Tall Man Long Shadow
SAMPLE CHAPTER 14
14 Kabul, Afghanistan
CEALIT's offices were combined with the staff accommodation, as is normal in this long beleagured city, in a large partially restored villa in the 'better' part of Kabul, a villa surrounded by a high wall with armed guards kitted with two-way radios inside the walls supported by more guards located in several neighbouring houses at windows overlooking the dusty street strewn with wrecked and burnt-out vehicles and other junk left in place to restrict the speed of autos that may carry insurgents. American military vehicles patrolled the street from time to time, raising clouds of yellow dust despite the cold. The rare snow-falls over the past weeks had melted and the mush of yellow-grey dirt had dried and settled into a hard-baked dry obstacle course. In a large room at the front on the first floor above street level, fitted with a metal bed, a plywood wardrobe and a table with two chairs, Katja Monney, the school teacher, stood at the barred window looking across the ruined garden at the little stretch of street she could see over the far wall. Dressed in jeans, a long printed cotton shift-like garment over a shirt and a track-suit top with long sleeves, she had packed and was ready to leave. The organisation however was not ready for her to leave and had not been ready for several days. Days of waiting, able to do very little. Shopping for food, or anything else in fact, was limited to authorised and guarded trips at irregular intervals to a newly set-up super-market less than a half a kilometer distant. Considering the circumstances, she thought, the selection at the super-market was quite good, at least good quality pasta products and a selection of canned goods and well as any amount of white soft cheeses, chocolates, candies, soft drinks and breakfast cereals. Powdered milk also, and Turkish coffee as well as unlimited supplies of Nescafé. 'Where does all this stuff come from', she wondered ... 'and how? Better than nothing I guess. The in-house cook was also passable', she thought, 'considering'. In fact she was not at all unhappy that she was not yet able to leave. Jean Rosset was due to arrive sometime within the next few hours, provided his flight was on time and could land. Getting to see him might prove difficult but she had at least organised to be taken to the UNREST HQ, established in a parallel street but several blocks removed in the direction of the city centre, as soon as he arrived.
Rosset's two and a half hour flight from Dubai had been delayed although the Emirates flight to Dubai from Duesseldorf had been on time, and comfortable. He'd had some trouble with his sixty eight kilograms of excess baggage, but had been finally able to check it through to Kabul . The three hour stop-over in Dubai had ensured, he hoped, that the baggage would all be transferred to his UN flight to Kabul .
The aircraft had long since commenced losing height on the approach into Kabul Airport , however seemed to have been flying in circles for half an hour or so. It occurred to Rosset that the circling may have something to do with the security situation on the ground but considered that the crew had everything under control ... they wouldn't be about to risk their necks if conditions were not right. He relaxed completely when the Captain reminded the passengers to be sure that their seat belts were in place and that the tables and seat backs were in the vertical position, as the aircraft banked into final approach. The sky was already dark with just an orange glow sweeping into view on the horizon as they touched down.
The UNREST people had a welcoming committee of three local staff who had apparently familiarised themselves with Rosset's photo ... he had expected to see someone with a sign bearing his name but, seeing none, began to feel slightly uneasy among the noisy swarm of pyjama-clad porters and mostly nervous passengers milling around, seeking contacts, fumbling for documents ... until they found him as he entered the immigration transit area. They managed his passage through immigration fast and trouble free. In the makeshift baggage hall, Rosset was relieved to see the six large pieces of baggage marked with large red name tags eventually arrive on a trolley. After indicating his pieces, the UNREST crew checked them through Customs and the US Military control point. Outside, in the cool, dark and dust-laden atmosphere they were met by two more local staff, both carrying automatic weapons. Rosset wondered whether this was all necessary, but accepted the circumstances as they were. 'These people must also know what they are doing,' he thought. The journey into the city area, through dark and potholed streets in the Toyota pick-up didn't reveal very much, except that there was a distinct lack of lighting. Katja's words ...'we have had no power for several days...' echoed. Finally slowing along a street lined by large buildings ... 'houses?' ... and steering around piles of concrete blocks tumbled from crumbling front walls, the two vehicles stopped in front of a pair of large gates that slowly opened, letting them in to a large courtyard in front of a barred-windowed residence of some sort. The gates closed, a lamp came on and illuminated the front door to the right as two men emerged, one obviously a guard, the other, dark slicked-back hair, short and compact, dressed in a smart local style long pale coloured shirt-like garment with long arms over a darker suit.
"Welcome Mister Jean Rosset, welcome to our modest quarters and to Kabul ", the short man offered with widespread arms as he approached the vehicle from which Rosset was extracting himself. They shook hands as the man continued, smiling, exposing gleaming white front teeth flanked by gold. "My name is Sharif Al Nazar, office manager. Please, come inside. Leave your things, the staff will bring everything in ... you must be tired and hungry .... we have refreshments ready for you but you must want to freshen up". Rosset, still somewhat befuddled by the long flights and a light case of jet lag, managed a polite "Pleased to meet you, Mister Al Nazar, but I'm not all that hungry, please, not too much trouble", a response waved aside by Sharif Al Nazar ... who added "Please, my friends call me Sharif".
The building, once a well fitted villa, seemed to be clean and comfortable at first glance. Rosset was shown to a bathroom, offered a fresh towel by a houseman. A small generator clattered outside the bathroom window. 'At least some power'.
Sharif led Rosset to a middle room where a table was set with an assortment of crockery containing fruit, candies, flat bread and what looked like yoghurt or sour cream. Invited to sit at the head of the table, he drew up a well made but well used upholstered chair, one of several, all of different designs but of a style at least. An image appeared in the corner of his eye, a tall dark-haired woman in a long flowing light coloured cloak stood in the doorway. He shut his eyes, shook his head ... 'shit I must be tired' ... but looking up, the apparition was still there. Katja. He shook his head again, not believing. The apparition spoke ... "Well about time. What kept you?"
"Katja ... ?"
"Don't be so surprised! ... although I guess you're still jetlagged and getting over the first impressions. Different, isn't it? Welcome to AFG!"
Rosset stood up, nearly upsetting the chair, recovered and walked around the table. "Man, you are a sight for sore eyes!" ... and remembering that he should show some decorum, shook hands with the apparition that wasn't. "It is so good to see you, how did you know I was here? Come and sit beside me. Tell me something. Anything. How the hell are you?"
"Great. Now ... and you?, you looked pooped. Tough trip? It is a long and tiring flight, nicht wahr?"
Sharif came in, advised that some food was on the way. With a knowing look, he would check back later.
They caught up on the news over a soup of broth and boiled potatoes. Katja was due to move out at any time, possibly in the morning. Rosset had some items he had to give her, that she ... they ... would need. It might be possible to keep in touch while she was in the field.
"Wonderful ... but listen, sadly there's no chance of us getting together, I mean, close. Not here. First, getting around outside is a problem and second, any playing around, you know what I mean, will soon spread and would certainly upset the radical elements. The very last thing we need. Too bad really, I could do with some close contact". Over flat bread and sour cream, she continued "We'll get the chance once things settle. Be patient. But don't start turning me on!"
They met again the following day, at first in the offices of the Northern Region NATO team where Rosset and Sharif had a pre-arranged meeting with a German liason officer to discuss security matters in his target region; and where Katja was making final arrangements for an escort through to Faisabad. The two agreed that Rosset would visit the CEALIT offices, and Katja, for lunch.
Rosset's driver knew the city well enough to avoid potential trouble spots, not that there were too many these days, he explained, things were looking much better. The weather was fine but not warm, a yellow grey pall of dust and smog that matched the dust coloured city, buildings of indeterminate shape loomed and passed. Rosset was surprised at the almost total destruction evident in most of the city and what wasn't destroyed looked like it should have been. Katja's office looked like his own, a once white painted villa behind a newly but hastily erected concrete block wall. Inside, Katja led the way to her operations centre as she called it, showed Rosset her target zone of operations on their wall map, a small and isolated area just inside the eastern border not too far from the Tajik town of Rushan .
"Katja, I know that area! Shit, that's as rough as hell in there! Not a road in sight, mountains that don't stop going up, and probably still covered in snow. Glaciers, avalanches, rock slides, how the hell are you going to get in there? The only access is by foot along tracks just wide enough for a donkey ... if you're lucky!"
"We're going the long way round, over Faisabad then on to Tajikistan through Ishkashim, by road to Khorog then over into Afghanistan again, and then it's a long foot-march in, but civilised, I'm told".
"Civilised? Nothing in that part of the world is civilised. My God, do these people know what they are asking of you?"
"Yes well I'm sure they do. In any case I'm also supposed to advise on the need for roads, at least roads to get the kids to school from the villages in the area; and to the area from where-ever the road stops. And I'm not going in there forever, it's a survey trip that will include starting to set up a proper school. Getting the locals to prepare a first classroom, delivering some school materials, setting up a place for a teacher, that kind of thing. Not too heavy" ... and to herself ... 'if that was all I had to do it would be a snap ... finding out what's going on in the area is what it's really all about' . .. then she continued "And what about you, do you know where you are going to be?"
"Not precisely but it can't be too far from there. Although I'm sure it's well inland from the border area. I'll have a better idea after this afternoon's briefing. I'll let you know before you go. Any news about that yet?"
"Probably tomorrow, all being well. The escort's arranged, I'm all set to move out".
During a spaghetti bolognese lunch served with the normal accoutrements of flat bread, yoghurt and various plates of candies and fruit, Rosset handed over the bundled Galileo transmitter and the cellphone. Pots of tea were served while Rosset gave Katja a brief rundown on both. "With some luck we'll be able to stay in touch by cellphone. I'll contact you as soon as I'm in position, and in any case I'll be able to keep track of where you are with the transmitter. Take care of it".
"Do I get a number where I can call you".
"Just press the number 'one', it's programmed to reach me. But only if we're close enough to the communications mast. Do you have any means of charging batteries?"
"We have a small generator. And with some luck we'll find a village with a minihydel ... you know them, the small water-driven generators they sometimes have in the mountains. I'm told several of the NGO's that have been working in the area have installed a few here and there".
"You have three spare cellphone batteries fully charged. Turn on at 2100 hours only for 30 minutes, then off again. But not for the next several weeks. We won't be set up before then. The Galileo transmitter should run for several months".
|key words ...
nuclear, dirty bomb, dirty nuclear device, radio active device, weapons of mass destruction, Galileo, Osama bin Laden, tall man long shadow, most wanted man, Al Qaeda, El Qaeda, Al Quida, Terrorists, Special Forces, Homeland Security Organisation, Homeland Security Organization, Central Security Services Agency, CSS, DOD, Department of Defense, CIA, National Security Agency, NSA, Digital Security Organisation, DSO, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgistan, Uzbekistan, Sicily, Syracusa, Palermo, Budapest, KGB, Latitude 37, Duesseldorf, Suffolk Park, West Virginia, CVN 75, Carrier Group, Harry S. Truman, Huey, Cobra, Hercules, Spectre.