What is ‘safe’ in Afghanistan?, by Ross Lord, in Kandahar

From: Ross Lord

A few days into our second tour in Kandahar, and we’re already thinking about how to define “safe.”

The whole issue of danger is never far from our minds — in the Taliban’s much touted “spring offensive” and in the aftermath of their kidnapping of the Italian journalist, and, beheading of his Afghan driver.

And, then there’s the issue of convoys.

Canadian higherups here at the kandahar Air Field, say their convoys have never been safer.

Recent evidence — a series of i.e.d and suicide bomb attacks that have had little or no effect on Canadian convoys — seems to bear this out. Convoys in the southern part of Afghanistan, including Kandahar, consist of extremely tough RG-31’s and LAV 3’s, along with the somewhat less fortified Bisons.

But, we discovered yesterday the vehicle they removed from the convoys after devastating bomb attacks last year — the G-Wagons — are still being used, in Kabul.

For 2 days, we were trucked around in a G-Wagon convoy — for a story we covered on a training centre for the Afghan National Army. The soldiers in Kabul rely exclusively on G-Wagons, and for this, they deserve our admiration.

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These are commercial S.U.V’s, with an armour package installed by the military.

Stronger than their precessors, the Iltis.

But, less able to withstand enemy fire and roadside bombs than those other vehicles (illustrated most tragically by the bomb that killed 4 Canadian soldiers last April.)

Navigating the extremely bumpy roads around Kabul would be difficult enough.

But, factor in the chronic danger of attack – even in Kabul – and the stress factor goes way up.

It seems every couple of minutes, the 2 soldiers in the front of our vehicle were communicating with each other and the other 4 vehicles in the convoy about potential threats.

A lone male in a vehicle coming up on the right side.

A man kneeling against a wall, back to the convoy, doing something with his hands.

A man on a bicycle riding toward the convoy.

We were enlisted on 2 occasions to keep a watchful eye for these sort of possible threats, from our positions in the back of the wagon.

All of this while essentially cutting of civilian vehicles at various corners, to ensure they don’t become enmeshed in the convoy.

And yet, the Canadians did all of this without losing their cool, or, professionalism.

In fact, they made an effort to make a friendly wave to civilians, while imposing on them during this un-enviable juggling act.

Replacements are said to be in the works, and, though they don’t like to admit it publicly — the soldiers are looking forward to that.