A rare attack on Bagram Air Field
Rockets struck Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, Afghanistan, in the early hours of Sunday morning, killing two US soldiers and injuring six. Normally, Bagram is a serene oasis of Americana.
The rocket attack that killed two American soldiers in Afghanistan Sunday struck the most heavily fortified base in the country, an enormous expanse of scrub and prefabricated buildings that is the closest thing to home that Americans know while posted in the Hindu Kush.
Attacks on Bagram are rare. Its location north of Kabul puts it out of the Taliban's historic reach. Indeed, the Northern Alliance mounted its 2001 offensive against Taliban rule from the barren peaks to the north.
Moreover, the base is vast. It is essentially a military city with its origins in the days of the Soviet occupation. Today, traffic can back up at busy times on the main thoroughfare, Disney Road (named for a fallen soldier), and Pizza Hut delivery scooters putter past sweat-shirted soldiers out for their PT run.
Clearly, the post is not exempt from the tides of the Afghan war waged around it. The entrance is a bleak channel of gray concrete, hemming would-be suicide bombers in on both sides and forcing them through a slalom course of thick slabs protruding like broken teeth.
A suicide bomber attacked the base in 2007 when then-Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting. He didn't get past the first gate.
Yet most of the time, the front gate is thronged by dozens of supply trucks, often lined up in queues thousands of feet long and painted in kaleidoscopic colors. Inside, there is an almost audible exhale.
At the Pat Tillman USO Center, which gives the appearance of a Rocky Mountain ski lodge, off-duty troops lounge on upholstered sofas, surfing wireless hi-speed internet or watching "The King of Queens" on big-screen TVs. The chic sucking sound of the espresso machine is less out of place than gunfire.