Ukrainian officer and Lithuanian soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan
Medics of PRT-9 patrolled remote regions of Ghowr
June 3, military medics of Chaghcharan PRT-9 patrolled remote locations of Ghowr province. Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Georgian specialists of military medicine examined and provided medical assistance for over 100 people of remote Karbashi Quale village together with their Afghan colleagues.
According to observations of the head of Medical Unit of PRT-9 Maj. Valerija Urbienė, „the villagers mainly had painful backs and joints and their children had cold and rash faces."
Inhabitants of the village were quite surprised to receive the peacekeepers' patrol because, as they said, only a few cars had come around in the last fourteen years. The village called "the cave of lizards" is settled in a location with a particularly abundant population of lizards.
Medics of the Lithuanian-led PRT patrol the province of Ghowr assisting locals on a steady basis according to the ISAF programme. They develop cooperation with medical personnel of the Chaghcharan hospital and examine patients in the hospital and medical section of PRT HQ.
PRT is a joint Lithuanian-led civilian-military mission operating under NATO's ISAF. The main purpose of PRT is helping extend Afghan Central Government authority in the province, ensuring security and creating environment for provincial reconstruction.
Presently the ninth rotation of provincial reconstruction team is providing security in Ghowr, it is mainly formed from the members of Gen. Romualdas Giedraitis Artillery Battalion.
Besides Lithuanian personnel PRT-9 includes members from Denmark, Japan, Croatia, Ukraine, Georgia, and the US.
PIO for PRT-9 1st Lt. Marius Varna
Ukrainian officer and Lithuanian soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan
Most Ukrainian officers don't take part in patrols where you walk around with your gun.
Here's the story on Mod webpage:
M.Yon has visited Gwhor for some time, so he wrote a bunch of articles there:
Lithuanians on the Moon
Speaking the Language
Mohammad Jan Kendewalli points to ‘nearby’ villages.
01 July 2009
Chaghcharan, Ghor Province, Afghanistan
Lithuanian Lieutenant Marius Varna walked me around the perimeter of the small camp and we scanned the massive desolation of Afghanistan. The expanses, the dust, and the overwhelming sensation of brown and near-absence of refreshing green, under blue skies and squinting-bright sun. Only a handful of scrubby trees to be seen. One mountain wore a tint of green, as if it had been spray-painted from too far. Varna said it had sprouted after a rain a few weeks ago.
Nearby homes, mostly those of Tajiks, are formed from mud. The dwellings are unvented, and so the cooking fires inside lead to many illnesses. The dwellings could be a month old, or a thousand years. They look as ageless as dust or water. Varna pointed to a new settlement just near the camp and explained that the settlement had cropped up because of this camp and aid money flowing in, saying that kids who previously could not go to school are now in class. Including girls. Locals would later verify his claims.
The history of this land is mysterious and rich. Rudyard Kipling apparently based his book The Man Who Would Be King on the Pennsylvania-born American, Josiah Harlan, who’d come here to conquer and rule.
A BBC article explains:
“Harlan was a Pennsylvania-born adventurer who travelled to Afghanistan in the early 19th century, having sworn never to return to the US after an incident in Calcutta left him stranded.
He headed to Afghanistan with the intention of being made a king. He soon met up with Afghanistan's exiled king, to whom he was contracted to stir up rebellion in Kabul.”
Harlan must have been one crazy American to venture here some 170 years ago, though he was honored with the title “Prince of Ghor,” a title that his descendents now inherit. Kipling’s book was made into a film starring Sean Connery.
At over 2,280 meters above sea level (nearly 7,480 feet), the capital city of Chaghcharan has no factories, few cars or motorbikes, and air that is fresh and dry (and thin). Yet these are the lowlands. For about six months out of the year, the mountains around us could just as well be blanketed under a hundred miles of snow. When the snows arrive in about November, the place is socked in. The nearest paved road is about 380km (236 miles) away at Herat. Tens of thousands of people in the surrounding mountains and in this lowland are cut off from the world. There is nowhere to go but here. None of the Afghans have internet access, but there are cell phones. Even the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), run by the Lithuanians, becomes isolated other than by virtue of the gravel airstrip. They sometimes go several weeks without a flight. The place might as well be a spaceship, isolated first by the snows, then by the floods from the melting. This is a common story in Afghanistan.
This Swedish flight began in Kabul, flew to Kandahar, then dropped off passengers here in Chaghcharan and flew away. One UN helicopter was parked at the airstrip. Landing at this altitude on an icy gravel strip must be pretty exciting for the pilots. Due to the weather, sometimes no flights arrive for weeks at a time. It would cost about $14m U.S. to build a proper little airport, but this would be the first big step in opening this place to construction.
There is not a single Afghan soldier in Ghor Province, and not one inch of paved road. As mentioned, the nearest paved road is about 380km toward Herat, or about the same to Kabul. Both are rough trips even during good weather. There are tribal frictions, banditry, and treacherous passes. One officer told me that it would cost about a million dollars per kilometer to build a paved road from Kabul through Chaghcharan and on to Herat. The cost would be nearly $800m U.S.
Chaghcharan is so far out that it might hardly seem worthy of our efforts to be here while we are critically short on troops.
And so why did Lt. Varna send me this message?
“Since 2005, this has been the most important mission for the Lithuanian Armed Forces, as Lithuania has been entrusted with an independent command of the province as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).”
That’s an interesting question; countless easily accessible places are in equal need of humanitarian assistance. More on that later.
The base itself is an international potpourri with soldiers and civilians from Croatia, Denmark, Georgia, Japan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Romania, the USA, and probably a few more countries. And today there are Italian pilots whose helicopter is having difficulty. From above, this base is just a sesame seed on the body of Afghanistan, but down here it’s a little Starship Enterprise. When I met the Lithuanian base commander, Colonel Alvydas Siuparis, I wanted to call him Captain Kirk, but he’s pretty big so I didn’t push my luck.
Amazingly, despite all the languages spoken on base and off, the people seem to communicate well enough. English is the lingua franca but anything will do. Lt. Varna was speaking Russian on the cell phone, and so I asked why he wasn’t using English or Lithuanian. Lt. Varna was talking with an Afghan, many of whom speak Russian. Often, when two people meet, the first question will be something like, “Which language?” They rattle off which languages they speak in hopes of a match-up. The base for the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) should more accurately be called “Starship Babylon.” And the term PRT, though accurate in Iraq, should be changed to “PCT” (Provincial COnstruction Team) in Afghanistan. The Provincial REconstruction Teams in Iraq are far different. The term “reconstruction” in Iraq is generally correct, but it’s usually a misnomer in Afghanistan and confuses people at home by implying there was something here to reconstruct.
One certainty: the approximately two hundred people here at the PRT, led by the Lithuanians, are serious about making their imprint and pulling this place another meter forward. Ghor is austere and the PRT is tiny, so nobody is jumping for joy to be here, but it’s clear by the way they keep their gear and go about their business that they are serious about completing the mission, despite that it’s truly not fun.
Monday, some Lithuanians wanted to visit a local television station. And so we set off down the dusty road out of the PRT, by a tiny refuge settlement on the right. The Lithuanian mission was being led by Major Tomaj Madzar, a Croatian soldier, which was good for me because it meant the mission would be in English since he doesn’t speak Lithuanian. Major Madzar said the refugee camp sprouted up after some tribal fighting. It was a sorry shambles of raggedy tents flopping in the warm breeze.
On our left was the Hari River where people were washing a few vans, and maybe a hundred sheep were drinking while the shepherd waited about. The Hari River also passes by the giant “Jam Miniret” in Ghor, which is 65 meters tall. Nobody knows exactly who built it or why, but some think it might be about 800 years old, and there is said to be a Jewish cemetery nearby. Lithuanian archaeologists working in Ghor more recently discovered human artifacts that might be thousands of years old, and also ancient Buddhist sites of unknown age.
After taking a left and crossing a small bridge made of bricks and stone (which I was told had been paid for by USAID), we drove down the main street of Chaghcharan.
Chaghcharan, capital city of Ghor Province, is home to about 15,000 people, mostly Dari-speaking Tajiks, and is roughly the halfway point between Kabul and Herat.
It would not have been surprising to see Fred and Wilma Flintstone roll by. I watched for men wearing tennis shoes. The Taliban and associated enemies often wear tennis shoes that fit. Pretty much everyone else either goes barefoot, wears sandals, or wears shoes that don’t fit. Luckily, here, the Tajiks tend to hate the Taliban, but some do join the fighting elsewhere, and it was possible that some might be home on leave.
Watch the shoes.
We arrived at the television station and were greeted by the “chief,” Mohammad Jan Kendewalli, a Chaghcharan native and Dari speaker. So the meeting would be between an Afghan, a Lithuanian, a Croatian, and me, but luckily we had the Afghan interpreter named Feisal. The soldiers presented a needed computer to Kendewalli’s staff while we began the long meeting.
I do not vouch for the veracity of Kendewalli’s words, other than to say that he warned me, very politely, to be accurate. If his words were accurate, thus is the following account:
Kendewalli said that the Indian government had formed an agreement with the Afghan government to set up a national television broadcasting system throughout the provinces. This station, to serve Ghor Province, was set up one year later in 2007. June 30 will mark its second anniversary. The Indian government donated an antenna, 30kw generator, 100kw transmitter and other associated gear such as cameras. [This television business must cause concern for Pakistan.] The 32 batteries powering the UPS have stopped working and he cannot afford the $600 needed for replacements, but the system still mostly works. Kendewalli seemed perturbed that Indian government did not build the studio he said they promised.
Kendewalli said the transmitter will reach a 30km radius, 25-30 thousand people, and that most families have a small television. Kabul wants him to broadcast for eight hours per night, which he says is impossible because there is fuel for only four hours, and besides that, the electricity in Chaghcharan works only for five hours per night, so how could the people watch eight hours of television?
This is the only channel in Ghor Province, but many languages are spoken here, so I asked about the languages that are used to broadcast. Kendewalli answered that he broadcasts in Turkoman, Pashai, Balochi and some Hindi. But the primary languages in Ghor are Pashto and Dari. Most broadcasting is in Dari, and after that Pashto.
I asked how much broadcasting is generated by his station, and how much is piped in from Kabul. Kendewalli said he transmits 1.5 hours of local coverage, and the other 2.5 comes from Kabul, but Kabul wants all four hours of the transmission time. Kendewalli said his entire budget is only $1,000 per month and he needs $2,600 just for fuel. Fuel was a touchy subject with the chief, and he went on for several minutes.
Croation Major Tomaj Madzar presents an award from the Lithuanian PRT commander to the Afghan television chief while an American makes a photo. Small Lithuanian and Afghan flags were on Kendewalli’s desk. The chief expressed thanks to the PRT, and to the Lithuanians.
Changing the subject, I asked if there were any radio stations, newspapers or other forms of media. Kendewalli said there was no radio (Lt. Varna said there is a private station), but there were about six newspapers. None are dailies, but there are weeklies, bi-weeklies, and monthlies. Kendewalli said most can’t read anyway, and so the way to reach them is through his station. Kendewalli said that the people can never understand democracy unless someone explains democracy. “If they are not educated, they are asleep,” he said.
After maybe an hour of learning about the dramas of being the only television station in Ghor Province, I asked if there was anything specific that he wanted to get out to a broader audience. Kendewalli’s answer was as succinct as it was unambiguous: “I need fuel.”
From here out, the conversation was all over the map. Kendewalli wanted to keep talking about the people. He walked up to a giant poster on the wall, depicting landscape that was literally right outside his front door. He pointed to the snow-covered peaks and pointed out villages that were invisible on the poster, saying those villages and many others are snowed in for about six months each year. He said the people actually stayed up there through the winter, which was incredible to even consider. They must be like Eskimos. They have no schools, no clinics, no nothing. They can’t even come down to Chaghcharan, which also is trapped. He said that the better-off families might have 1-2 cows or 5-10 sheep. And they stay up there, isolated for months at a time.
I asked about the temperatures. The television chief answered that in 2006, the temperature once reached -42ºC (about -44ºF) right here in Chaghcharan, which is in the valley. He saw the looks of disbelief on our faces, and repeated, saying it was true. He said that for a very, very short period, the temperature surely reached -42ºC, and that was the coldest he’d ever seen in the town. From there he spontaneously said that he had noticed the climate change over the past 25-30 years and that it’s getting warmer.
Kendewalli said the primary problems in Ghor Province are the following:
1) Lack of education
He said the men go to Iran and Pakistan for money, or down south to harvest the opium and fight the Coalition. But, I protested, don’t the Tajiks hate the Talibs? Yes, he answered, but they need the money.
Lithuanian soldier outside the television office.
“How much do they earn for fighting?” I asked.
Kendewalli said they get clothes and food, a Kalashnikov and a little money. I asked how much money and he laughed, saying it depends on their job and how they do. If they kill soldiers they earn more. He reiterated that they hate the Taliban but need the money, so they go off to fight and harvest opium and then come home. He said the fight in Helmand has nothing to do with the opium, and that the British came back for uranium. He said that Afghanistan is very rich in resources, and global powers constantly come to fight but they always lie.
Despite his direct words, throughout the talk he seemed genuinely friendly. He was not complaining, as I saw it, but merely answering my questions.
I asked about his education. Kendewalli said he graduated from high school in Chaghacharan, then studied teaching one year in Herat, but quit school because his family was poor. So he returned to Chaghacharan and taught “all subjects.”
He seemed genuinely happy with the help from the PRT, but said the United States is wasting all that money fighting down south, and that construction here was too slow. And Kendewalli warned me several more times to say exactly what he said.
And that was it. The Lithuanians bought a goat and loaded into an SUV, and we headed back to base while I watched for men wearing tennis shoes.
That night, under the bright moon, I put the camera on a sandbag and clicked the shutter.
The rest of the articles:
Beautiful work, insight reporting by Michael Yong
I found this article as interesting!
Sangow Bar Village (few kids etc images are not loaded)
16 July 2009
Ghor Province, Afghanistan
On a per capita basis, Afghanistan is becoming more dangerous for British and American troops than Iraq ever was. For those who fought in places like Anbar, Basra, Baghdad, Diyala and Nineveh, that’s saying a whole lot. On a per capita basis, there are strong indications that Afghanistan will prove more deadly than Iraq during 2006-2007. One can only imagine how many days and nights Secretary Robert Gates and his advisors must have agonized over troop levels here. On the one hand, we have a fraction of the troops we need, but on the other, increasing troop levels increases hostility toward us. Secretary Gates has made it clear to me that his biggest concern is that we will lose the goodwill of the people and they will turn against us. This happens to be my own biggest concern. The agony is in knowing we need more medicine and the medicine can be highly toxic here. Many people have complained that the new restrictions on air strikes will hurt us, but from my boots, General McChrystal (the new boss here) has fulfilled the intent of his boss, and that the decision, though tough, was wise; if we lose the widespread assent of the Afghan people, it’s all over but for the bleeding.
Today our chances are not good, but there remains a real chance to succeed. Those chances improve dramatically when we take a no-kidding inventory of the situation and refine our goals to align with reality.
While war ravages neighboring narco-provinces, sluggish progress is being made in others. Here in Ghor Province, the Japanese, Lithuanians, and a host of other nations have teamed up in this remote area of Afghanistan.So one morning the Lithuanians loaded up a patrol and headed out West, in the direction of Herat, and took along four Japanese who are involved in the oversight of spending $2 billion of Japanese money in Afghanistan. Both the Japanese and the Lithuanians exude a sense of purpose; everybody seems to wish they were elsewhere but the mission is important.
We started from the Chaghcharan Provincial “Re”construction Team (PRT); the first step in revealing truth with no mercy about Afghanistan is to call things what they are. There is not a single “Reconstruction” team in Afghanistan. The place was never constructed. Just why the faulty name “reconstruction” was picked is unclear, though it would be fair to guess that political expedience is the culprit. Peoples of developed nations might be more likely to “re” build something they are made to believe they destroyed. The governments can call these PRTs, but henceforth this writer will call them Provincial Construction Teams, or PCTs.
So we loaded up the trucks and headed out West from the PCT. Some readers might recall the last dispatch, wherein we accidentally found Lizard Hole (Karbasha) Village up in the mountains while searching for Kuchi nomads. Today we were heading to Sangow Bar Village. The satellite imagery shows no paved roads because the closest, the “ring road,” is about 175 miles away if you are flying, and much farther if you are on a camel or driving. And so it might seem that we are in the middle of nowhere because by most developed standards we are. If visitors from other galaxies land in this largely Stone-Age place, they can expect to be greeted by small-arms fire and RPGs. Though various star-watching peoples are known to have lived here for many thousands of years (including Buddhists, Jews, and invaders of all sorts), there were not a lot of road builders.It’s worth a moment of silent reflection to look at the image above and ponder this: though the area appears extremely desolate and remote, there is hardly a fold or wrinkle in the land where you can walk or drive that you will not run across someone. There are areas where few people venture, such as the “Desert of Death” down south, but it seems that as a rule Afghans diffuse into the available volume as if they have a partial pressure. Independence is a key personality trait; if they had a meter of road for every meter of wall they build, the major communities likely all would be connected. Out in the boonies, just when you think you are at the end of the world and nobody could possibly be there, you find a shepherd, or some bearded guy cutting grass with a daas (a long crescent-shaped knife) for his livestock. The people pick over this arid land like ants. Afghan life in the hinterlands is like an eternal camping trip. By their calendar, the year is 1387, but it seems like it could be thousands of years earlier. Young American soldiers who served in Iraq learned about our own country. Often, soldiers would say things like, “Why can’t the Iraqis just get along? They keep themselves down, dragging fights around forever. They fight over stupidness!” Nobody had to fill in the blanks. The reflection was healthy for us.
We rolled into the village of Sangow Bar and were greeted with quiet acceptance. Ghor Province is touted as being poppy-free, and indeed it’s nothing like the rolling hills of Urozgan, the fields of Kandahar, or the mega-producers in Helmand, where I’ve seen miles of poppy growing along the roads and just near bases. This tiny patch, about the size of a walk-in closet, was for personal use.
The village of Sangow Bar was dark. It had no electricity until 2006 when Lithuanians invested about $40,000 to build this micro-hydro generator with the idea of watching the village to see if true improvement was made. Today, Sangow Bar has plenty of electricity and the people have lights and satellite television, yet despite that opportunity, nobody seems to watch Oprah. The old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it watch Oprah,” is an unfortunate reality in many parts of Afghanistan.
Please click the image above for a larger view.
Today, Sangow Bar has surplus electricity, so a Japanese asked why the power lines did not cross the river to the dwellings on the other side. The village headman said the people on the other side of the Hari River had refused to help build the micro-hydro, so today they get no juice. The Lithuanians have determined that the project was a success, and the project appeared to be a success to the Japanese and to me.
With this success in mind, the Lithuanians together with Iceland decided to build thirty more hydro-generation stations. Now, if we look at this in context of the broader picture, thirty, three hundred, or even three thousand might seem like an irrelevant number. But it’s not.
During my eight trips to Nepal, and my training with Ghurkas in Borneo who had served in Afghanistan, the Ghurkas have educated me in “Gobar Gas,” and they wonder why Afghans do not use Gobar Gas. Gobar Gas is a simple, cheap, and very ecologically friendly way to collect methane from human and animal waste, and that methane is then used for heating, lighting, and cooking. The system improves sanitation, and the by-products make great fertilizer. And so one Ghurka soldier who had served in Afghanistan insisted that I learn the five virtues of Gobar Gas, and that I be able to name them offhand.
Gobar Gas systems cost only a couple hundred bucks each, and any villager can operate and repair the system. Today I see Gobar Gas all over Nepal, but the older Ghurka soldiers will say that when they were kids, Gobar Gas was practically nonexistent in Nepal. But some far-thinking Westerners came in and installed some systems here and there, and the Nepalese people saw the incredible value, then ran with it. If you go trekking into the villages in Nepal, you might ask villagers to see their Gobar Gas system, and before you know it you’ll have the grand tour because they are quite proud of these excellent little contraptions. And it started with seeds.
And so the Lithuanians and their thirty generators will likely spark more than a few light bulbs. We and our allies cannot construct Afghanistan, but we certainly can nudge this caravan in a better direction.
Americans implored the Japanese to get more serious about Afghanistan, but it was the Lithuanians who actually petitioned the Japanese to come out here to Ghor Province. The match is working well; the Lithuanians provide support, such as security and some investment, but when it comes to capital, the Japanese have the big guns.
Hisako Ishizaki is a First Secretary from the Japanese Embassy. She has worked, studied and traveled around the world, including in Mindanao in the Philippines, where I just left. While Hisako stayed involved in the discussions about the hydro-plant, she wasted no time in sitting down and teaching this child to write a few characters.
Ambassador in UN Affairs, Shigeyuki Hiroki, is the key man when it comes to the investment of the $2 billion Japan has so far pledged. Mr. Hiroki told me that $1.8 billion is already invested, and that the final $200 million is not the end of the road here for Japan. Ambassador Hiroki told me that Japan would be involved for 10, 20 or 30 years. Mr. Hiroki has been one of the most realistic officials I’ve spoken with from any country, though the Lithuanian Commander of the Provincial Construction Team, Colonel Alvydas Siuparis, also is under no illusions. Nor are Secretary Gates or General Petraeus under any illusions and they speak frankly. It would seem that our greatest asset today is the small but strong and growing nucleus of people who understand the magnitude of the problems, but still believe in the endeavor.
That said, the Japanese time frame is more realistic than I hear coming from most American, British, or other officials.
Hisako prepares to cross the sluice, followed by Counselor Hiroyuki Orikasa and First Secretary Jiro Kanzawa, while the Lithuanians, whose names I am not permitted to publish (photos are permitted), stay vigilant. Luckily, the only danger here seems to be the sluice.
The Japanese who have landed out here have enormous collective global experience. Hisako, for instance, speaks Dari fluently after having lived in Iran. She studied in Costa Rica, the Philippines, and has traveled extensively from Tajikistan to the United States. This is true of the entire Japanese team, including Chihiro Imai who has worked and traveled extensively in the most bizarre corners of Africa and South America, visiting about twenty-five countries. Hisako and Chihiro have both been to India, and both women laughed when I said that I go to war to take a vacation from India.
Unfortunately, the deteriorating security situation is causing the Japanese to dramatically cut their staff in Afghanistan. It would seem that U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates agrees that Japan is cutting back right when we need them most, though he has publicly praised the Japanese commitment and urged them to stay involved. It is important that the Japanese stay heavily involved and not decrease but redouble their efforts.
[IMG]Unfortunately, these kids had already been taught the benefits of begging and this analogy extends directly to their parents. In Afghanistan, like Iraq, when we invest resources into installing a diesel generator for a neighborhood, the people will complain that we don’t supply the fuel. When the Indians paid for local broadcasting equipment in Chaghcharan, the station manager complained that the Indians didn’t make a new office, and there is often a tone that we need something or “give us or we will misbehave.” “Trick or Treat” was a common theme in Iraq and is so here, too. Many children in Chaghcharan beg, but unlike the kids in this village of Sangow Bar, kids in Chaghcharan often throw stones at the vehicles if the soldiers refuse to play Santa Claus. Many of the Lithuanian vehicles have spider-webbed windows and windshields.[/IMG]
There was a time when some Iraqis began to revel in the attention, and they seemed to lose context that one day the war would end—for us anyway—and that attention would evaporate. One sees the same in Afghanistan. Prosperous nations are trying to psychoanalyze Afghan behavior, and some Afghans revel in this newfound influence, but what many apparently do not understand is that this storm is apt to end as quickly as it began. For this very reason, many Iraqis are filled with nervous anxiety that the Americans are packing out. Influence at local levels in Iraq had diminished precipitously by 2008, and it’s only a matter of time until local mayors and governors in Iraq have no open line to American upper echelons. Business will be conducted at national level. Gone are the days when the mayors of small cities like Tal Afar could get the attention of Generals and even the President of the United States. The world is big, and there are tens of thousands of “Tal Afars” out there. The curtain opened and now it’s closed in most of Iraq.
Interestingly, Iraqi contractors are following the money and popping up in Afghanistan.Other Afghans are more circumspect, seeing themselves in larger context, realizing that aid can be a fickle blessing and is not an obligation, and that we all know we owe nothing to Afghanistan. We are not paying off a debt and there are other ways for us to protect our self-interests. Many NATO partners, and other partners with big pockets, are here for larger political considerations that have little to do with Afghanistan per se.Dr. Yaqubi, Director of Ghor Provincial Hospital, has a clearer perspective of the situation, and in fact returned earlier this year from a conference in India. Dr. Yaqubi said his hospital goes six months out of every year with no running water, and when he does have water, it’s unfiltered and unpurified. The cleaning men fetch water from the Hari River during six months of the year, but in the summer they have a reservoir, and get water from the nearby girls’ school, whose own director is upset that the hospital uses their water. (A bright spot in Chaghcharan is that the locals want girls to go to school, and many children are learning English.) During the wet times, the hospital floods, causing the septic system to overflow.
The hospital has ten General Practitioners, three specialists, an anesthetist nurse, two X-Ray machines—one of which works—and an ultrasound machine. They have no female doctors and the male doctors are not allowed to deliver babies other than by Cesarean. During delivery, women are on their own with the midwives, and the male doctors are not permitted to treat “female problems.”
Dr. Yaqubi said he did eight Cesareans in last three months with no complications, and that during the last 90 surgeries had only two deaths, and that complications usually occur because people wait too long to seek treatment. The average post-op stay is four days.
No NGOs offer assistance at the hospital, according to Dr. Yaqubi. There is room for 85 patients, and the Lithuanians donated two tents, adding twelve more beds, but those tents are used for storage. I sat on one of the beds and tried to imagine being a patient here. There is no exaggeration in saying that Americans probably had better medical care during the time of our Civil War. The dusty hospital with its buzzing flies is a living museum of unplanned misery, and I heard the cries of babies wafting through nearby open windows. Bedraggled women sat with pitiful-looking children, waiting on steps into the hospital. Dr. Yaqubi said that if there were two shipping containers for storage, the tents would offer a dozen more beds.
Dr. Yaqubi wants to show people that health care is not free, but he says that the parliament in Kabul thinks it should free to all. The Afghan government can’t even drill a well for this provincial hospital, and all their machines and supplies were probably donated, yet they want “free” healthcare. The beggars of Kabul who refuse to drill a well for the Ghor Provincial Hospital want free health care for all!
I told Dr. Yaqubi that the same argument is raging in America, and I asked the Lithuanian doctor sitting beside me if this is an issue in Lithuania. She confirmed that it is. Dr. Yaqubi said that if treatment is completely free, the hospital would be overwhelmed. With about 750,000 people in Ghor Province, they’ve got 85 dirty beds here, and two smaller clinics elsewhere. Free health care? How about steady electricity to run the X-ray machine?
During winter, most patients cannot journey to the hospital no matter what the case. If a baby is burned during a cooking accident, there is no chance to make it to the cold hospital. If people become too sick they just die and are buried in the icy ground next to the village. Five years ago, Dr. Yaqubi recounted spending five months in the remote district of his birth, administering aid to the people stranded by the snows. He conducted more than 150 surgeries, including ten Cesareans, saying that was the first time the locals ever saw such a thing. Usually the women just die if there are any complications, and he said nine women died that winter. “The woman thinks she is going to die, so she does,” he said.
According to their calendar, the year is 1387, and New Year’s Day this year was 21 March. During the year 1386, the main hospital raised the equivalent of $8,447 in fees from patients, according to Dr. Yaqubi.
Every village has a Mullah. The less primitive Mullahs realize that modern medicine—more or less—can actually work, while other Mullahs, through ignorance or power-wielding, claim monopoly on healing rights, and forbid or discourage people from seeing doctors.Let’s grab a napkin and do some coffee table math. According to the CIA World Factbook estimate, the population of Afghanistan, as of July 2009, is 33,609,937. Just how the CIA arrives at such a precise number but can’t find in Iraq the WMD that certainly existed at one time, must leave the math-whizzes rolling on the floor. For the sake of humoring the CIA, let’s round to the more napkin-friendly number of 34 million. The CIA World “Guessbook” opines that about 24% of the people are urbanized. This leaves 76% in the sticks. Sticks and mountains. And deserts. So that’s about 26 million people in the boonies. Afghanistan is geographically slightly smaller than Texas, the people are 99% Muslim, and the place is home to some of the most forbidding mountains in the world. Deep Appalachia has nothing on Afghanistan.
There is no estimate for the average size of Afghan villages in the CIA Guessbook. My big guess from seeing villages in various provinces and many districts is the average community probably consists of less than a hundred people. Former USMC officer Tim Lynch has lived here more than four years, and estimates the average village might have sixty people. For the sake of coffee table math, let’s say the villages in micro-communities are home to some 26 million, and have about 100 people each. That would leave 260,000 villages, plus the 8 million people who live in cities and towns.
Those 260,000 villages are spread out in some of the wildest country you can dream of. Now imagine putting one schoolroom and one teacher in every village to teach all kids through all ages. According to the Guessbook, about 28% of the people are “literate”; that’s about 43% of the men and 13% of the women. The hand that rocks the cradle can’t read, and the fact is that the Guessbook has no idea how many people can read because in all the years of war, most villages are never visited.
When Shigeyuki Hiroki, Japanese Ambassador in UN Affairs, walks through villages inspecting projects, it’s doubtful that anyone around understands the gravity of his recommendations on how to spend that $2 billion. Unfortunately, due to the increasing violence, the Japanese are thinning their staff in Afghanistan. The Afghans must realize that they are facing competition for Japanese assistance. Other places, such as Cambodia, are not dangerous for Japanese aid workers.
Lithuania and the U.S. teamed up to build a training center in Chaghcharan, which a local authority then tried to take as his residence.These children likely will learn to read because they live in Chaghcharan. In fact, I think this girl was in a nearby school I visited. The Lithuanians, Croatians, Ukrainians and others have been helping with schools and supplies. Many of the kids in Chaghcharan are learning to speak English.
The Lithuanian-run Provincial Construction Team (PCT) at Chaghcharan.
There are still legacy mines near the airstrip next to the PCT, and just a few days ago a mine was found and detonated just a meter off of the main road into the camp. Wounds from legacy mines here are relatively uncommon, though. Dr. Yaqubi said that only about one person per month steps on one.
[IMG]Despite the remoteness of Ghor, the Lithuanian, Croatian and Ukrainian soldiers seem to take pride and joy in their work. The journey is long, but progress in this little patch of Afghanistan is obvious.[/IMG]
Ahem, first Lithuanian solid fuel rocket GTI-1, made by Kaunas Technology University, Institute of Defence technologies.
For experimental purposes only..so far. Tested today.
10km range, 5km trajectory height 426m/s speed
To be developed and used piratically.
Yea, looks like Kassaam
I would like to see more tactics together with shooting.
How to stop or slow down moving targets (ex. antitank mines, explosive charges, obstacles) in order to get better aiming conditions?
How to use terrain in order to get frontal cover from enemy fire?
Cheers for the scientists. They say they are ready to make military versions of the rocket! Btw can anyone approve the information about the new APC's/IFV's I found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithuanian_army_equipment ?
Yea, they'd wish, but with no funding or clear idea what kind of missiles do they want to make (Grads most likely or unguided missiles for L-39s), it's only a bunch of talking. We are not Israel.
This information is also a wish-list. There's no money to keep the current status, pay for the current procurements, not to talk about the new ones.Btw can anyone approve the information about the new APC's/IFV's I found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithuanian_army_equipment ?
Yes, the plan was from the next year or so to have that number of APCs/IFVs and the most likely contester was Patria AMV. However due to the financial crisis, budget cuts etc this procurement is and will be delayed for unknown number of years. Unless the miracle happens, I would not count on new armour not at least till 2013.
Ahh that's bad. Did they decide what versions they need?