Bagram’s Creature Comforts (2010): On the eve of its closure, soldiers sing the praises of Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, a rare oasis of calm in a turbulent country.
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The Bagram Air Base is an American Oasis in the middle of the Afghan desert. Troops can shop, have a burger and even get a massage. But soon the mall will be shut down to make room for new troops.
The Kabul we know from the news is a dusty, broken cityscape. But just an hour’s drive north, 20 000 US soldiers bask in the creature comforts of the Bagram Air Base. Gaudy signs offer Burger King, Harley Davidson and Karaoke, and you could easily forget you’re in the middle of a war zone. “For a lot of people, this is a slice of home,” says Lieutenant Koczera, joining the long queue for Burger King. He’s grateful for the opportunity to get a souvenir for his loved ones, free from the constant fear of fire: ”going off the base is not the time to really shop.”
But with more American troops on the way, space is getting tight. The commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, has ordered the more indulgent services to close. Many of the 4,000 civilians from Russia, India, and Pakistan who work on the base face an uncertain future. ”They say if you are not Afghan, you are going to be closed,” says one. McChrystal wants his soldiers focused on the main game now more than ever. And whilst the soldiers here admit that the shops are a bonus, they know they’re here to fight, not to shop.
SBS Australia – Ref. 4766
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