• Into Kandahar: Staff writer Mark Sappenfield traveled to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in part to see if all the warnings and concerns were valid. There's a new NATO offensive in the area that's just gotten under way, an effort to blunt the much anticipated Taliban spring offensive (see story).
"The value in going to Kandahar for me was in confronting fears about the region. The stories that come out of Afghanistan – and the south in particular – are almost universally about all that is bad. And for good reason – the situation there is dire," he says.
Western journalists are counseled not to travel to the southern city – or if they do go, not to leave the city because the Taliban forces are nearby. During their visit, Team Monitor – Mark, Monitor photographer Andy Nelson, their interpreter and driver – took security precautions, including daylight-only trips and never lingering in one place for long.
But amid the security and warnings, Mark says that it is "too easy to imagine that everyone is a terrorist. Of course, some might be. I don't know any more about the people on the street than what they told me. But without exception, they treated me with kindness and respect. Many thanked me for coming to tell the story of the average Afghan."
The Afghans he met had a generous helping of pride, but also showed an equal measure of self-deprecation, repeatedly referring to themselves as "the poor people of a land long-exploited by greater powers." But, he says, "when shown respect, they often reflect it 10-fold. There is a warmth and a goodness to the people of Afghanistan that is all-too-often overlooked."
David Clark Scott