WITH ROD & REEL IN AFGHANISTAN

Created: 4/1/1967

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cia historical review program release as sanitized

In Afghaniatsn

STUDIES IN

INTELLIGENCE

A collection ol articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and tNwrctical aspects ol inteBigence.

All statements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of

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WITH RODEEL IN AEG HAN 1ST AN

Lester M. Vbxlxr

"Whyoo gouggested the VS. Army AttacheWe considered bis prorscnal, decided that Itood

through the Ehyber Pass, Jalalabad, and tbe Sarobi Corge. Weow looking lorottunibes, and we found them to the north of Kabulew Soviet road project to run from ths capital over the Hindu Kush to the Soviet border. The particular section under coristruction at the time ran from Charflcar. someiles north of Kabul, through the Salang Pass to Doshi, SO miles farther as the crow flies. When completed it wouldiles of marginal road then being used, or misused, to bring goods (Including heavy equip-ment) down from the north."

Inquiries at the Embassy turned up the only American wbothrough the Salang Pass Project. He had gone through withparty of officials from the Afghan Muiistry of Publichad been unable to fill many of the US. mformatioorespecting it. His standing with the Ministry would begetting fromermit for us to travel arid fish in the '

FtntHutvtUt

While waiting for the arrival of the permit weiDyi Jeepster from the Army Attache, along with all tho necessary camping

oeticallyhai

faarsttag art of taca WxJ. dw road

raeeaafler, climbs into tbe mountainsigantic spiral and.

.

stove, water cant, gasoline cans, ckxhrng, and last but not least fishing rods. When the permit finally arrived, tt merely stated that we had the right to travel and fish outside of Kabul as far north as Baghlan aod as far west as Bamlan. That gave ta plenty of territory but not necessarily access to (he Salang Pass, which was off ifrnfts, with all requests by Western embassies to visit tt refused. Since tbe permit did not specn>caDy exempt tbe Pass, however, we set out tbe neat morning fust before daws.

Tbe road north toaved two-lane highway, fn good condition. ,Afteridge on tbe outskirts of Kabul It runs ihe entireaOes throughbroad, sfiEow vsJley, past fertileand fields of grata, as well as the Bagram Ah Base.

Atntereda'-^ng pass Profit. Several kflosnetrri up the road we erxcouxrtered our firstguard hutar across the road. The guard, like all the road workers,ember of the Afghan Labor Corps. His ragged uniTortn, originally blue-grey, was now earth-colored from years of accumulated grime. Ife motioned to us to turn around and go back. Racing the engine, we Bourished our pass under hb nose. He looked at It with interest, but ft was obvious that he couldn't read. Shaking his bead from ride to sideuzzled manner, be looked up at last aod said,"Yes.e agreed. "engineers."

The road Into the Pass followed the river trrrward past the ancient caravanserai at Ahmgaran and onigh arid valleyast straight stretch before beginning frs hairpin turns over the Hindu Rush While fts course was fn general that of the old north-south caravan trad, modern ecnrlpment and construction methods had turned it into aa all-weather road. It tended to ride along the flank of the mountains high enough to avoid the spring torrents released bysnowi but low enough to he sheltered from the high winds that sweep the exposed ridges.

0 feet, afterumber of steep curves and grinding fn tow geareck spur, wc came to another barrier across the road. We had arrived at the mam cottstrucnon camp. -Two rather scruffy hflhnen appearedentry hut and pointed extrenaery long turn-cf-the-ccntxrry Mausers at us. We blew tbe bora and waved our travel permit vigorously. Tbe rifle barrels didn't waver. Finally one of tbe guards Jerked hb gun fa tbe directionroup of low stcoe bcdJcuhgx, and two cf ns got out of the feep arid walked toward

them. No longer covering ui with their riftes but stall holding them ready, the guards led us toto an office,

Fuh and Tea

Tbe room was furnishedaded burlap rur, two or three crudely rnade anrtchasrs,esk and chair that teemedlo rpfta of having been farhiooed from random boards. The mevsnble tingle bulb hongire fa the canter of the room. Plaster was breaking away from the stone walls, meed by onefumedfagfespall window sat In thethe roof line did not txQt^bXj to themall cast iron stove with tts pfpe through tha roof completed the tome.

Wa sat down fa the chairs, andew minutes cm of the camp

rWtfcnariea arrivedoor leading bto the room from behind the desk. He was Russian,. well act up. with black curly hair and generally alert-looking Slavic features. He alsoleasant mannermmediately attempted to capftallre on. Even as ha was entering the room, faose andnd stuck out my hand. Heriendly rmfla.

e exclaimed, "You are visltonl Axe you fromhis was getting to bo too much for my Haitian, but my companionto reply fa his fislUh-Russfanrivately ruxpect II only Polish spokenussianere we bogged down, arid tha man seemed to be coolingft Wa could understand most of what be said but apparently could not get through toried French to oo avail, but then German made contact, and we began enmmuofc-atirig again.

I explained that wc had beenravel permit and proceeded to show It to him. It was obvious that be could not read thehen began an animated descrirxioo of the roadbed over which we bad traveled so far. He faterrupted and asked. "But why are youhis was cue for our cover story: we bad beard from Afghan friends fa Kabul tfaat the fishing ta the north was unbelievably rood, and wo had prevailed trnoa them to getravel permit so that we could try out some of the streams..

Ills face lit nproad rmfle. We hadussian fisher-man. He called for rr^reshrnents, brought his chair around from behind tha deasr. aad opened up oo the wonders of Afghan fashing.

Atghcnitian

The tee arrived Id glasses, tod atlipped aad chatted thathawed completely aod the guards were dismissed. For trie, though, the conversation waa veryad aot beca tubing for over S3 yean, aod to be rchued aad eapanriveanguage oot ray ownubject ofnew nothing toot; oo tbe aroeet ofnlrhtrnare.ew miautot,oticed that be was repeatingsed aod not nboduethg anyhen realized that his German wu lets fluent than mine andu leading the corjversatfon.

VVben at last we finished tbetood up and said we had to be bo our way, ifaea'Wwanted to geVover" tho piss Ufore ni^tf.ll We shook hands again, and be accompanied as pert of the wry back to tbe Jeep. He said we should have telephoned from Kabul before comhrg;II wu Friday, the Moslem sabbath, the engineer la charge and most of hb associates had gone to Kabul, ta parting, be offered to tetepbeoe ahead so wc would not have trouble with tbe other checkpoints. This he undoubtedly did, for thereafter the barriers swung open with welcomee approached.

Ooer the Top

Always climbing, we proceeded through the construction campoad lhat wu for the most part cut Into the side of theBecause of avalanches and rock/alls tn tbe area, thousands of feet of reinforced concrete reowsbeds had been constructed. Tbey had slaated roofs that followed the slope of the mountain, very similar to those found tn the high passes of the European Alps,

0 feet we came suddenlyunnel mouth. The oldtrail continued on to theeet above, but the alope here wu so steep and the possibilities foruccessful rood to few that It had been decided to tunnel under, assuring an all-season road through tbehe tunnel was being driven from both sides sfmuruusecaisry, but the two shafts bad not yet met. An armed and resolute guard prevented us from entering the tunnel, to weand found the caravu trail Shifting the jeepster Into four-wheel drive, low range, we begin the precipitous ascent to the rarnrnft.

It wu apparent that Jeeps, andcaibtedry Soviet CAWi, were tbe only vehicles that bad ever traversed therip that would have

taken perhapslouteteasonable road, even at that altitude, took us alrnost two hours. The passengers got out and climbed afoot The road was so narrow that at each corner it was necessary to back and fill to get around. The rear end of the Jeepster hung over tbe edge, the nose pointed higher thanegrees, and the engine stalled regularly at each turn because of the altitude. All tbe whOe we were corJtmuaDy blinded by swirling clouds and buffeted by freezing winds,and sleet

At last weelatively straight rtretch of trail, and we who had been climbing alongside theottexiffttiifcii thro ft and rode the fast lOO-Wtt ten^^nmtaj^erVioV formed rruTars, leaving hist enough room to squeeze the Jeepsterthem. Tbe wind and simersatrnated tog and clouds whistling through this cleftposit of boar-frost over theenturi effectrand scale. The wind, shrieking up and down the frequency range, rocked our vehicle. It was impossible to face Into it We tried to get some pictures, then clambered aboard and headed north to Doshl through essentially the same kind of terrain that lay behind us.

During the next two days we pbotographed the road In various stages of construction, Imrsortant air-rnterdictxble points along It, (ts bridges and culverts, and tbe condition of tha roacTbed. We also shot panoramas of open range, the approaches to villages and towns, their main streets, and any natural or artificial features that might be useful as

'for this we de-one that was

lo prove rucccssful In later trips through ether parts of the country.

Inspectors from Kabul

We round that tbe best time to work was during lunch break or siesta hour; and if the target was more sensitive than usual the IDsOV day hours on Friday, the sabbath, gave the most promise of success. We learned to become actors, and wa used the Stanislavsky method of immersing ourselves fn the role to the point where wxjwgre shocked and angry if anyooo qucjtkucd corThis technique was effective through the impression made by tosoo and maimer, authoritative bearing, and cVcrsrveness opon the illiterate (but not stupid) tribesmen with whom we'were for the roost part deahng. ;

Afghani tton

us

six to tea feet away. Our reaction to tub tbe first time wu an

uistinctfvofreeze and gaze Into tbe distance. Thereafter we

apiaiaan<M

taker does oot fully awaken, be always cTosed bis eyes again and went

back to sleep.

If an operatore

would draw upcreech ot* brakes, fump out, wave at bun,confidentlyarge smile. We would grab hbshake it. put an arm around hit shoulders, and proceed tonixtura of Russian, Polish, and English, If be lookedand most of the tfme be did, we would bice ourliberally with the magic wordtitle fraughtand position which seems to be the one acceptablea foreigner to be fa the most remote areas under the mostWe would proceed ufaaoaaaDaaa^aanh and thenthe operator for amoment of pride for him.final clip on tbe^back^rrd^harsdshake we departed, leavingthatpassed the engineers'

tion

air exchange-

hngineerr on Holiday

i, when we camearger enclave of construction would first check to see if the Uving quarters were onlyooden shed indicated that Sovietwere present, and we felt tt best to avoid them tf possible. We also avoided open appiorrchea to any group of tents thateto-phone line leading to ft, for the staple reasonigher echelon could be notified that "Visrrhxg frtgmecxi* were inspecting]

Algftanltlon

If tbe open approach seemed called for. the Jeepster wu driven close to the tents, and two of us, exuding rank, fishing rods at the ready, met the occupants. Through sign language we asked if tha stream had been fished (in this area there are usually riven In the mountain valleys, roads are ooristruoted alongside, and of course the camps are placed dose to thend socoetimes we would be invited tolass of tea. We, aa tarn, would pass aroundand candy. nftrT nrwTvtng rhnsaasi gLUlug anuxi tha termwould rtroll dovrn to the stream, cast our hoes and. indeed, try to catch tub. Most of the people to the camo woaxld Wwi& W& of mA-natara! cWoaftyri wonder at our gear, such as most of them had never seen before.

Meanwhile, back at tbe Jceprter, our two binder lings* could go quietly about mefx businesseople were nil] "here watching they could be diverted by one of the pair takingand generally enterUlolng them while the other gradually moved away until be was out of sight and could go to work.

CrWZerige

Only onceoviet construction workerertain amount of ill wOI toward us. We cameJ^^B^ repair yardtbe siesta periodriday afcenW^^oeeing no one to the

retrospect.

flflHflflP'uough when weatchman keeping us under rurveulance bom the window of what was obviously an office and toolroom. We furtherelephone wire leading away from the wooden shack. We hadthrough overwTnfidence or because the heat and the sabbath had hiHed our rusplcforxs, violated two of our important groundaway from all permanent structures and stay away from

we should have left fmnxsdiateJy.

We bad crdy fort finishedrack drew up and ten Afghanseal Soviet engineer got out Thehort, slight person with Mongoloid features,azakh, harangued the watchman, then approadhed us. Wa were sitting tn the Jeepsteran of beer from ourhe grotrrj. glowering

fiercely, gatheredthe leeprter. We tried to look bland and rnudly surprised.

Tba Kazakh engineer leasaoustrated with othile th Afghan, Pashto. When we looked puzzled be asked, "Do you understande shook our beadshenthe Afghans around the engineer hung onto every word, though they urxjerstood none ot*Slehe engineer shook hfs head, "Habla Vd.be engineer shook his head. Tarlsto ttaliano? " Tbe engineer shook his head. "Do you speak English? "

and ft seerood legretfuOy. but perhaps toy mauling of the Russian pronunciation confutedhis bead.

Turning to the surroundingave the classic rrurno for "Whato now?shoulders, questioning rook, areas thrown wide. The Afghans roared with laughter. The engineer stamped awayage to tbeage against his ownhink, because tbey had witnessed his losing the tnitUtive and coo-sequent h'iruliation. We engaged the dutch, tho Afghans moved aside still laughing, and we rode off, waving to them asurve in tbe road We dad take the precautioo of returning the way we badfrom tbe telephone lines. Weew miles down the road,eal, and later in the day continued back past the repair yard and the main encampmentIncideaL

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