Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Haiti Flashback in Kabul

Driving down Jalalabad Road, with the sun beating down on a line of shops thrown together with cinderblock, corrugated metal and abandoned shipping containers, my mind drifts to Haiti. If you focus on the bustling street and not the faces, you could just as easily be driving down the airport road in Port-au-Prince. The sun beats down on tired looking vendors, who scrape a marginal living selling jerry cans of cooking oil and a strange combination of odds and ends. Bicycle parts hang from shop awnings and small stacks of wood for cooking, actually not much more than branches, line the dusty streets which are home to a mix of battered autos and donkey carts.

While the streets lined with ragged shops is reminiscent in one way of Port-au-Prince, I am also aware of a striking difference. Today's trip was rescheduled after a suicide bomber, using an IED, attacked a military convoy along this road just the day before. It killed four Afghans and a British soldier and closed the road for a day. Unlike Port-au-Prince of the early 90's (and recent years) with its regular nightly automatic weapon fire becoming part of the almost unnoticed background noise of the city, Kabul is comparatively quiet. Gunshots near where I am working, when they occur, are infrequent enough to catch your attention. But Kabul is part of the new world where the deceiving nature of the relative calm can be shattered at any moment by a violent explosion.

My trip is uneventful but for those who must patrol the city, yesterday's events are another reminder of uncertainty of life in Afghanistan.


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