Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kabul July 19-20

We arrived in Kabul last night from Islamabad -- another jerky, screw-drivey landing that I guess is "defensive flying" against possible rocket attack.

We were unloaded from Clinton's plane and immediately put on military Chinook helicopters for a five minute flight to the Embassy. Loud, and you couldn't see much, but sort of thrilling to look out the open back of the helicopter at the lights (surprisingly bright) of Kabul below.

We were again billeted at the U.S. Embassy. Accomodations were a bit better than in Islamabad. This is another big new American installation, complete with Holiday Inn-style apartment dorms. The cafeteria is pretty bare bones (fried chicken nuggets) but did the job.

Slept like a rock.

Up early this morning to see Clinton meet a selection of Afghan women, who voiced fears that their rights be sacrificed if Karzai reaches some sort of political agreement with the Taliban. You can see why they'd be scared. Clinton assured them they weren't going to be abandoned ... I wonder how much heart they took.

The conference itself was a pretty scipted affair. They had us in a media center (see photo) across the street, where everyone was spread out haphazardly amid couches and fold out chairs. The whole thing was piped in via television, so yet again we were almost there but not really there. The Kabul bureau was doing all the heavy lifting and all I had to do was provide a few briefs on Clinton's speech and her promises to the Afghan women.

Back into a van convoy to the Embassy, where we're waiting for Clinton to get back and then are supposed to get a few minutes with her. Can't see anything of Kabul behind the blast walls..just like Baghdad. Strange to think of how these cities have been transformed by the U.S. military presence. Concrete suppliers must make a fortune.

We're due out in a couple of hours and then fly overnight to Seoul. Everybody is kind of punchy at this point but it has been interesting to see the little bits of Kabul that we did see. The Afghans seem a pretty friendly bunch...but I guess we're not exactly dealing with the Taliban here.