July 28, 2004
By Dan Johnston
I walked away from Afghanistan with an impression of an incredibly hardy people who have been blasted backwards in time. The country is trying to rebuild after destruction by the Russians, their own factions and the Taliban. The majority of people there want to be left alone from conflict for once in their lives.
Signs of war and past conflict are everywhere and it was not uncommon to be in extremely remote mountains and find old shell casings, signs of explosions or blown up buildings. The number one threat to the countryside is hidden mines, many of which are years old and no one has any idea who put them in, let alone a map of their location.
This is a country that in many ways stills lives in biblical times with incredible mountains, forests and remote regions. It looks exactly like most of the desert regions of Nevada and Utah, but with steeper and taller mountains. Some of the areas are still covered in huge pine forests, but I did not ever see a wild animal outside of jackals.
The people have persevered and survived the last 30 years of fighting and I feel that we are helping to keep them safe enough so that they can begin to rebuild their own country. I had long talks with many common people who very much welcomed us into their home and begged us not to leave them again as they felt the Taliban would come right back. It was my honor to serve my country and to help theirs. I wish the friends I made back there a good future, a long peaceful life and a country that can come back together without much more war.