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ajb3000 11-11-2007 05:03 PM

Afghanistan Questions
 
This is a question mainly for the T-Punks serving in Afghanistan at the moment:

Realistically, do you think it's possible and relatively safe for a solo male westerner to travel from Iran to Herat, go by bus to Kabul (through the central route), then to Bamiyan, Band-e Amir, Mazar-e Sharif, and finally head to Tajikistan? Or is this a crazy and stupid idea?

lost in texas 11-11-2007 05:30 PM

That would be a great trip, but honestly it sounds pretty crazy and stupid to me. I've got a couple of friends there now, and it's really nowhere near stable at this point. My brother was contracting there, and they used to be able to drive around in civilian vehicles, now it's all convoy. Have you read Rory Stewart's "The Places in Between?" He crossed Afghanistan right after the Taliban was taken out, but had local military bodyguards...

space virgin 11-11-2007 06:10 PM

One of my co-workers is Afghani and was there not too long ago. He said that the danger of being kidnapped is pretty damn high if people find out you're Western, especially if you're American or British. Another one of my friends--female-- went to Afghanistan about two years ago with a women's human rights organization. She said it was great but when they were on the road, they had to hide big time. That same friend went to Tajikistan for about a month this summer and had a great time, but she didn't go through Afghanistan to get there.

Personally I would LOVE to go there, but it sounds a little risky right now. :no:

BigE 11-11-2007 06:53 PM

I'm not in Afghanistan but I wouldn't do it and I am crazy.

I suppose if you look like this guy they will leave you alone:

http://artfiles.art.com/images/-/Cli...C12149548.jpeg

maracle 11-11-2007 07:48 PM

I guess Nicole can give a pretty good opinion on Afghanistan. I think Iran should be no problem. I don't know much about Tajikistan, wikitravel says it is pretty stable. This may be a bit stupid as a comparison but my cousin spent a few weeks in Kyrgyzstan and it was just fine. I don't know how different they are really but they're neighbors geographically.

mbo108 11-12-2007 05:47 PM

Tony Wheeler traveled throughout Afghanistan when researching his book "BadLands." He stayed completely away from Kabul but did visit other parts of the country. And he always hired local guides to drive him around. You might want to check out the book for some more info.

* POSTED IN BOTH THREADS *

pinknic38 11-13-2007 10:42 AM

ahhh glad I caught this post!!

Honestly, Kabul is a really bad idea. Mazar-e Sharif might be too, actually the whole thing is kind of a crap shoot, but if you must, sticking to the northwestern part of the country (like Herat) and away from the Pakistan border, and you should be okay.

I'm not sure if you read about the hostages from Germany and Korea from a few months agfo but these are realistic things you must consider.

That being said, maybe locals are SO friendly and inviting and will invite you into their homes and sit down and have meals with them. The cuisine is great, and the sights are mind boggling (it's kind of like falling down the rabbit hole here, it's crazy), and I think if you can avoid all the bad people, you would have a great and safe time. Knowing who's bad and who's good isn't always easy and if it were we wouldn't be here in this country anyway. Just for God's sake don't go anywhere in the south.

If you want to PM me or email me, feel free. I've been here since January and my job is to understand the threats associated with these places. I can't talk about some of it for obvious reasons, but I can help you out with what I can. but honestly, every where else should be fine (avoid pakistan though), but afghanistan is very very risky.

-nicole

Canadian Bacon 11-13-2007 02:14 PM

Hmmm....good info to know for my travel plans a few years from now. My Cairo-to-Shanghai by the Silk Road trip....

So you don't think its safe in Pakistan either? Even in the non-Waziristan areas?

pinknic38 11-13-2007 02:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Canadian Bacon (Post 173145)
Hmmm....good info to know for my travel plans a few years from now. My Cairo-to-Shanghai by the Silk Road trip....

So you don't think its safe in Pakistan either? Even in the non-Waziristan areas?

That's my opinion for Pakistan. They've got some political disruptions going on right now with their Prez and then the usual bs that goes on over there anyway. I saw in the news a few weeks ago that a suicide bomber killed like 50 people... I would even be wary of Iran but I know some TPers have been there recently and have had a great time and their trip was virtually problem free, so there you have it.

DC_Jessica 11-15-2007 08:14 PM

I'm in policy, not on the ground with Nicole, but for f**k's sake, stay out of Pakistan! Islamic South Asia = bad news. If anybody's had their eye on Benazir, these psychos killed/maimed HUNDREDS of people just to get to one person. Oh, and Bangladesh is having a happy birthday for their state of emergency in a month, so that's gonna be a regional factor as well.

My recommendation is to go to BBC news (for Pete's sake, not CNN or some garbage) and get a feed delivered to you, daily weekly, whatever, if you're thinking of visiting a conflict zone or unstable area. And just for funsies, there are nearly 200 countries in this world, give or take, save Afghanistan for later...honestly, look for a job with a non-profit or development group. That is the way to go. At least you have a purpose and resources if something were to happen. Seriously, danger is a bit of a turn on for me, but I wouldn't do it without a Pashtun guide and some conceptual framework for Farsi or Pashto.

worldwidemike 11-22-2007 11:06 AM

Yeah, Afghanistan is definitely on my No-Go list, right now. Not to get political, but once the Bush administration is gone, and the replacement leadership comes in (whether Dem or Rep), there will be a reevaluation of Afghanistan. My guess is they will ratchet up resources to stabilize the one victory in the "war on terror," and ratchet down those resources to the disaster in the war (Iraq).

So, in my opinion, the conditions of Afghanistan will improve in the short and long run, so I'd take a pass and come back in a couple years. Oh, you might want to check out the article in the most recent Smithsonian magazine -- it has a feature about Stewart's project in Kabul to restore traditional architecture...

worldwidemike

augustiner05 11-22-2007 11:50 AM

Hey, I was just watching this program on LinkTV originally for BBC {so you probably have already seen it} Its called Holiday in The Danger Zone with Ben Anderson. I know none of the episodes take place in Afghanistan but still interesting and a little relevant. Gives background info on the situation and opinions of locals. In one episode he was attempting to follow the Euphrates from the Ataturk Dam in Turkey to the Persian Gulf.
Here's the link http://www.linktv.org/search/q/holid...0danger%20zone only the teasers not the whole shows.
and
oh and one on the Stan's but haven't you been there already....
http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/stans.shtml
Good Luck,
Sandy

pinknic38 11-22-2007 12:12 PM

I'm with WWM, and not to play politics here, because regardless of your political beliefs, you cannot ignore the fact that it's dangerous and just an all-around big mess. which is so sad because it truly is a beautiful country and many of the people are wonderful. but it's certianly a no-go until we've got a better grip on the situation, and that can't happen until we have a change in administration. that is the nature of the beast.

Canadian Bacon 11-22-2007 02:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by worldwidemike (Post 174040)
So, in my opinion, the conditions of Afghanistan will improve in the short and long run, so I'd take a pass and come back in a couple years. Oh, you might want to check out the article in the most recent Smithsonian magazine -- it has a feature about Stewart's project in Kabul to restore traditional architecture...

worldwidemike

Not to continue being political, but I doubt that's going to be the case. A convincing case has been building that the neo-Taliban (they're not all jihadists) are going to take Afghanistan again. Read this SENLIS COUNCIL report
http://www.senliscouncil.net/modules/publications/Afghanistan_on_the_brink

I'm sure pinknic can back me up on this.

Anyway if that's right, then Afghanistan may be messed up for a long time again... civil war and such

pinknic38 11-22-2007 02:59 PM

yeah afghanistan is a sad country with a sad history, as of the last 50ish years anyway. it's been kind of downhill since the soviets, and the country is still dangerous without the taliban, because of minefileds the soviets placed all over and not all of it has been completely recovered.

the extreme mountainous terrain makes it difficult to catch the bad guys, and the nature of the taliban makes it difficult to point fingers in the first place.

I'm not a subject matter expert on radical islam nor am I a subject matter expert on military maneuvering and all that good stuff but I do know enough to (in my opinion) have an educated opinion.

I think a new administration is a step in the right direction to working out these issues and getting a hold on them, as it is a fresh perspective and hopefully someone that's a bit more flexible on these issues. that being said, in my educated opinion, I think it's a lost cause over here. we take one step forward and two steps back in everything. even if the rest of the world didn't hate us and think we're assholes, even if everyone pitched in. some problems are too far gone to be fixed, honestly. people want to adopt this fucking indiana jones attitdue like "oh we can do anything we set our mind and military to!" except that's a bit too optimistic for the real world.

bottom line, we could be here forever and the problem won't resolve for several reasons, none of which are relavent to visiting afghanistan. so to scoot this back on topic before I get nasty-grams in the email and turn this into some flaming political discussion... just don't visit. it's dangerous. very very. and I wish one day it wouldn't be so everyone could see it.

go and read "the kite runner" and "a thousand splendid suns" by khaled hosseini (I jacked his name up).

worldwidemike 11-26-2007 07:40 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pinknic38 (Post 174054)
people want to adopt this fucking indiana jones attitdue like "oh we can do anything we set our mind and military to!" except that's a bit too optimistic for the real world.

Man...what did my boy Indiana Jones ever do to get lumped in with you-know-who...? :lol: :lol: :lol:

It's very interesting to read your opinion of the situation over there, Nicole. It must be worse than I'd imagined, because I honestly felt that was our nation's one "bright spot" in the war on terror. Is there really that level of hatred of the U.S. ingrained over there? I wouldn't have been surprised if you had said the exact same things and were talking about Iraq. It's just that Afghanistan, I felt had made real progress, and honestly hoped that its people didn't buy all the patriarchal, Wahabi crap that radical Islam is shoving down the Muslim world's throat.

Do your coworkers all feel pretty much the same way, or is there a range of optimism to pessimism about Afghanistan over there? Just curious...

worldwidemike

Canadian Bacon 11-26-2007 01:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by worldwidemike (Post 174272)
It's just that Afghanistan, I felt had made real progress, and honestly hoped that its people didn't buy all the patriarchal, Wahabi crap that radical Islam is shoving down the Muslim world's throat.

Wow this IS being political.

The Wahhabi stuff is nothing new... in the sense that Wahhabism has been around for centuries, and has heavily influenced Islam in the region, especially in India where the Deobandi school started. But strictly speaking, the Taliban are not "wahhabi" in the sense of the Saudis are, but they share common traits.

What you see in Afghanistan is less radical Islam, more Pashtun values... since much of what they did when they ran the place (the burka, hand chopping, banning music, public executions) is mostly coming from the traditional Pashtun tribal code, the Pashtunwali.

This is why the northern and Western Afghans hated the Taliban - they were seen to be imposing the values of southern afghanistan - Pashtun values - on non-Pashtun peoples.

So I think it is pipe dream for us in the West to think Afghanistan is going to full human rights, women's rights, minority rights and peace all around, and everyone hugging each other.

The best reality we can hope for is a semi-stable state, probably some sort of controlled insurgency in the south.

pinknic38 11-27-2007 10:54 AM

hah I kind of went off on a tangent a bit. sorry! anyway, to answer your question WWM, afhganistan is a completely different best than iraq of course, but the general concensus of the folks in m unit (and not to speak on behalf of them or the military, this is just my general observation after several long conversations with several of my coworkwers as to "what th hell are we doing"), anyway the general concensus is that it's pretty much a waste. I mean, I can't really go into specifics, but the taliban is the taliban, and although the locals that don't support them are great people, the whole intimidation thing is very efficient in getting the tb what they want from the locals. it's all pretty ruthless and it's a way of operating that we as americans (or as westerners) cannot understand.

I stress, this is nothing like iraq, completely different, and people tend to lump them together into one thing, since it's all the "war on terror" or whatever, but I think the sentiment is the same for BOTH.... when you have people who are ready and willing to die for a cause they believe in, then you cannot contain that. if you kill them all, you give them what they want while we look bad... so we're shooting ourselves in the foot if we do that. but if you capture or detain the guys in these organizations, another one just pops up, it's like the old saying that if you pull out a grey hair, three more grow back in its place. that's sort of how dealing with terror organizations work. what's the point? they aren't afraid to die and they already have replacements for when it happens.

this is why it's so difficult. and we have these rules of engagement that WE have to follow, as per NATO or whatever. but they don't play by the rules, and capture humanitarian workers like those Koreans and Germans back in July or August. which is why it's unsafe to visit now.

so that's my doom and gloom of the day. :)


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