So my Afghan honeymoon officially ended this morning; I was sat in the clinic when the bomb by the Heetal hotel went off. At first I thought something large and heavy had fallen over upstairs and not wanting to jump to conclusions I carried on typing up my notes. When I noticed that there was dust everywhere in the air and one of the nurses came round the corner saying we've got to go doc, I shifted gear and came face to face with the nastiest side of Afghanistan. A suicide bomber had driven a car loaded with explosives into the gates of a nearby compound and everyone was out on the rooftops of the villas, looking out, watching the smoke rising. About 5 minutes later and we were dealing with a casualty, a guy who had been seated in a car when the blast hit, it had blown out the windows of the car and created small missiles of glass that had lacerated his cheek and eye, multiple cuts that were bleeding profusely. Stumbling through our gate covered in blood, it looked much worse than it actually was (thank god) he was one of the lucky ones; the walking wounded who could physically get himself to us. We sorted him out and stretchered him off to an international military hospital. At roughly the same time another bomb had exploded in an attack on an NGO compound at a location about 30 mins flight time from Kabul. Not knowing what the casualty list would look like we were on standby to medevac expats that needed to be brought out.
We had a patient in the clinic with us and certainly for him it was a slightly unnerving experience, a wound dressing with your pants off is hardly the best time for a bomb to go off!
All in all the majority of the dead and wounded were Afghans, from both bomb site locations. Civilian Afghans just going about their daily business, without the luxury of armored cars or close protection, these, the most vulnerable people are taken out by so called taliban insurgents. If I were an ordinary Afghan I think I’d say “Fuck off insurgents! Stop blowing yourselves and us up”. These events show the demarcation lines. Here in the clinic, all staff were on hand, expats from various countries and Afghan staff all working for the patient, a Philippino national. We were all equally appalled by the events though many here are old hands at shrugging it off though noone ever really gets happy with it.
Our clients are the expat community and as the reports came in we could stand down as we heard that the fatalities were all Afghan and any injured expats would be flown out by the Dubai team. Not that it made it any better; I thought of the many families who would be lamenting and keening the injustice. I thought about the cost of being here, of my friends in the military who are sent here for six months to a year at a time, housed in their bases, they make a massive personal commitment. On the bases there are no bars or easy places to go and just hang out. Many of the bases here are dry, so there’s not even the chance to relax with a beer. Meetings are still happening at 10.30om, not often bed before 1am and up again at 6am. A completely thankless task; all in the name of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan. I wondered if many people back home knew how hard and how long some of the international soldiers here work.
Later in the afternoon we had a small collection of visitors with a variety of glass shard related injuries. Based in a house not far from us and the blast, their place had taken a hammering; glass windows turned into shredding apparatus. One poor chap was butt naked having just emerged from the shower, somehow he escaped with only minor cuts whilst the wall behind him was absolutely peppered with shards and shrapnel.
And me, I’m now just tired. The ops manager managed to make me laugh when he told me about the bagram shop – we’d sent one of the drivers there to get me some extra small technical trousers for me (sounds glam, I know!). Given that they have no changing room there (it’s just a room with lots of shelves stuffed with blokes military kit), I was forbidden from asking them to create a changing room just for me. Instead I was confined to quarters and the driver sent to fetch them for me to try on at home, like some kind of Victorian nightmare!! The driver arrived only to find that the poor souls were deep in glass themselves, their shop windows blown in this morning. “No time for trousers, fixing windows!! Go away”. “What about later?” our driver said, not wanting to go away empty handed, NO! Fixing windows and then going home! …A fairly reasonable excuse for a foiled shopping trip, I thought. At least I am in one piece and will live to shop another day.