It is very easy to get complacent here when day after day you have settled into a routine. You get up and have breakfast along with the other patrons of the guesthouse, go to work at the office or out around Kabul to various meetings, then back to the guesthouse, dinner, and then to bed after doing your email. Although the streets of Kabul are full of delightful scenes that are new to my eyes, security dictates that you don't go out and about without caution. The Kabul streets are so normal and really, there is very little sign of the International Forces here, except an occasional sighting of an army truck or a jet overhead. I had really started to feel like I could go out (always with caution,) and chat with merchants and people on the street.
It happened today.... KaBoom! A big explosion around 5:30 pm. It shook our guesthouse so much that I thought we had been hit. Things flew off the shelves and I thought the windows had shattered but they didn't. I looked outside and no sign of smoke---only the other guests venturing outside their room to find out what happened. But there were obvious signs of activity outside out compound wall. The television was on and it seemed that within 20 minutes, an announcement was made on BBC that a huge explosion had happened in the Center of Kabul-- near the US Embassy and other International Organizations. Well no sweat, this is miles from here. Just the same we didn't go outside of our compound and all ate dinner at our guest house tonight. We were only too glad to stay close to home, swap stories with the other guests. A later newscast and the hotel gossip brought it all closer..... The bomb, likely a car or truck bomb, detonated about a block from our hotel. It was targeted at an American security company. Some seven people have been killed, four of them Americans. It is so sad! We had received alerts or warnings today of potential violence or suicide bombings in the Kabul area.
It seems that accellerating violence is expected here over the next month due to Karsai's pending re-election or rather first time election. There are some who do not want to see him elected. They see him as a puppet of the U.S. Yesterday, in an Embassy meeting, I heard this on the security situation: "Here 99% of the people are really good and glad to have us here. But it is the one percent that we really have to worry about." It has also been my impression here that most people here are glad for having had this year of relative normalcy in Afghanistan. The past year has helped the Economy grow, GDP was up a whopping 20% in 2003---investments are being made in the country. There is money here and people who are willing to invest in new ventures and get in on the start of a period of rapid expansion.
I wish I could stay and help it happen, but I am a big chicken. I will be on a plane heading home by Friday of this week. Enjoy the pictures... L