Bazaar…Fridays are the day of rest in Afghanistan so no meetings were scheduled except for General Allen at the end of the day. This is the one day off for the Embassy as well. Amb. Crocker took us to the Bazaar which he enjoys. This bazaar is the only major one in Kabul and it is open only on Fridays on the grounds of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) which is adjacent to the U.S. Embassy. The reason there are no other bazaars is that there really aren’t any tourists in Kabul.
The bazaar is quite extensive and is fun on a nice day as this was. Some really nice goods are for sale…rugs, jewelry, scarves, knives, boxes, bowls, etc. I estimate there were about 100 vendors. One has to bargain (or at least you’re foolish not to) and you can agree at about 50% of the first price.
General John Allen is the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). You may have seen him on TV as he just returned this week from the U.S. He said that 2012 will be an important year in the fighting as the Taliban were severely battered last year and he feels confident that 2012 will be even more discouraging for them.
The fighting season is March to November so it is just starting again. It is interesting to note that there is a fighting season and that the enemy will take two weeks off for the poppy harvest in about two weeks, and then continue through to fall. Of great importance to Gen. Allen is the vast improvement in Afghan forces that is intended to position them to take over the lead in operations by early 2014.
Just prior to our meeting he finalized his decision on how to meet the President’s planned force reduction of 23,000 by year end. Perhaps the most important part of the plan is the assumption of the lead role by the Afghan forces. One reason for this is that the enemy often has second thoughts when they are confronted by Afghans. The plans are in place. Reality on the ground will tell us if the goals are being met.