I‘ve come back to the Afghan capital again, after an absence of two years, to find it ruined in a new way. Not by bombs this time, but by security.
The heart of the city is now hidden behind piles of Hescos — giant, grey sandbags produced somewhere in Great Britain. They’re stacked against the walls of government buildings, U.N. agencies, embassies, NGO offices, and army camps (of which there are a lot) — and they only seem to grow and multiply. A friend called just the other day from a U.N. building, distressed that the view from her office window was vanishing behind yet another row of Hescos. Urban life as Kabulis knew it in this once graceful city has been lost to the security needs of strangers.
The creation of Hescostan in the middle of Kabul is both an effect of, and a cause of, war: an effect because it seems to arise in response to devious enemy tactics that are still relatively new to Afghanistan, such as the use of roadside bombs (IEDs) and suicide bombers (though there has actually been no attack in Kabul for six months now); a cause because it is so clearly a projection, an externalization of the fears of men out of their depth. It is a paradox of such “force protection” that the more you have, the more you feel you need. What’s called security generates fear. Now comes a documentary that projects that fear onto the screen. [continued…]