Well, it's been kind of a long day here (longer than usual) and I'm about a third of the way through a bottle of tequila*, so this will be a bit disjointed.
*Even harder to find than decent whisky, but also more difficult to impose "local" substitutes, so therefore generally safer. Still cost me $100 USD.
By now, you've probably seen the reports about the ever-so-annoying events in Kabul this morning. If not, a BBC summary is here.
Why, one may ask, must the Taliban always launch these spectacular attacks so early in the day? Especially on Juma (Friday), which is supposed to be a day of rest. And a day when most Westerners, myself included, are sleeping off absolutely bone-crushing hangovers from the night before. And on the anniversary Prophet's birthday no less. Have these people no decency?
Heedless of my desire for a few more hours of decent (albeit alcohol-fueled) sleep, the bad guys decided to try and blow up a couple of hotels and guest houses in downtown Kabul, kicking off their ill-timed attempt with a massive suicide car bomb at precisely 0645.*
*I know the exact time because, contrary to tactical good sense, the first thing I did when I rolled out of bed was check the clock on my mobile phone. And then say, "Oh for fuck's sake!"
Anyway, the intial blast cracked the glass on my windows, despite being six blocks away.* After checking the time (and cursing about the hour), I found my pants, my weapon and my boots, not necessarily in that order. The image of me with a Kalashnikov, sans pants, is probably not one to make the ladies swoon, but one has to set priorities in such situations.
*That, and the huge mushroom cloud that resulted, are what give lie to the reports that the first blast was a "suicide bomber." No way one man carries enough explosive to make a boom like that. Definately some sort of VBIED. After a year, you get a sense for these things.
After locating and arranging all necessary items (i.e. weapon, pants), and checking the immediate vicinity from my balcony, I legged it over to one of our job sites about a block away. We have 20+ guards on duty at this site and of course they were all up and armed and standing post. For all the faults in management with this outfit, our guys on the line are dedicated and determined.
One of the guards on-site told me that the scene of the attack was the Safi Landmark Hotel, about five blocks away. I confess that I was actually relived to hear that since, to my knowledge, none of our clients had personnel in the Safi. In a prime example of "be careful what you wish for" just then one of our supervisors pulled up in an SUV. I was puzzled since his AoR is ten blocks away, but he informed me that we, in fact, DID have a client staying at the Safi (news to me, which reflects poorly on myself and our management system) and that this guy was on his mobile phone freaking out.**
*Area of Responsibility
**Understandably of course, but at times like this, it doesn't really help to go all ape-shit.
I detail the supervisor and one of our PSDs to see if they can get through the police cordon and pull this guy out. Meanwhile, I call the main office and rather testily suggest that a little back-up might be in order. The only response I get is the question, "Why are you not in your residence?"
Um..........because this is what we get paid to do?
Predictably, the supervisor returns having been unable to get past the police blockade at the traffic circle (I suspect he didn't try all that hard). By this point, I'm talking to the client who is in the Safi, and I'm trying to keep him calm and rational. To his credit, despite being wounded by flying glass, he's reasonably calm, if a little shaken up. Intelligently, he has abandoned his street-facing room for the (relative) security of the the interior of the building. However, there are now bad guys in the hotel and attached shopping center and things are most decidely not looking up.
Much to the dismay of our supervisor*, I jump in the SUV and we head off to try and talk our way past the police again. Occasionally, the presence of a Westerner helps in these situations.
*Who, it should be pointed out, is only a 26-year old kid.
In this case, not so much. I did have several highly-charged shouting matches with various ANP officers, somewhat hampered by the fact that they don't speak English, my Dari is weak, and our supervisor (who speaks both fluently) was unwilling to press the issue. So after standing in the rain for twenty minutes, listening to gunfire up the street and trying to keep the client from totally freaking out (tough to do over the phone), we relocated to another of our job-sites about a block away to await the QRF (Quick Reaction Force) which would bring with it someone with the authority to deal with the ANP.
Three cups of tea and five cigarettes later, still no QRF. By this point, I'm pretty well boiling over into a white-hot rage, against the ignorance of the Taliban who would launch such an attack, the incomptence of the ANSF who failed to prevent it, and the idiocy of my boss who evidently refuses to do what he's been paid to do. What's more, my car, the SUV I came here in, has mysteriously departed for greener pastures, leaving me to walk back to my place in the rain, trying by phone to reassure the client in the Safi that help is on the way. All in all, a top-notch morning.
Eventually, we got him out but not until the whole episode was concluded. That same 26-year old supervisor went back in, by himself, and found this guy and transported him to safety. Three hours after the whole thing started. And for that, The Rug Merchant deducted from him three months pay, for operating "without proper authorization." To his credit, when I asked him about it this afternoon, the kid had no regrets and said, "I did what my duty required. He can keep his money."
So, as I told my brother earlier this evening, "Same shit, different day. It's just that here we have a different definition of 'shit' than most people."