In what can only be described as absurd, I came across an article about tourists in Afghanistan that had been attacked by the Taliban. Was I shocked? Not that they had been attacked by the Taliban, and not even really that they had lived and avoided capture; but I was totally shocked that Westerners, or anyone, is paying money to travel around Afghanistan.
Now to be fair, to those that haven’t been there, parts of Afghanistan are truly beautiful. The rugged landscape changes from flat desert to snow-capped mountain ranges and back again, with a few poppy fields sprinkled in for good measure. Hell, there are even 12ft tall stocks of marijuana sprouting from fields with dust so fine you might expect to find that it was from the moon. It could all be worth checking out, I guess, if the whole region wasn’t an active war zone.
I suppose I knew this was inevitable- after all, have you checked out Shark Week lately? You can’t even get on TV anymore unless you swim half-naked outside the shark cage with tuna steaks stapled all over your body. And how about Luke Aikins? You know, the guy who just hopped out of a plane without a parachute and landed upside-down in a net?
But these tourists weren’t seeking fame or fortune. They were part of a new breed of “adventure-tourists.” As a former SOF guy, this is kind of like a dream come true in the current landscape of ROEs so tight you could bounce a quarter off them. Some tourists come in and draw the Taliban into a firefight, and maybe you can get clearance to drop in and save the day. Maybe some 4-star had Obama send a pallet of Swiss Francs in an unmarked jet over to these tourists as part of a new strategy to get somebody to go outside the wire.
According to The Guardian:
A handful of tourists still go to Bamiyan and its mountains, which host an annual Afghan ski challenge. Tour agencies also take groups to the far-flung Wakhan Corridor, the Panjshir Valley and Herat.
However, tourism has been in decline. According to Bamiyan’s information and culture department, the number of tourists visiting the Band-e Amir national park halved between 2014 and 2015, to 144 foreign and roughly 2,000 Afghan visitors. Most of the foreigners visiting the park are assumed to be expats living in Kabul.
Highways in Afghanistan passing through insurgency-prone areas have become exceedingly dangerous, with the Taliban and other armed groups frequently kidnapping or killing travellers.”
While I enjoyed my time in Afghanistan, it was certainly for reasons other than traveling in a shitty bus between villages. I won’t be recommending anyone travel there unless you’re stepping off a CH-47 with NODs (Night Optical Devices), lots of jets, helos, and drones burning holes in the sky overhead, and 12 of your new best friends.
Image courtesy: AFP/Getty Images