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Experiences of a Dutch Journalist




Afghanistan, 1-17 July 2008

I was lucky enough to be a guest of the Dutch army for more than two weeks. Goal was to report on the life of the soldiers in Afghanistan for Dutch national radio.


After collecting a helmet (3kg) and a shatterproof vest (15kg) at a stopover in the Middle East, I was off to Kandahar in the south of Afghanistan in a C17 airplane.


Unfortunately only the shortest leg of the trip (from Kandahar to Uruzgan) was in a luxurious Dash-7 with leather seats and airconditioning.


The only means of entertainment in Kamp Holland: a table-tennis table. Although facilities weren't that bad with two hot meals a day and the possibility for soldiers to phone home free of charge as often as they like.


Apart from a nice view on the mountains in the evening there's nothing much to see in Kamp Holland as it consists mostly of containers.


Every Sunday there's a bazar just outside the gate of Kamp Holland. Here, soldiers buy burka's and shawls for the home front.


I'm laughing, but fear what is coming: 35km through the desert in an armoured vehicle to get to Chora valley. The Taliban is known for placing Improvised Explosive Devices on the road. It has killed many soldiers and I can only hope my time hasn't come yet...


Passing through the so-called 'saddle'.


Amazing how quickly you get used to the threat. All I wanted was to sit on top of the armoured vehicle after a few minutes.


Arrival at Chora valley, which is suprisingly green and notorious for the largest Taliban offensive of 2007 in Afghanistan. In the so-called 'Battle of Chora' from June 15-19, one Dutch soldier, 16 Afghan soldiers and an unknown number of Taliban and civilians lost their lives.


Interviewing Adjutant Tonny on the current situation in Chora during a patrol in Ali Sherzai, the main village in the valley.


In the main street in Ali Sherzai most neccesaties of life are available.


The soldiers always hand out pens during patrols. Most kids must have loads of pens by now...


Bit sweaty after the 90-minute patrol. Completely soaked, even though it was relatively cool with temperatures rising to 35 degrees. And I only had to carry a bag of 3kg (on top of the vest of 15kg that is).


A proper meal after the patrol was not available. The poor soldiers mostly have to eat American army food (I think cat food is probably nicer).


A really comfortable bed it was: a camp bed with a real mattress and a mosquito net.


Meeting of tribal leaders, a so-called 'shura', to discuss the current situation. After a new chief of police was appointed, who was suspected of having ties with the Taliban, tens of Afghan police men resigned. I was the only woman present. Third man from the right is Major Frank from ISAF. Next to him with the black turban is Rosy Khan, who had just been elected as the chief of the region. He was a respected leader in the region as he played an important role in fighting the Taliban in the Battle of Chora. He died in the middle of September in a gun battle.


The so-called 'catwalk' is the heart of the military base in Kandahar. KAV is a huge military city where 15 thousand soldiers are based, including 400 Dutch.


There were three canteens with excellent food, but most American soldiers prefer a burger for dinner.


Sometimes there's an air-raid alarm on KAV three times a night. It means getting out of bed, putting on helmet and shatterproof vest and moving to the bunker. Luckily it didn't happen when I stayed there.


This is TLS, better know as the Taliban's Last Stand. The Taliban was chased away from here in 2001. It now serves as the departure hall for military flights.


Americans are really paranoia. A dog checks the helmets, vests, hand luggage and other luggage for drugs and weapons before they want to have Dutch soldiers on board their airplanes.

By the way, getting home was a logisitic nightmare. Some 200 people including me have been spending 5 days to get from Tarin Kowt to The Netherlands: what a waste of money and time! If the army were a company it would have gone bankrupt a million times already...


Here you can hear a selection of radio reports (Dutch):

Do you want to read more about Afganistan? Read the impressions here (Dutch):