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Welcome to Mizan!

By Michael Fumento

FOB Lagman administers four other, smaller FOBs. Mizan is one of them. I wanted to come to this one because so far this year it's the only one that's gotten in a fight with the Taliban -- although that will change as more of the bad guys start coming over the mountain passes. It's about a 20-minute helo ride from Lagman; isolated in a sense but not really.

NATO-operated Russian Mi-8 transport helo over. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
It's not as Spartan here as I was originally led to believe. I was told in Kandahar they may not even have electricity and to juice up everything electronic I have before coming. Did but they have 120 here to spare. (Volts, that is.)

It's true that for a month they had no internet connection because lightning fried an antenna, but a techie came on the same helo I did and got it back up. Now he's my roommate until he can catch a flight out.

They have showers from water pumped in from a well dug two months ago, although it may dry up in a few months as the dry season continues and the water table drops. And -- woohoo! -- the water is heated. Foodwise, I was expecting little more than MREs but they usually have hot chow. It was pretty bad tonight, but I'm told that's by no means always the case.

My quarters are somewhat lacking in that they're a room that's really part of a hallway. So men tromp through constantly during the day and evening but when it's time for beddy bye they've pretty much stopped. Bathroom facilities are crude, as would be expected, but no big deal. You urinate into tubes dug into the ground and you do Number Two in an outhouse. The feces is then burned daily by some Afghans that were recently brought in.

Zabul mountains viewed from back of a Chinook helo. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
What's truly impressive is how well protected this place is. I had no idea. Hesco barriers, sandbags, and concertina wire everywhere. Lots of Humvees with .50 cals and Mark-19 automatic grenade launchers and several mortar tubes of various sizes and ranges -- but range enough to be sure. We're in a valley here, which would be a real disadvantage if the enemy had artillery.

That's the mistake the French made when fighting the Viet Minh. They built Dien Bien Phu in a valley, thinking the enemy couldn't bring artillery tubes up the sides of the mountain. Wrong! War over.

But the Taliban have nothing heavier than small mortars and RPGs that theoretically might reach the camp but are far beyond aiming range and in any case this place is well protected against incoming fire. I'm told the camp, which was begun by the 173rd Airborne, is far better than just a few months ago and I believe it. They're building here all day long.

View of mountain range surround FOB Mizan with Blackhawk in background. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
From the description I received at Lagman I got the idea this place might be susceptible to a sustained Taliban attack. Not a chance. The Taliban wouldn't even try. They keep to their hidden or semi-hidden paths and to the nearby town, and patrols from Mizan have to go out to try to nab them because they just aren't coming here.

I spent some time with the Afghans here, beginning when I was watching them burn the feces. That's always a great way to meet people. They invited me to their very nice quarters for some Chai tea. One spoke English passably well but another was an interpreter who came here from his home in California. He was, however, born in Afghanistan. They taught me some words in Pashtun and we discussed the war.

This RPG at Mizan exploded on firing, killing the operator. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
Like the Americans I've talked to here, they're upbeat on winning but realize victory is far off. You hear the same basic line from everybody, American or Afghan. We need to keep killing Taliban and keep building up the economy.

Pakistan will almost certainly continue to provide safe haven for the foreign Taliban. (By the way, one Taliban is a "Talib;" "Taliban" is the plural form.)

But to the extent the economy provides good-paying jobs to the locals they will be able to resist being paid to fight the coalition forces. The Taliban will probably always be able to offer tempting payments to fire at Coalition forces, but not necessarily enough to make it worth a Pashtun's life.

Chinook over Mizan. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click image for larger view.
You get the idea that the local Pashtun are not particularly ideologically motivated to support the Taliban but I'll learn more about this soon. One way or another, they're going to enforce strict Islamic law or what they believe to be Islamic law. But that doesn't mean whipping men who don't grow beards or necessarily covering women with burkas -- although some of the women actually prefer to dress that way.

This is a truncated blog and I'll have more to write about Mizan; but I've got a computer ace now and am going to take advantage of it.

Later today I go into town and meet the locals. Should get some good stuff and pics.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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April 22, 2007 11:01 AM  ·  Afghanistan ~ Military