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January 27, 2003

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In Afghanistan flight delays are measured in days, not hours. Fog covers the flat plains around Herat and keeps us on the ground for another day. We've hooked up with some Afghans who work for the Area Mine Clearing service. One man has lost half a hand performing job related duties; it pays less than $100 per month. They tell us interesting bits about Afghanistan. As we've heard from other Afghans, they don't like the warlords, who they see as robber barons that are more corrupt than the Taliban. Another point is that the Taliban were much better at keeping the peace than the UN - people could walk the streets and drive anywhere in the country without being robbed. We ask, why can't the UN do a better security job than the Taliban? A good question, they say. This is the problem with democracy. We learn that the Taliban confiscated all guns from the people during their regime. When they left they redistributed the guns to the citizens. The Taliban 'were serious people,' our new friends say. They performed public amputations of thiefs and hung offenders from cranes for everyone to see. We hear about the amputation of a sixteen year old boy who stole a car stereo. The boy cried for his left hand to be taken, not the right. The doctor put him to sleep with anesthetic, took off the right hand, and nailed it to a pole.
Friendly Afghans keep us at their offices for a few days.
At night we drive into Herat's outskirts (something we'd never do alone) and enjoy fancy, home-cooked meals: spicy chicken, rice, macaroni noodles, and flat bread. The mud-brick housing doesn't look like much from the outside. Inside, car batteries provide electricity. We watch Rambo III on a black and white television, a banned activity under the Taliban.