Once More, Fear Stalks Kandahar
By Robert FIsk
Originally published November 20, 2008 in The Independent
Beside the vast American airbase 20 miles away, a Nato metropolis adjacent to the most Islamist city in Afghanistan, the "international" airport sits in a slough of despond, its chain-smoking Afghan soldiers scarcely bothering to carry out security procedures on passengers, its echoing, empty departure lounges adorned with crude advertisements for tourist agencies that no longer exist and for an Afghan army which disappears from the roads after 4pm every day. I stood beside the runway yesterday, watching the armada of US air fleets roaring into the pale blue wintry sky, Russian-built transports and high-flying US reconnaissance jets and Kiowa helicopters and the softly landing Predators and Raptors, the hi-tech, broad-winged pilotless spotters and killers. The Predators look for the targets. The Raptors fire Hellfire missiles – manufacturers, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. One Raptor returned with its missiles still locked to its wings. Was its mission aborted over Pakistan? Or Helmand?
Another took off. Two minutes later – I could still just see it – at 1,500 feet, US personnel at Tampa, Florida, would have taken over its flight path. It was 11.30 in the morning, a computer guiding its progress at 2am US Eastern Standard Time. Does the guiding hand on the other side of the world have any idea of the political direction in which this machine is flying? Or of the people it threatens.
Barack Obama wants to send 7,000 more American troops to this disaster zone. Does he have the slightest idea what is going on in Afghanistan? For if he did, he would send 7,000 doctors.