Television coverage of the war in Afghanistan is often little more than a voice over a string of generic shots of soldiers running, ducking, and shooting. This short piece from Al-Jazeera English looks at a temporary American outpost near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan and provides a rare opportunity to pause and have a good look at the physical terrain of the Af-Pak war and the young Americans who are fighting it.
From this outpost, built of sandbags in the midst of impassable peaks and endless cover for fighters, the absurdities and complexities of the war come into focus. But that's not how 1st Lieutenant Jake Kerr sees it. From the report:
To an outsider, fighting the Taliban in these mountains along the Af-Pak border might seem like a nightmare mission, but to this 25-year-old West Point grad, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. “This is a platoon leaders dream. You can’t get any closer to the bad guys. I mean, Pakistan is spitting distance from us so…”
Kerr takes Al Jazeera on a tour of his outpost and the village nearby. We've seen the village shots before: young Americans loaded down with guns and gear trying for some version of constructive dialog with locals who are only tentatively engaged. It's the "hearts and minds" game at work, and it looks just as hollow as it sounds.
The war is much more than this lonely outpost, of course, but the piece has the distinct feel of a parable. Have a look for yourself: