The first thingI heard this morning was an almost triumphant story of how a British sniper killed six "insurgents" with a single bullet. He hit the pulling mechanism of a suidice-bomber – from a distance of 850 meters. Strange story - and bad timing by the UK Telegraph. It happened last year in a southern province.
Today in Kabul, three days before the elections, it particularly striking how quiet it is on the streets. Many people stay at home or have left town. But you do not gain time by the absence of the endless traffic chaos that normally prevails here . On every street corner - and that's really almost literally - you will be stopped by soldiers and officers for security checks . Open the glove compartment and trunk , explain that no weapons are in the first aid kit, and move on. People seem pretty nervous before election day.
There is, also in our team, an enormous war weariness. It all takes too long, the insecurity lingers in all domains of life, and thirteen years after the fall of the Taliban not much has changed in terms of political development. The continuous messages of gunfights and explosions in all provinces does not help either. That it will get worse before it finally gets better is clear to everyone.
And yet there is, next to a certain cynicism and fatigue, the feeling of some iron perseverance, call it resilience in the aid lingo. Fatigue was easily ousted by enthusiasm today when the team went through the Annual Report 2013 and the new plans. More than 6 million patients were treated last year, psychiatric help given to 140,000 people , and nearly 2,000 people trained. This year we bring mosquito nets to 2 million families , and we will continue with the women's groups that started two hundred independent projects last year, on which they made money .
Sometimes I ask myself where that resilience, perseverance comes from. It is certainly not hard to imagine how people may give up hope. The election posters show virtually no new faces: it's still the same old leaders, many of them war criminals, who have been busy to fill their pockets and chase each other for
more than thirty years. Might that perseverance have something to do with the famous Afghan 'pride' and ‘honor’? In everyday life in Afghanistan I do not encounter much more ‘honor’ in behavior than in most
other countries , I must confess. But there is this certain perseverance, which borders on stubbornness , which plays across the various ethnic groups and age brackets .
The story of the British sharpshooter who scored his double hat trick from 850 meters away might tell us something – by way of comparison, strange as it may seem. The difference in materials at the hands of the two opponents is striking. One young man handles a L115A3 gun, the Army 's most powerful sniper weapon, from a distance; the other has a ragged coat with homemade explosives – only useful at such short range that suicide comes in the package.
The L115A3 gun is hold by a soldier on the ground, and not joysticked by some anonymous at the other end of the world – but the difference in 'engagement’ is still huge. I've heard a lot of veterans from Afghanistan say that it is hard to tell whether the Afghan enemy that storms you so poorly prepared and poorly armed is brave, drugged, or just plain stupid. Here is the enormous difference between the real hard core Al Qaeda militants and the ordinary Afghan boys fighting for the Taliban. It is the latter that come with the stubbornness of the suicide bomber.
I suspect that the distance between the British and Afghan boys is as big in materials used as in motivation – emotional engagement.
That stubborn motivation is what I recognize in the perseverance of the people here that are trying to keep health care accessible and functioning, against all odds. The Ministry of Public Health stated said this morning in a specially convened meeting that clinics should not be used as polling stations . That begets
violence, and affects the impartiality of healthcare. But everyone knows that least 160 clinics have already been prepared to function as polling station.
The day after tomorrow the elections will be held. I hope that the perseverance of the young Taliban fighter does not have to come opposite of that the brave health workers.