions of every man under my command, so if any heads were to roll mine had to be the first. I spent a nervous 30 minutes until the reply came in along the lines that no terminations were necessary but the message stood. I didn’t really see that as ‘closure’ (as shrinks and other assorted hand-wringers like to call it) and was left pretty flat for the rest of the day.
Early afternoon and I was outside the perimeter checking the progress of our defence works in a howling dust storm. Nothing unusual about that, but, as we were driving back in, we nearly rear-ended a small white sedan that was crawling very slowly toward the Hesco entrance of one of our gates. I told MK to hang back and we watched him for a while. The driver was a local, VERY traditionally dressed (if you catch my drift), paying a lot of attention to the gate area and yammering away big time on his cell phone. He had no idea we were on his 6. We briefly conferred and decided to pass him, get in through the gate and up into the nearest tower to watch him. I held my breath as we passed only 5 metres to his left. He noticed us and nearly dropped the phone but then went right on talking. “Jesus, boss, we’ve got a bloody live one here” said MK as we turned into the gate cordon.
Just as we stopped, and the searchers were coming forward, another two Surfs screamed up behind us and I thought “This is it!” I mean I really thought for an instant they were bombers or worse – a snatch squad. Before the thought even had time to gel in my mind, I recognised J, our local ANP Captain and great friend of ours, with six of his boys. Sighs of relief all round. I told J about the vehicle and darted up the tower steps to give the vehicle and driver a good once over with the binos. I had a prime view of what happened next.
The ANP surrounded the vehicle, emerging out of the dust cloud quickly and silently, AKs at the shoulder. They dragged the driver out of the cab and, after a very brief ‘conversation’ bundled him into a Surf and sped off. J and I made our way back inside for tea and to swap latest intell.
Say what you want about the ANP but, in my books, they are bloody marvellous. Around here they assist us in big and small ways every day. I am pleased to be working with them and bloody thrilled they’ve got our backs.
A postscript to this: the Nepalese guard in the tower was asleep when I burst in. He’s on a plane out as soon as I can organise it.
Further postscript: Just received a call from Higher apologising for the email, the language and the call for heads. It takes a big man to do that – especially when you’re the Big Man – so all’s cool as far as I’m concerned. There’s my ‘closure’ folks – we can all sleep soundly tonight.