Welcome to the Transit Center at Manas…stepping off point for Operation Enduring Freedom. This place a few kilometers north of Bishkek, the capitol of Kyrgyzstan, is the last stop between wonderful Germany and the absolute awesomeness that is the nation of Afghanistan. Affectionately pronounced “man-ass” by several of us (its official pronunciation is “man-is”)who in giving up almost all female contact for the next year are greatly looking forward to seeing a lot of man-ass on a regular basis, the base really has all the comforts any of us would expect from an Air Force facility: air conditioning just about everywhere, free wifi-internet, several MWR (morale, welfare, and recreation) tents, a fully stocked base-exchange complete with pizza hut, and pretty much anything you could want before starting your “man-assical” journey into a warzone.
Overall though, life is pretty isolated here and I really can’t see I have actually seen any of Kyrgyzstan since the only thing visible over the fences complete with HESCO barriers is a few mountains far off in the distance that are usually obscured by haze or more likely just blowing sand. We also haven’t really accomplished much here besides getting our IDs scanned official starting our 365-day tours of duty (eerily reminds me of Vietnam, but whatever), get woken up for a 2-hour mandatory briefing on the importance of COIN and how we need to respect the local populace rather than kill them, and have our protective body armor plates checked to make sure they can actually stop a 7.62mm round rather than just slow one down a bit or not at all. Beyond that though it has been pretty chill and relaxed and I’ve had a bit of nice time to take care of a few things before heading out to Afghanistan.
On a side note, it looks like I’ve got a new boss today as General Petraeus handed over command of Afghanistan to General Allen. It was kind of interesting that our 2-hour briefing involved a lot of new directives put in place by Petraeus when he took over last year while he also had a large part in producing the FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency which has essentially been the guidebook for the American military’s attempt at operationalizing and making sense of the current conflict. And while he is now going to CIA soon to oversee, among several other things, drone attacks in Pakistan and working with the ISI you can start to see the stage setting for a possible, regionalized approach to the “Af-Pak” problem coined originally by our very own, Richard Holbrooke, who had gained his first fame as the diplomat in charge of stopping the killing in the Balkans in 1995 from which one military, the Serbians, I had worked with on my quick training rotation to Romania last year around the time Petraeus was taking over Afghanistan. Our lives are all the consequence of coincidence mixed with our reactions to them and there are certainly quite a few of them here…
Anyway, I have to get moving on. Still have anywhere from 6 to 48 hours left to enjoy wonderful “man-ass”. Have fun, stay safe, and I’ll catch you later.
18 JUL 2011, 1900 Kyrgyz (GMT +6), Manas Airport, Kyrgyzstan