Captain Jeremy Hann, an Armoured Vehicle Commander with the Royal Dragoon Guards, is based in Kandahar for Operation HERRICK 12. In this posts he writes about recent events in Kandahar.
Without wishing to erode the gossamer-thin veneer of machismo and testosterone afforded me by current situation… I would like to thank my mother publicly for her recent aid-package, and specifically for the chargrilled artichoke hearts in extra virgin olive oil. Delish. The enjoyment of the second half of the contents was slightly marred by the light garnish of sand, compliments of the ‘120 days of winds’ and the unique, fetid and rank aromas provided by the open sewers. Dining Al Fresco is not perhaps what it is on the Cote D’Azur.
The last few weeks in Kandahar Province have been rather grim. I have mentioned previously the low price upon life by certain organisations operating in this country, and if there had been any doubt, the explosive attack at a wedding ceremony this week, which killed 40 and seriously injured a further eighty-odd surely provides indelible evidence of this sick and saddening perspective. As the temperature has risen so have the number of incidents and attacks. Whilst I have no immediate involvement with everything that falls in this category, where I have it has been a positive sign that the Afghan Security presence is both eager and increasingly capable of dealing with the threat at the tactical level on the streets.
The attack, like many others, has been featured on CNN, and the coverage is extensive. They appear to have a much greater handle on events in this province than either the Beeb or Sky, which is hardly surprising as the majority of the British are to be found west of here in Helmand. The instantaneous nature of the reportage is staggering, and is sponsored and propelled by technology unimaginable during the great conflicts of the twentieth century. If greater media coverage descends on this city over the summer months, as it surely will, the truth may get lost in the throng of multiple-source reporting. Within thirty minutes of our main base coming under attack at the end of last month ‘news’ of it was already being conveyed to the global audience. The efficiency is awesome, (I mean that in the truest sense, not in the way Americans use the word to describe a new pair of sports socks), and equally frightening. Public opinion can be formed in ‘real-time’ before those embroiled in the violence have literally had a chance to pause and reflect on what they have just gone through. This is all a far cry from the weekly cable from Africa that the likes of Lord Deedes would have been sending to his Fleet Street editor, all immortalised as William Boot by Evelyn Waugh in ‘Scoop’.
I suppose the dangerous element is that public feeling can be influenced so readily and easily by media groups which can call upon instant global exposure. I am not saying there is an agenda, just an ability to apply a filter.
Dave from Notting Hill has been in Afghanistan this week and he seems to be much more in tune with the needs of the Armed Forces than his predecessor, which can only be a good thing.
A corpulent Afghan Police Officer has taken a shnning to a few of my soldiers over the last couple of weeks. We often see him at the Governor’s Palace. He has a build often ably demonstrated by the regular perched upon the far right hand side bar stool at any number of Public Houses the length and breadth of England. He has the aspect of one who has benefited from decades of the steady influx of pint after pint of Bishop’s Finger or Old Thumper, is no stranger to a stilton ploughman’s, and has on occasion been caught with his hand in the jar of pickled eggs. Exercise is an infrequent companion and can only be spotted between the armchair and the sofa. This stalwart member of the Gendarme is a jovial chap, who likes nothing more than rubbing his protruding stomach up and down which ever of my men happen to be still long enough, before suddenly thrusting with tremendous force. It is all in a playful manner, and I have encouraged those ‘bumped’ to respond in a like for like manner. I would hate for us to be thought of as not observing the niceties of local customs.