I was stuck in Camp Leatherneck on the way to Marjah. The night before I asked a Public Affairs Officer (PAO) for any event inside the camp and a female marine told me it will be a training day for Afghan National Army (ANA) recruits tomorrow and that I can cover it. I woke up early in the morning on 19 May when the alert bells wailed.
When I was going to the PAO center, three rocket were fired from Camp Leatherneck at an unknown target. I arrived at the training centre and started my job. ANA soldiers were in a really good mood and high spirits. They sounded a bit more professional compared to the other training centres. I went for lunch with them and asked their thoughts about Afghanistan and its future.
It was surprised to know that they thought Bin Laden story was fake and believed that the USA has made it up. One of them asked me: “If it was real then why did they not show us any video or photographs?”
One of them, an ethnic Pashtun, told me that he believes Mulla Omar is a fake name which USA made up to be in this country while another ANA soldier from Badakhshan interrupted: “No, Mulla Omar exists. He is our enemy and we should fight against him”.
I visited their tent. It was a massive one with AC and beds. When I start talking about what Taliban are doing to this country, the leader of that unit, a young Pashtun from Kabul, constantly tried to change the conversation topic. He was telling me that Taliban are not that bad as Americans tell to the world. He said: “ Taliban do not kill the journalists if they now them, look at Al-Jazeera”. He was trying to make me understand that Taliban are fighting for freedom and all NATO countries are here to steal our resources and money!
The first question in my mind was: “How they can fight against Taliban when they don’t know them enough?”
A US trainer came to the tent and asked me to leave immediately. He told me that the camp is ‘locked down’ and I have to stay away from them. It was an alert situation. I went with him to a Marines tent but as it was a bit hot inside, I came out and started to smoke under a shade. A marine came to me from inside the tent and told me that he has to body search me. It was a bit insulting for me. If they let me come in as an embedded journalist then why do they want to search me again? I was living in Camp Leatherneck for a week. They thought I might have something to explode myself???
I had to let him do it but he never answered my questions. After an hour, I called a PAO to send me a car and drive me back to my tent. While I was waiting for the car outside the training centre, another angry marine came to me and first of all asked me: “Did you take a picture of our gate?” I said no. He again asked me who I am and demanded to see my ID. I told him that I was inside your training centre, taking pictures and making report. “Did no one told you that I am embed with the Marines?” He said ‘OK’ and left. I’m sure whoever in this situation would be angry but I cannot complain as I am an Afghan passport holder and I felt that they can easily jail me had I argued!
Finally, we flew to Marjah on the 20th and were informed that Taliban fired rockets on 19 stations in all of Marjah district. For that very reason they were a lot of scared and searched me thoroughly. And why wouldn’t they as I am from Afghanistan and they don’t trust us.
I don’t judge but I write my personal feelings.
Now, I lost six days of my embed and I still could not go on patrolling with them as I arrived here just last night!
Taliban announced that they have started their Spring operation and these attacks are the result of their new offensive. However, an ANA major general told us that Taliban have become so week that they are losing in Helmand and to show that they are still alive, they attack us with rockets but never able to fight hand to hand with ANA.
As I write this post, a few hours ago two suicide bombers entered the biggest military hospital in Kabul and killed several people. This counts as the Taliban Spring operation. No one knows how they managed to get inside the heavily guarded facility with thorough body searches conducted at the main gate.
Massoud Hossaini is a 29-year-old photo journalist from Afghanistan who has been covering the war in Afghanistan since the last several years. He frequently embeds with the coalition forces in Afghanistan to find out the other side of the story. His stories can be read on http://massoudhossaini.blogspot.com. Diary written by Massoud Hossaini; Edited & Published by Moign Khawaja.