Live from Iraq

By Stewart Nusbaumer

Surviving in Mosul Stuggling to survive after a horrific explosion.

Street Without Joy
Will Bush’s surge secure Baghdad’s bloodiest block?

Good Morning, al-Adhamiya
In one of Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhoods.

Squiring Out Of Baghdad
Is the surge ending or dispersing the insurgency?

With PTT in Heet
A Marine unit training and equipping the Iraq Police.

Embed in Trouble
What is a journalist to do with attacked by a U.S. Army biggie? Go to the bigger?

Four Days in Dulab
In a small, dangerous town in the most violent province in Iraq.


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  Dispatch: The Morning the Apple Exploded

An inside view of an Afghanistan beginning to explode.
By Stewart Nusbaumer

Read Stewart's first dispatch from Afghanistan, actually on his way to Afghanistan: On the Road to Kabul.

Kabul, Afghanistan -- "I told you so, I told you a bomb would go off" the French banker says excitedly. The French are an excitable people, especially when bombs go off.

"Bruno, everyone has been saying a bomb would go off," I reply, while reaching for the mashed potatoes.

"But Bruno said a bomb would go off today!" an Irishman interjects, and then rips into his spare ribs.

"No, I said the bomb would go off this morning," Bruno says with a beaming face.

"Did I miss the lottery?" Abel a Guatemalan accountant asks.

"That's funny," an American documentary filmmaker says. His favorite phrase, "That's funny," is quite funny since Afghanistan is one of the poorest and most violent countries on this poor and violent planet, and therefore one of the most unfunny.

It is dinner time at the La Monde guesthouse in Kabul, home to a concoction of foreign NGO personnel and profit leeches and lost souls pimping themselves as journalists all of them plopped into a battlefield country that is heating up fast. Outside Le Monde's high walls is the danger of kidnapping and the medieval art of beheading and who knows what nasty threats, so we hunker down behind the walls and inside whiskey bottles, often blabbering about women in bikinis. It's this miserable quarantined existence that has made dinner our high point of the day, and our Australian chef a deity. It is rumored that the man can walk on his soups.

To give you a hint of how perverse life is here, last weekend the younger French banker returned from the outside world with the startling news there is a club in Kabul that is "loaded with women." "What percentage are women?" the Mexican immediately drooled. "Oh, I say maybe 20 percent." Only in Kabul where local ladies are hogtied in Muslim closets and Western women are rarer than a hot tamale in Germany is four males to one female consider excitement for males. This place can made Saudi Arabia look sexy.

On one side of the long dining room table are an Irishman and a German who install security systems, only two days ago they arrived from Iraq to work on the Norwegian Embassy here. They offered no encouragement about the social life in Iraq. There are two French bankers who distribute micro-loans to Afghan farmers, and there is an Internet Journalist, me, slapping a humongous pile of mashed potatoes on his plate, and his shirt.

On the other side of the table is the American documentary film maker who's working on a project about Afghanistan drugs and a US soldier's death. There is a Mexican writing a report for a NGO -- he is rumored to have a half-dozen passports, "just in case" -- and there is a lanky Texan working for an American security firm. Actually, he is working to insure the grass in our garden remains free of enemy weeds -- even in the middle of the night. The Australian chef, who whips up our scrumptious meals, bounces in and out, eventually settling in a chair, waiting to hear our roaring endorsement of his latest masterpiece.

After the roaring endorsement, tonight we are skipping the bikini-clad women and how great the grass looks in the garden; tonight the discussion is about the bombing.

In Kabul on the Jalalabad Road, where there are several US and NATO military bases, a car detonated after just passing a military convoy that was headed in the opposite direction. Three people were killed and twenty-six were wounded, all Afghans.

The thinking at the table goes like this. The bomber was a total screw up and fumbled with the mechanism while passing the convoy, so he missed his target. An opposing view says he wasn't a suicide bomber at all, but was simply paid to deliver the car or maybe a package in the car while the bad guys detonated the explosives via remote control. A third view says the driver was stoned on opium since most drivers in Kabul are -- hey, this is the superpower of opium production. A fourth view says pass the spare ribs.

It's hard to know the truth when all that is left are a few body parts.

Kabul is a nervous city. There is no panic here, but people are getting nervous. It's as if the whole town is planted under one gigantic apple tree that has a ton of rotting apples. Everyone knows the apples are going to fall, but no one knows when. Well, except Bruno.

The rotting apples must drop because the Taliban is coming to Kabul and the Taliban really likes to shake the trees of civilization. It has something to do with God and country and admiring the 12th century, even in the 21st century. Whatever, we know the Taliban are real tree shakers.

1) Taliban Grows Stronger

The Taliban is growing more powerful and deadly. "34 die as Afghanistan fighting intensifies," reads an AP headline today. This one from UPI: "Fresh clash in Afghanistan kills 80." In the last month there has been a stream of reports conforming the Taliban is moving from strictly small unit attacks to medium attack forces of 100 or more fighters.

Ousted from power in 2001, the defeated Islamic fundamentals have used the intervening years to regroup and re-strategize their return to power. Presently focusing on their stronghold in the south of Afghanistan, where four provinces are largely under their control, the Taliban will soon be striking at the capital. Destabilizing Kabul is an essential part of their plan to regain control of the country.

2) Iraq the Teacher

The war in Iraq has been an excellent laboratory and the Taliban has been paying close attention. Suicide bombers have never been part of the Afghan war fighting strategy, which has been irregular and guerrilla warfare with shifting alliances, if not constantly shifting alliances. As the anti-government fighters in Iraq neutralized the government and stymied US forces, an important lesson was brought home to the Taliban: terror undermines the authority of a central government and this benefits the anti-government forces.

This does not mean that the Taliban with be as indiscriminate in their destruction as the Iraqi insurgents, it may very well concentrate mostly on military assets and personnel. But there is no doubt that there will be a bombing campaign to terrorize the populace and reduce the credibility of the Kabul government.

3) Counter-Strategy? Forget it!

The Europeans are assuming control of the military/reconstruction campaign in Afghanistan, promising to use the carrot of reconstruction more than the obtuse Americans who rely on the stick of smashing insurgents. But carrots have not been shown to halt crazed suicide bombers and gruesome attacks. NATO says the Afghan military will stop the crazies, yet there is a long history of local forces refusing to fight (at least effectively) when foreign troops are available to do the fighting.

The strategy to prohibit a spiraling increase in violence is the same old ideas that have failed for more than a half century. And the post-war analysis will blame the politicians, the media, and the public before it gets around to promising that next time the military will deploy this old strategy better. Sure.

Because of the growing strength of the Afghanistan Islamic radicals, because of the effectiveness of terror bombing in Iraq and elsewhere, because of the West’s inability to devise an effective strategy to counter these terror campaigns, the apples are about to come crashing down in Kabul. There is going to be lots of applesauce on the roads of Kabul. If there is ever a need for opium, it will be in the Kabul just that is headed our way.

Listen to Le Monde's esteemed Mexican economist, although severely intoxicated he can still mumble the truth:

"They're coming after us," Abel slurs as he struggles to rise from the dinner table. "I don't want them to get my tennis racket."

Several of us stumble from the dinning room to the living room, turning on the television to watch BBC, which is supposedly airing a report on the bombing. We are quiet and attentive because we know the report will be short. This is "the other war" and "other wars" merit only short media coverage. But that will change when it begins to rain apples.

"Tomorrow will be OK," Bruno reassures us. "But end of week, maybe Friday" -- he does not finish his sentence. There is no need.

Stewart Nusbaumer is now based in Kabul, Afghanistan. You can email Stewart at

Posted Tuesday, May 23, 2006


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  Live from Kabul

By Stewart Nusbaumer

On the Road to Kabul
Is Afghanistan progressing and becoming more stable -- or slipping back into civil war?

The Morning the Apple Exploded
An inside view of an Afghanistan beginning to explode, one apple at a time.

The Kabul Rumble
There are many dangers in Afghanistan, but one is seldom mentioned.

"Every Missile Was a Painkiller"
Afghanistan is an enigma wrapped in pain with a future that is anyone’s guess.

Kabul Erupts in Gunfire
A spark becomes a riot and Stewart is surrounded by gunfire.

Bombed in Afghanistan
With reality confusing and fear rising, illusions are manufactured as fast as drinks can be consumed.

Unfinished Business
Defeat in Iraq would be a humiliation, defeat in Afghanistan could be a real threat.

A Diffferent Fireworks
On the 4th of July in Kabul there was a different type of fireworks.

Where Did The Dough Go?
Billions have been donated for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, so where did the money go?

On The Edge
It's simple why we're not winning the hearts and minds of Afghans and nation-building is a diaster.


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By Stewart Nusbaumer


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Sexpots Galore
When sex merges with politics, the Big Dog authorities never win.




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