It started off as a perfect morning. I had some extra time for breakfast and enjoyed a fluffy egg omelet, fresh fruit, and washed it down with some mediocre tasting coffee. Omid and I loaded the truck with large bags of clothing, blankets, and first aid kits. In addition, I had some boxes of hygiene items and some other gifts to present to my ANA counterparts as parting gifts.
Our first stop was the Kandak Religious Officer (RO) and Mullah’s office. We ran into the ANA Sergeant Major and I asked him to boil some water for chai because we would visit his office next. The Mullah was in the RO’s office and I didn’t have to chase him down. They were both happy to see me and more so when they saw I had some gifts. Previously the Mullah was having trouble with his cell phone and asked if I could find one for him. At my previous camp, the ANA Sergeant Major gave me two cell phones to use, even though I rarely used them. I suspect he felt guilty about gouging me on the contracts I gave him, he would reciprocate a little. So instead of giving the phone away to another soldier, I gave this phone to the Mullah. His eyes really lit up when I presented it to him. The RO also had a request. He had a problem with his memory stick, so I replaced it with a new one. He too, was very happy with his gift.
The Mullah and RO were sad to see me go and thanked me for everything I did in supporting the literacy class and for distributing humanitarian assistance in the villages. I joked, “I’m not ready to be converted to the Muslim faith and that I was going to remain with my book (Bible).” The Mullah, a man of few words, “Wished me the best with my travels back to the United States and happiness to my family. They will be sad to see me go.” Before leaving, we took a picture together and I thanked them for teaching me about Afghanistan and the Koran.
Our next stop was the ANA Sergeant Major’s office. We walked into his room and the teapot was boiling water and bubbling over the sides on to the table. He was still using the same bag of tea leaves that I previously gave him as a gift. Since the SGM is supporting 12 children, I presented him several boxes of hygiene items for his family to use. I also gave him an opportunity to pick through some of the clothes that were loaded on the back of the pick-up truck.
While sipping our chai, he revealed some information about the ANA school supply distribution. Some of his soldiers participated on this mission. According to his soldiers, after the school supplies were loaded on the back of a truck, they made a detour before arriving at the school. The truck stopped at the ANA Brigade Surgeon’s house and he had the soldiers off load several boxes of school supplies and a portion of the Beanie Babies. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Here was a man I entrusted and to save face and keep our promises, I divided the school supplies and Beanie Babies for distribution to the village school. This is the same village where the ANA surgeon was born at. Now I find out he deprived his own people of goods only to enrich himself. I was livid and still am!! Interestingly enough, he is not a real doctor either and apparently knew someone to get his position and title of ANA Brigade Surgeon! Furthermore, we already suspected him of taking medicines from the pharmacy along with some of the other medics. Coincidentally, they all own pharmacies in Kabul city. After this school supply thievery, I would not be surprised he is also stealing medicines from the ANA medical warehouse to resupply his privately owned pharmacy.
Note: I am still contemplating what to do. I have no real proof and a soldier will not provide testimony against an officer. Even if he did, there would be little ramifications due to a weak and inadequate justice system. Somehow I want him to know that I know what he did. I will have to sleep on this one and determine my course of action.
The ANA SGM still wants to give me a gift too. He wanted to take me to his house and eat a home-cooked Afghan meal together. But he knew for security reasons this wouldn’t be possible. Instead, he is going to bring the food and offered to make me lunch tomorrow. This will be his parting gift to me. I am not sure if the man knows how to cook, but tomorrow I will find out. It’s the thought that counts.
Our next stop was at the ANA Family Support Center. The garrison Religious Officer and his assistant were waiting on me and the truckload of supplies. I tried to assist with offloading the truck, but the RO insisted the soldiers do it and for Omid and I to come into his office to chat. This is the officer who formerly served as a Mujahedeen commander under Ahmad Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance who fought against the Soviets and the Taliban. To be cont’d…..