Land Crusiers and other cool vehicles I’ve seen while in Afghanistan

I’d thought I’d share some pictures of the many Land Cruisers and Land Rovers I’ve spotted while in Afghanistan. The trucks with all the antennas on the roof have ECM – Electronic Countermeasures. The Arctic Truck belonged to the Lithuanian Special Forces. It was fully armoured. Please feel free to ask any questions on the comment page. Mike
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Herat Jihad Museum 8.24.2014

Having been in Herat for several months and with the end of my tour on the horizon, I knew I wanted to visit the Jihad Museum. I had previously invited my friend Colonel Mohammed of the Counter Narcotics Police Afghanistan (CNP-A) to my camp for lunch and introduce him to the Narcotics Interdiction Unit Commander.
After lunch, we went into town to visit the Citadel (already posted on this blog). From there, we went to the Jihad Museum. Once again off we went with me as the only infidel, yet I felt completely comfortable with the Afghans. Looking Afghan helped but my M4 gave me away, not to mention the large security detail for the Colonel and the detail for the NIU commander and me.
When we arrived at the museum it was closed. Having a powerful Colonel helped to open the doors and get a private guided tour for us. I know the Afghans in our group were as excited to visit the museum as I was. They had never seen it before, even the guys from Herat. A former Mujahedeen fighter served as our tour guide. He explained the many battles with the Soviets as well as the weapons displays.
Fascinating parts of the museum were the dioramas. As the local population is mostly illiterate, written descriptions would be useless. So the museum utilizes many different lifelike dioramas depicting major battles to relate the history. Our Guide explained the battles to us in great detail. This museum is certainly a world class war museum. (Links below)
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/world/asia/afghan-museum-recalls-a-previous-war.html?_r=0
http://www.stripes.com/news/exhibits-defused-afghanistan-s-jihad-museum-reopens-its-doors-1.250337
http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2014/03/the-jihad-museum-afghanistan-remembers-the-soviet-invasion/100693/
A bonus highlight of the visit was meeting the infamous Bakhretdin Khakimov, now known as Sheik Abdullah. Khakimov first came to Afghanistan as a Soviet intelligence officer and his mission was to kill the mujahedeen. He was wounded in battle, went missing, and ultimately was nursed back to health by an Afghan family. After recovering, he decided to remain in Afghanistan and converted to Islam. Abdullah now works at the museum. (See links below.)
http://en.ria.ru/russia/20130305/179834151/Soviet-Soldier-Missing-for-33-Years-Found-in-Afghanistan.html
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2288544/Russian-soldier-missing-Afghanistan-33-years-FOUND-living-nomadic-sheikh-remote-Afghan-province.html
http://www.stripes.com/news/thrust-into-afghanistan-by-war-ex-soviet-becomes-a-keeper-of-its-history-1.250308

 

 

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NIU CMD,COL. Faruk, COL Mohammad with me on the first floor of the museum.

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With my two translators. They are brothers and really great guys who helped keep me safe.

With my two translators. They are brothers and really great guys who helped keep me safe.

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A former Mujahedeen fighter served as our tour guide.

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The NIU Commander with me.

The NIU Commander with me.

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Bakhretdin Khakimov, now known as Sheik  Abdullah with me.

Bakhretdin Khakimov, now known as Sheik Abdullah with me.

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This Mujahedeen fighter served as our tour guide

This Mujahedeen fighter served as our tour guide

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The NIU CMD and me. We had to wear booties over our boots to protect the marble floor.

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Captured Soviet PPSh submachine guns.

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Captured Soviet weapons.

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Old British weapons. SMLE Enfield rifles are still found on the battlefield.

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Rolling Block rifles used the fight against Communism.

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Other rifles used by the Mujahedeen against the much better armed Soviets.

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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

Image

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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

href=”https://badlandsexpeditions.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/dscn0436.jpg”>DSCN0436 Ice Cream vendor[/caption]

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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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Minaret with some of the blue tile covering still visible.

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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)

Kabul trip 6.29.14 023 (2)

Kabul trip 6.29.14 023 (4)

Kabul trip 6.29.14 023 (5)

new apartment buildings

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woman begging

woman begging

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begging

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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