Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sarah Chayes, "Afghanistan: The night fairies," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March/April 2006 pp. 17-19 (vol. 62, no. 02).

Last fall, an elderly gentleman came by my house, located on a dirt street near the Kandahar bazaar. His eyes were a little rheumier than I remembered, his white beard wispier. A shawl was draped across the top of his turban and around his shoulders to protect against the autumn chill.

He is the village elder of a hamlet I used to visit regularly, located in a tangle of pomegranate orchards just beyond a line of rocky hills that looks like the crenelated back of a dinosaur. The dairy cooperative I was running then used to collect milk there every morning, two liters from one family, five from another, carried to our truck by children and oldsters in a riot of receptacles. Now, in fulfillment of a year-old promise, I wanted to buy pomegranates from this village.

I apologized to the old man for sending my staff to fetch him. "I didn't want to come see you myself," I said, "for fear of causing you trouble."

"No, no," he answered with a frank smile. "I wouldn't have given you permission to come."

This is the second Kandahar-area farmer who has broken with the deep-rooted local tradition of hospitality--as well as the lure of a higher price for his produce--and asked me not to approach his village, for fear of retaliation once I leave. Even more than the frequent explosions aimed at U.S. or Canadian military convoys, the ambushes, and the murders in mosques, these polite refusals of concrete assistance by struggling villagers signal how far the security situation has deteriorated in the past year.
Recommend this Post

Sphere: Related Content