Want to buy US military wares in Afghanistan? Go to Obama Market.
Afghanistan vendors in the 'Obama Market' in Kabul sell MREs, military cots, and goggles like those used by the American military. It's not clear where they come from, but the Otis Spunkmeyer cookies are popular.
First came the Brezhnev Market. Then the Bush Market.Skip to next paragraph
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Now Afghans are beginning to call their notorious bazaar full of chow and supplies bought or stolen from the vast US military bases by the name of the current American president, a modest counterweight to his Nobel Peace Prize.
"It is Obama Market now," pronounced Haji Tor, a rotund shopkeeper who acts as kind of an unofficial chamber of commerce president for the market in the Afghan capital. "Bush is finished."
Well, maybe not quite yet. Most of the shopkeepers and customers still call it the Bush Market, but several said that the new name is gradually gaining traction.
The small market, tucked behind a commercial building in the northwest side of the city, is a US taxpayer's nightmare.
In front of Tor's shop was a nearly waist-high, three-deep wall of boxed food that apparently had been destined for military chow halls. There were cases of pre-cooked cheddar gravy sausage biscuits (forbidden to Muslims, who don't eat pork), and dozens of flats of the Otis Spunkmeyer muffins and white chocolate macadamia cookies that soldiers often get at mealtime.
"I myself like the cookies and cakes," Tor said.
Inside, two assistants were stacking hundreds of bottles onto a wall of shelves full of Gatorade. Shelves on the other walls were jammed with Quaker Instant Grits, Aunt Jemima syrup, McCormick spices and the giant cans of vegetables used in chow halls.
All around were stalls offering cases of MREs (meals-ready-to-eat), new-in-the-box military cots and goods usually sold on base stores, such as American-made shampoo, military ID holders and the huge plastic jars of the food supplements used by bodybuilders.
One shop offered an expensive military-issue sleeping bag, tactical goggles like those used by US troops and a stack of plastic footlockers, including one stenciled "Campbell G Co. 10th Mtn Div." Another had a sophisticated "red-dot" optical rifle sight of a kind often used by soldiers and contractors.
Some of the items for sale were knock-offs of military boots and packs, and some of the food is past its expiration date. Tor's muffin boxes said they were no good after March 9, 2009.
Many of the goods, though, are supplies that were intended for American troops – it's hard to deny the origins of MREs, for example – and in good condition. Most apparently originate at the giant Bagram air base north of Kabul, where there's a similar market just outside the base. The precise route the stuff takes to market, though, isn't clear, at least if you ask the shopkeepers.
"The food, some guys working for the company that is making meals for the American forces get it for us," said Jamshid Ahmadyer, 26, one of Tor's assistants. "If the foreigners aren't eating they get it as a gift from their bosses."