As the Executive director in charge of infrastructure of a large American company in the UAE and covering the Southern Middle East and Kabul, I have been privileged to visit some places where many others cannot go. One of these places which I visited was Kabul about 3 months back Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan, but not a secure and sanitised place as frequent attacks by Taliban and Al Qaeda take place here. Yet, the people are stoic about their fate and look for a day when Afghanistan will be at peace like it was during the time of King Zahir Shah about 5 decades back.

My Visa took some time and finally it arrived after 2 weeks  and I booked on Afghan Air to fly to Kabul. the company gave me a negro as bodyguard. He hailed from South Africa and was a Christian.The flight took about one hour and soon we were hovering to land at the airport. On landing, the first thing I noticed was number of military vehicles ringing the aircraft. There were men of the Afghan army all around, but I as an ex-service officer was not intimidated by all this. The customs was smooth and I came out. The airport is good but obviously not a patch on Dubai.

Me and the bodyguard came out and there was a man with a placard with my name waiting for us. We shook hands and he told us his name was Abdul and he would drive us around the city. He had another guard with a sub-machine gun along. We walked to a Hummer, a bullet proof vehicle arranged by my company. We drove to a private house for stay. The driver told us it was safer to stay in a private house, than at the hotel as it was frequently attacked by the Taliban. All this had been told to me by the company when I left.

I was in Kabul for 2 days and I got the impression that the Afghan government had a lot of support. I  had my local liaison officer from our company also with us.People also felt good about India and many asked me why the Indian army does not take over the peace keeping role after the US army withdrew. This was something new I heard.  Kabul has one shopping mall and it has a nice eating joint. I visited it and also our office. I examined the office and was satisfied.

Next afternoon, me and body-guard slipped out and decided to walk the streets of Kabul. We visited the old city and were struck by the narrow lanes, bustling with life. Reminded me about the old Amritsar.  People asked me who I was and when I said I was Indian from Dubai, they were mighty pleased.  A few women could be seen but in Burka and this shows that Afghanistan has as yet not come to terms with the future. I had lunch in one of the eateries in the lane and the waiter served excellent spicy chicken with a Afghan Naan that was 3 times the size available in India.

We returned after buying a few trinkets and on return the liaison officer  was livid. He wanted to know why we went without him and the guard. but after some time he was pacified as I told him that taking the gunman  along would be an invitation to attack us.

My impression of Kabul is that Pakistan is fomenting trouble through the Taliban and the people are not interested, but the situation is volatile and India must assert its presence there.

Two days  is a short time, yet i enjoyed my stay in Kabul. There was no trouble when I was there. it was reassuring to see American military vehicles moving about. I was told they have a big presence in Kabul. I will however like to visit Kabul again and maybe even go to Herat and Kandahar. That should be a great experience.

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