There’s no doubt things are hotting up. Our convoys are being hit every day by IED and ambushes – often, combined. The bad guys seem to be moving in larger groups and, to us, it seems that they are operating with virtual impunity on certain sections of Hwy 1, in particular in the vicinity of Hawz-e Madad where we can guarantee running an ambush as the convoy passes through the gardens that border the road. We’ve lost four KIA in that 10km stretch in the past week alone. I know this small section of highway is only a fly-spot on the map of Afghanistan, but I do wonder just what the hell ISAF is doing about it. They know this is a hot-spot but they don’t appear to be doing anything – worse, if they are doing something it is utterly ineffective.
Our stats came out last night and make for interesting reading. The three that stood out for me are insurgent ambushes have risen while our convoy damage / destruction has fallen, at the same time as our ammo expenditure has declined. This tells me that my guards are doing an excellent job protecting and moving the convoys while also exercising professional fire discipline despite regular and sustained attacks. Still, I am waiting for a ‘please explain’ from Higher.
Apropos nothing in particular, I was thinking on the night sky last late last night as I sat quietly smoking on the Hesco parapet. As a man form the Southern Hemisphere, the night sky here is totally foreign to me. Not a constellation I recognise or that helps ground me to my ‘place’. It is an alienating feeling made all the more so by the circumstances I find myself in in this strife-torn and heaving country. There is one star, a very bright one, to the west and low in the night sky – if you are here in Afghanistan you will know the one I mean – that I look to every evening. It is the first to appear every evening and shines like a beacon, blinking and flashing until it finally fades to a smaller pinprick of light once it has climbed the night. I don’t know why, but I find it comforting to look at.
Perhaps it is its constancy – a quality and spirit otherwise absent in Afghanistan.
Footnote: 2030 hrs 17 July. I was sitting on my spot on the Hescos looking at the star (Saturn?) when some of my terps walked by. I greeted them in the traditional Afghan manner and sat down as they walked away. Watching them walk off my eye caught a bright blaze high up in the sky to the East. A massive shooting star (satellite re-entry?) burned bright, with incandescent chunks clearly falling from it, as it streaked downward to the mountains on the horizon. An omen from the Gods – I just can’t decide if it is a fair omen or bad.