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After three embeds in Al Anbar, what was once the forgotten part of Iraq, it was time to visit the "Forgotten War." Afghanistan. A commercial flight brings me to Kuwait International Airport, then a short ride to Ali Al Salem Air Force Base (AFB), and the very next day a relatively comfortable C-17 cargo jet brings me to Bagram AFB in Afghanistan.
Andrew gets me signed up for the C-130 prop transport to Kandahar AFB, then we head over to the public affairs office (PAO) that all embeds need to report to, grab a quick breakfast, and within hours I'm in Kandahar with Andrew heading back to Kuwait to grab a plane for al Anbar. I'll probably run into him again in a few weeks.
Originally I was told my assignment was in Kandahar province, but it isn't. Rather it's in Zabul Province, a Taliban gateway between Pakistan and Kandahar. The name of the base camp is FOF Lagman, just outside Qalat. Here's an overview of Lagman. Zabul is on the Pakistani border and relatively small so all of it is near the mountain passes that the Taliban and Al Qaeda will be coming through. "With its sparse population, insecure border with Pakistan and little central authority, Zabul is a fertile ground for insurgents fighting against the current Afghan government," according to Wikipedia.
The Romanians are a professional bunch, and Romania is one of only five countries conducting combat operations here besides the Americans. Romanian is a romance language, but it's nonetheless alien to a speaker of French or Spanish. After awhile, though, I started picking out Italian words here and there. When I also slowly started to learn that all three men in the Humvee with me spoke some English they told me that Italian is indeed the closest language to their language. Inevitably they took the opportunity to inform me Romania is where the Romans fled when the western empire finally collapsed. I think that's mostly mythological, that most Romans probably stayed right in Italy. Still, Romania is a closer place to flee to than, say, Sweden, and the country's name does lend itself to the story.
And now a word from our sponsor. That's me. This trip and these blogs to help readers like you remember the forgotten war is paid for entirely out of my own pocket. To name just the three largest expenses, airfare to Kuwait was $1,200. War insurance to cover injuries by hostile action was $775, and there's not even any life insurance in that. A video camera replacement for the one destroyed in an irrigation canal in Ramadi, Iraq was $275. Hitting that PayPal or Amazon.com button at the bottom of this blog will help pay part of that plane ticket, perhaps a day's worth of war insurance, or piece of that video camera.