The Herat Citadel

I like to take in the historic sights wherever I go and I won’t let a little terrorism stop me. In talking with the Counternarcotics Colonel, he insisted we go and see some of the most notable sights. Having a six man PSD ,of course, helped with the security situation. The caretaker was kind and took us on a guided tour of the castle.  This was also an excellent trip for the Police  to see a piece of their history that they would not have normally been able to experience. 

The Citadel of Herat, also known as the Citadel of Alexander dates back to 330 BC, when Alexander the Great and his army arrived to what is now Afghanistan. The Citadel was restored between 2006-2011 Herat is on the UNESCO World Heritage site list.

http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/1927/

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/17/world/la-fg-afghanistan-citadel-20111117

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2050554/Crumbling-ancient-citadel-Afghanistan-restored-glory.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herat_Citadel

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Scenes from Afghanistan

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August 1, 2014 · 09:06

Herat Afghanistan 2014

I have been in Herat Afghanistan since April; working as a Mentor/Advisor to the Afghan Counter Narcotics Police (CNP-A) special unit, the National Interdiction Unit (NIU).

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/chasing-the-dragon-afghanistan%E2%80%99s-national-interdiction-unit

http://www.examiner.com/article/afghan-national-interdiction-unit-takes-the-lead-counternarcotics-operation

Herat Province is located in far West Afghanistan and is bordered by Iran and Turkmenistan. Most of the influence here is from Iran and there is much commercial and illicit trade with Iran.

Afghanistan exports Heroin and Opium to Iran and Iran returns the favor by exporting
Methamphetamines.

Afghanistan imports 90% off its needs except agricultural products. Imported are oil products, electricity, cement, construction material, carpets, home appliances, and detergents. Exports to Iran are nuts, carpets, agricultural products as well as handicrafts.

Herat is the third largest city in Afghanistan has a rich history and was once known for its wine and silk. The city is busy with construction and commerce. Traffic is hectic with hundreds of three wheeled Tuk-Tuks carrying incredible loads of cargo and passengers. There is an International Airport that services domestic flights as well as flight to Iran and Indian.

 Most women are completely covered in burkas. There a very few who show their faces but are covered head down. One can only imagine how confining being a in burla can be. The burka is covering a fully dressed woman (No cute bra and panty sets under there) so the heat must be oppressive. Pedestrian accidents are very common as a burka clad woman cannot see very well in front but have no peripheral vision. All sounds are diminished as well. How to eat and drink?

Some arigcultural projects to help Herat with jobs and commerce.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2710880/Free-Taliban-women-Afghanistan-saving-silk-weaving-tradition-thrived-centuries-oppression-religious-zealots.html
http://www.wadsam.com/sericulture-reviving-in-western-afghanistan-232/
http://www.wadsam.com/afghan-women-engaged-in-saffron-business-78678/

The majority of the people are Tajik so support for the Taliban is not very popular.  That being said the Taliban threat is very real and increasing daily. Recently two female Finnish aid workers were gunned down while in a taxi. NGO are easy targets due to their naive beliefs and lack of basic security procedures.

Herat was recently in the news when the five Taliban commanders were returned to the battlefield. Khairullah Khairkhwa was the Taliban Governor of Herat Province as well as a major drug trafficker.
http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/la-times-whitewashes-taliban-five_794480.html
https://wikileaks.org/gitmo/pdf/af/us9af-000579dp.pdf
http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/05/sgt_bowe_bergdahl_ex.php?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sgt-bowe-bergdahl-exchanged-for-top-5-taliban-commanders-at-gitmo

Herat also has the dubious distinction of having the highest drug addition rate in Afghanistan. One in five households has a drug user compared to one in ten for the rest of the country.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/world/asia/that-other-big-afghan-crisis-the-growing-army-of-addicts.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/04/30/306590068/an-afghan-village-of-drug-addicts-from-ages-10-to-60

http://www.stripes.com/news/options-limited-for-broke-addled-and-hopeless-on-afghanistan-s-heroin-highway-1.249837

Unfortunately the security situation does not allow for getting out and walking around. So my pictures are from the safety of my armored Land Cruiser. I did get out taking some pictures of the 15 century minarets. The minarets, an UNESCO World Heritage Site candidate is all that remains from a large mosque, madrassa and mausoleum complex.
http://wikitravel.org/en/Herat

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/afghanistan/herat-and-northwestern-afghanistan/herat/sights/architecture/musalla-complex-minarets

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/afghanistan/herat-and-northwestern-afghanistan/herat/sights

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Grave on the side of Highway One. Apparently an UKN person was killed by a vehicle. People then entombed the body with rocks. The first few days after the accident you could see the fluids draining from the body staining the earth.

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Trip to Kabul Part two 6.29.14

After my appointment with the dentist we drove to our camp about a 15-20 minute drive depending on traffic.

There are several pictures of burka clad women begging. In Afghanistan, as in most of the Muslim world, women are nothing but property with little or no value. Many of these women are widows and have no outside support system to help them.

I hope you enjoy the pictures and I welcome your comments. Kabul trip 6.29.14 023 (1)

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new apartment buildings

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woman begging

woman begging

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woman begging on the road to ISAF base

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girls walking home from school

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girls walking home form school

girls walking home form school

girls walking home form school

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one of the many new mansions in Kabul

ice cream vendor

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Mills Canyon New Mexico

As an ardent follower of the Expedition Portal Forum I became interested in a thread “New Mexico Roundup”  (http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/112043-New-Mexico-Round-Up-(others-welcome)?highlight=new+mexico+round) .

After some discussion, Sept 27-29 were decided on and Mills Canyon as the destination.

Mills  Canyon  is  located in Northeast New Mexico within the Kiowa National Grasslands. 

 

Hat tip to http://www.hcnm.net/live/attractions/mills-canyon/ 

Hidden heart of Northeastern plains history
Story by Clay Martin

The sweeping view from the rocky rim of Mills Canyon encompasses one of the most striking landscapes of northeastern New Mexico. For those who make the effort to get to this out-of-the-way spot, the beauty of the scene is made more impressive by its contrast with the surrounding countryside: In a part of the state characterized by a distinct horizontality, where gently rolling plains stretch toward a flat skyline, the vertical dimension introduced by an almost thousand-foot-deep canyon creates a welcome diversion for the eyes.

Mills Canyon testifies to the erosional power of the Canadian River, which meanders through most of its circuitous route across New Mexico as a flatlands stream that somehow seems too modest and unassuming to have carved anything approaching a gorge. But for a stretch of about 45 miles, where it forms the boundary between Mora and Harding counties, the river has created unexpected majesty. Below a precipitous, pine-clad rim, the stately, curving canyon walls stair-step down through sandstone cliffs and slopes to a broad flood plain lined with cottonwood and tamarisk thickets that bloom vivid green in spring and mature into a halo of bronze and gold as autumn arrives.

A Scenic enclave in a sea of endless prairie, Mills Canyon possesses a compelling human legacy as well. A fascinating chapter of New Mexico history played out here, and even though nearly forgotten nowadays, it is a tale worth retelling. The story centers on one ambitious individual: Melvin Whitson Mills, Territorial legislator, district attorney, entrepreneur and agricultural empire builder in the stretch of the Canadian that now bears his name. Even today, almost a century later, fascinating remnants of his prosperity and ruin lie scattered along the canyon’s winding floor.

Mills Canyon also slipped into obscurity, as the once-imposing stone and adobe structures slowly fell to ruin, and evidence of the Orchard Ranch melted into the red soil. During the Dust Bowl and Great Depression years, large portions of the ranch reverted to public domain and eventually became units of Kiowa National Grassland. Nowadays, the canyon is a peaceful retreat, visited by local residents angling for catfish and occasional outsiders seeking recreation away from the beaten track. Unlike most places, Mills Canyon has a wilder, more remote feel today than it did 100 years ago.

For those who wish to explore Mills Canyon for themselves, the area lies about 15 miles northeast of the small town of Roy, an agricultural center established in Mill’s era that today represents the last commercial outpost for those heading to the canyon. Ten miles north of Roy on the NM 39 lies the dwindling community of Mills, onetime headquarter of the Mesteno Ranch, another of Melvin Mills’ early ventures that today consists of a few residences and a post office. An unpaved access road heads west from Mills toward the canyon. Although usually well maintained, its conditions can vary widely, particularly in periods of wet weather. Call the U.S. Forest Service in Clayton for the current road conditions at (505)374-9652.

For the first few uneventful miles beyond the pavement, Mills Canyon lies hidden from sight, and the view west reveals little besides endless prairie stretching toward the distant Sangre de Cristo Range. Eventually, however, the defile ahead reveals itself, and the countryside roughens, forcing the road to traverse ravines and rocky benches before plunging down several switchbacks to the canyon floor. Once there, the road continues downriver for another mile or so, passing cottonwood groves, cattle guards and a primitive campground before fading away on a grassy stream bank with a scenic down-canyon view of red cliffs looming above the river.

Not far from the end of the winding road, visitors confront an imposing and unexpected sight: the gaunt, two-story stone skeleton of the Orchard Ranch headquarters building, still standing before the sandstone cliffs after all these years. In the ruins, where birds nest in crumbling fireplaces and wildflowers sprout in rooms now open to the sky, there is a lingering sense of faded elegance and a vanished way of life. Nearby, scattered remains of adobe walls, stone fences and windows of gnarled Osage orange trees hint faintly at the bustling enterprise of years past. Nowadays, Mills Canyon is a scenic gem worth visiting for its natural beauty alone. But for those with an interest in history, the Scattered remains of Melvin Mill’s life’s work endure as wistful reminders of the human story that played out here a century ago.

Clay Martin is a photographer and writer from Colorado who has explored the back country of New Mexico for the last 25 years.

 

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Trip to Kabul Part one 6.29.14

I had to make a quick trip to Kabul and thought I’d better to go to the dentist while there. You would think that being in Herat Afghanistan going to the dentist would be a major problem.
A simple e-mail to the clinic Guardian International (www.guardianmedevac.com) located at Green Village in Kabul and I had an appointment.

I am fortunate to be working under a State Department contract so I am to travel on the State Department Air Wing. With almost daily flights, gone are the days of waiting endlessly for a Military Space “A” flight. An hour and half flight on a Dash-8 aircraft I am in Kabul and get picked up and off to Green Village. During the flight, it is easy to see how vast and rugged the country is. The entire flight was over mountains some still with snow on them. In some of the valleys you can see small settlements completely isolated.

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=34.53313397416167,67.90533238501112

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=34.21700665305705,63.04381596146811

Green Village is run by a company Stratex (www.stratexfs.com ) and is Western oasis in warn torn Kabul. Green Village is where life support is provided to Western contractors, NGO‘s , UN personnel and EU personnel. The compound is secured by a force of Nepalese Gurkas and former European Military members. http://maps.google.com/maps?q=34.54565587443474,69.23199285572424

In addition to the medical clinics there are a couple of restaurants, coffee/pastry cafe, gym, sauna, shops, WiFI and bar. The atmosphere was akin to that of a college campus. I even saw a couple of woman wearing skirts which is unheard of anywhere else in Afghanistan on or off base.
http://www.stratexfs.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50%3Afeatured-project-green-village&catid=34%3A2008&Itemid=1

The dentist was from Romania she was very nice and efficient she fixed my issue.

The city of Kabul is a city filled with activity; lots of crazy traffic with hordes of white and yellow taxis. Interspersed with this traffic are armored Land Cruisers transporting, NGOs, the wealthy/powerful Afghans, NATO military, UN and me.

The is also a hustle bustle of shops and markets with people going about their business as if there was no brutal civil war of Muslims against Muslims. The Taliban which favors targeting civilians in it’s a struggle to return Afghanistan to the Stone Age.

Here some pictures I took on the way to Green Village from the airport. I hope you enjoy seeing a little bit of Afghanistan outside of the new reports of IEDs.

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Burka Clad woman begging.

Burka Clad woman begging.

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Shopping for meat.

Shopping for meat.

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It is watermelon season here.

It is watermelon season here.

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Fish pet store

Fish pet store

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Scenes from Kabul

I made a trip to Kabul and drove to the Ministry of Interior.   I saw girls going to school and women without burkas.  All that will being changing after out complete surrender to the Taliban

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