Kandahar Journal: Maintaining the Afghan Air Force, by whatever means necessary
The Afghan Air Force (AAF) MI-35 Hind helicopter gunship sits squatting on the runway in the noonday Kabul International Airport (KAIA) heat. The cowlings surrounding the twin engines are open and a mechanic is wrenching – with a wrench – at something that is not properly aligned – yet.
Even with its innards exposed, the Hind still looks threatening. It looks just like the Apache doesn’t. While the Apache looks like a toy, the Hind – even this 30-year-old bird – looks like the grown-up real-deal. It looks like it could take a “young boy’s wish” and crush it.
The look is all illusion though. This Hind is a legacy vehicle of the AAF. It somehow survived the fall of the Soviet Union, the resulting civil war, the abuse and abandonment of the Taliban, and the aerial bombardment by the U.S. in response to 9/11. (Illustrations by Richard Johnson/National Post)
Kandahar Journal: Just ‘good enough’ for Afghanistan
“It can be hard to swallow for the Canadians. It is hard for them to let go of a soldier when you know he will probably die in the first days of battle, because the training they have received is so limited.” (Illustrations by Richard Johnson/National Post)
Kandahar Journal: Leading by example in Kabul
“Soldiers are soldiers, once you train them they will know their job. The problem is getting good training in a good time period. We are trying to instill as much as we possibly can. But in the end it has to be an Afghan led training team to build an Afghan Army.”
(Illustrations by Richard Johnson/National Post)
Kandahar Journal: Canadian mentors have nine weeks to turn new Afghan recruits into soldiers
As for the prospects for Afghanistan when ISAF eventually pulls out, Lt. Buck feels that the men he has trained have a better chance of holding the country together.
“I worry for them. I’m worried that someone else will take over, or that some of the ANA will turn and take over. But I hope that by training ethical leaders, they will remain patriotic for Afghanistan rather than for themselves.” (Illustrations by Richard Johnson/National Post)
Kandahar Journal: Canadian doctors helping the Afghans lead
In an intensive care unit in Afghanistan’s Armed Forces Academy of Medical Sciences in Kabul lie 10 mangled men.
This is the end of the journey for many ANA soldiers. They arrive here after having stepped in the wrong place or having finally run out of luck at bullet dodging. For most of these young men — in truth, they are barely more than boys — their luck ran out in the last 10 days.
Many are missing limbs, others have been filled by shrapnel. Some have bullet wounds to the head, or other massive concussion trauma. The very fact that they are in ICU means that they are on the edge of death or — with a little help — on the edge of life.
“My role here is what my [Canadian military] mission is, but I am here ‘personally’ because I want to help,” says Lieutenant Commander Vincent Trottier. The same thing could be said of every member of Canada’s Medical contingent here in Afghanistan. They are not here for the money, or the prospects of promotion. They are here because they want to help.
(Illustrations: Richard Johnson/National Post)
Kandahar Journal: Taliban alley
The mission on the face of it was simple and straightforward for the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) 6th Kandak – drive out to a specific highpoint overlooking the intersection of two rivers and build an outpost on Tur-Muryani hill. Unfortunately, the confluence of the Arghandab and Mizan valleys is home field for Taliban sympathizers, facilitators and the Taliban themselves — and is a main route for the materials of their war. They were likely to be less than happy at the more intense scrutiny from this new outpost, right in their back yard. MORE
(Illustrations: Richard Johnson/Natoinal Post)
The National Post’s Richard Johnson is on his third tour of Afghanistan. Work from his earlier assignments won international awards and a place in the Smithsonian Museum’s permanent collection.
Follow his work here nationalpost.com/kandaharjournal
On Twitter at @newsillustrator
Or see more of his work here at newsillustrator.com
Or contact Richard in the field at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gently used Kalashnikovs
“I am sad that the Canadians had to leave [Afghanistan]. But even the Americans are tired. Hell, the Soviets were tired after 10 years as well! Was it a waste? If you say it was a waste then it is a sacrilege to all the people who fell. But I think a lot of people are thinking that now.” (Illustrations: Richard Johnson/National Post)
‘Inside the wire’ attacks a growing threat to soldiers in Afghanistan
FORWARD OPERATING BASE APACHE, ZABUL PROVINCE, SOUTHEASTERN Afghanistan — This morning in Laghman province, two U.S-ISAF troops were killed when a rogue Afghan soldier opened fire on them. It marked the latest in a series of so-called green-on-blue, or insider, attacks that have severely damaged the trust between coalition forces and their Afghan allies.
There have been 33 insider attacks this year, resulting in 42 coalition deaths. That is a sharp increase from 2011, when, during the whole year, 35 coalition troops were killed in such attacks, 24 of whom were Americans.
The insider attacks have significantly raised question about the West’s exit strategy as U.S. forces prepare for a withdrawal that could begin as early as next year. (Illustrations: Richard Johnson/National Post)