The word "dookh" is a Russian slang word used by soviet soldiers for an Afghan mujahadin, derived from the word - dooshman which is a synonym of the word mujahadin which literally translated as fighter, warrior. Incidentally the Russian meanings of the word "dookh" are - spirit, will, spook.
Instead of Preface
It was a second year of my round of duty in Afghanistan. By all accounts, I've already seen it all, done it all and was well on my way to lose respect for anything sacred. Raids with spetsnaz (soviet special-ops, commando groups that carried out missions of high risk and complexity) and tactical covert executions of mujahadinleaders and their men were virtually everyday elements of my life as a soviet specialist-adviser to the Afghan police's (Tsarandoi) special department.
Having twelve years of civilian experience in criminal law enforcement under my belt, I've learned the basics of military special-ops, reconnaissance and diversion methods quickly and easily. Those were the bread and butter of Tsarandoi's special department. And God have mercy on those unfortunate souls that attracted extra attention of this particular branch of police. The end result was always the same - bombing raid, artillery strike, or a very special gift from shuravi (Russians) - hanging on the gun barrel of noorka (nickname of the soviet mobile artillery unit, literally Russian girl's name).
Brutality was mutual from both sides. It was not really dictated by the so-called "rules of war", but rather by human emotions. There was no room left for mercy toward anybody or anything, all living things fell victims of this bloodshed. Everything that could run, walk, crawl or move had to be stopped, strangled, torn, gutted, killed...
"Rules of War" - ferocious, brutal...
Those that ever visited Kandahar will never forget this exotic city. Since the beginning of time it was a southern stronghold of Afghanistan and one of the symbols of its might. Kandahar was always considered a capital of independent, freedom loving pashtun tribes; and all rulers of Afghanistan always tried hard not to loose their influence over this rebellious city. Always playing nice with the leaders of especially powerful tribes - giving them sovereign power, former kings and emirs created here some sort of a Porto Franco or free trade zone. Not without own divine and material interests of course. Forever, kings and nobility built magnificent palaces and villas that were true gems of Kandahar and its suburbs. The bigger the gem the more power had its owner in Kabul (capital of Afghanistan).
Kandahar fit right in surrounding landscape, located on the merger between southern spur of the Hindu Kush Mountains and hot sands of the Great Registan desert. Mountainous ridges adjoined to the city from west and east and the well-irrigated oasis valley on the south protected the city, from high winds and destructive sand storms.
A very special sentiment to the city's character was added by the centuries old pine trees and tall gracious poplars that grew throughout Kandahar; especially in the Sixth District, to the west of the Old Town. This neighborhood was practically a Central Park of sorts and was always admired and occupied by affluent locals of the late 20th century. And despite the war, poverty and other disasters that fell on the city residents over the years, they were able to preserve these charming beautiful trees from being cut down to the mere fire wood.
Trees were the asylums for the large numbers of exotic birds. Particularly parrots, with bright-green, colorful feathers, that were prevalent. They've nested in pomegranate and plane trees and their deafening sharp clicking and croaking would be heard for miles away.
The central part of the Kandahar was the Old Town. Divided into four separate districts and surrounded by a single mud-built, clay defense wall. Each district had its own mosque and public baths that were social clubs for locals.
Right in the center of the Old Town located the main mosque of Kandahar. The blue dome of that mosque was visible for miles and miles away from the city and was a perfect reference point for the mujahadin barrages of the government and military establishments.
According to the old legend, Prophet Mohammad, visiting Kandahar during his missionary journey throughout the Asia, presented his lather raincoat to Islam students of the city. From the words of local parishioners, the "slicker" is still in the mosque, safely preserved in the glass display case and is considered one of the holy relics of Islam.
There are four gateways into the Old Town. The main entrance dominated by the ancient stone gates - Idgah, named after the Muslim holiday, located on the north end. Built in a typical medieval middle-eastern style and decorated with vivid glaze murals, these stunning gates to this day could be used as the crest of Kandahar.
In the mid-20th century part of the Old Town was demolished and a series of municipal buildings were built in its place. After the April's revolution the function of those buildings didn't change significantly. Only now they were subjects of a new governor and an entire army of his clerks and city officials.
A myriad of markets, bazaars, retail and service shops of all sizes and shapes added to a very special personality of the city. Stained with soot, workshop of a craftsman manufacturing tin pots and other household items would be right next to a bakery that would bake corn flat breads in its tandir oven all day long. Small store - dukan, selling fabrics would adjoin to a butcher shop; a vegetable stand would be right next to a bicycle repair shop and so on.
On top of all these exotics, there were numerous chaikhanas (small cafeterias) throughout the city. Which in addition to the traditional tea-drinking, offered all kinds of "leisure services", from short nap on soft pillows to kalian smokingof opium... (kalian - traditional oriental smoking apparatus with a long flexible tube connected to a container where the smoke is cooled by passing through water or vine)
But there were also a darker side of Kandahar...
War that raged for years didn't pass over the city, just like countless other Afghan towns and kishlaks (small villages). Ruins of once delightful villas could be seen right from the city fringes. And it wouldn't matter from which side you'd enter the city - rubbles were universally at hand.
Soldiers and officers of the Soviet Army that were deployed in Kandahar would never forget such neighborhoods as "Elevator", "GSM" or "Black Square". Those were black holes that sucked souls of fallen soviet soldiers as well as the enormous military budget of the Soviet Union.
Curbs of the road leading from the "Black Square" to the "Elevator" were covered with skeletons of burned down auto and armored vehicles. In 1987, the famous Russian singer and songwriter Alexander Rosenbaum, wrote his well-known song "Black Tulip", traveling through this very road. For the very first time this song was heard by the troops of the Kandahar Brigade. Probably to this day, there is a single word written by Rosenbaum with a piece of coal on one of the walls left standing from the wreck of the infamous "GSM" complex. Only single word - "Udachi!" (Russian for Good Luck!, Godspeed!)
The kindhearted driver Gilani, the wit and the humorist, real to the bone kandaharian, he was the essence of the Kandahar for the entire adviser kinship of provincial Tsarandoi. I really liked this down-to-earth, straightforward and honest guy. He was ready to chew-off head of any "fellow" local that would have any ill ideas against soviet specialists and above all advisers to the special and criminal investigation units. Many times he helped my translator Oleg and me safely return to our living quarters in Compound, or simply UN camp, seriously "after-hours". Those after-hours usually started practically right after the noon namaz (Muslim prayer, has to be performed at certain times throughout a day)...
Gilani was a seasoned driver and mechanic, he took extra care of his car and even in his thoughts couldn't allow his trusty "Toyota" to let him or his patrons down and break in the middle of the road. The car paid back with the same fidelity.
At the age of Christ, Gilani was slim, below average height, with fire-red hair that grew all over his head. He dressed exclusively in Afghan national clothes - long short, wide pants and slippers. Gilani didn't really speak Russian, but learned enough words and common phrases, which he creatively mixed with common Dari words to communicate easily with shuravi. When Gilani talked, his hands moved so fast they practically were his second tongue.
On his left wrist, next to the thumb, Gilani had a tattoo that looked like a fascist swastika. I even joked about it asking him which Nazi military division he used to belong. And Gilani calmly explained that he got this tattoo when he was a little boy and was made by his Indian neighbor. According to an old Indian legend, this symbol supposes to bring luck to the owner in all affairs. Someone with this tattoo is protected from all evil in this life, and Gilani really didn't have any reasons to complain on his life. He had stable and relatively safe job, we never involved him into any combat or special operations. There was really no need for that anyway because in zelionka (in Russianliterally means greenery, military slang for locations of enemy forces marked on military maps with green color) we preferred to ride exclusively on APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers or BMPs in Russian abbreviation).
Everyday work of an adviser required constant movement in and outside of the city. It was an occupational hazard. At the same time nobody was ever assigned to guard the advisor. At the best, adviser had a translator by his side and even that only if the destination Tsarandoi garrison didn't have a single Russian speaking Afghan. Which was actually a rare occasion because most, even lower ranked Tsarandoi officers, spoke decent Russian.
Trips through the city held certain degree of risk for both the driver and the adviser. At any moment we could get into a dangerous situation with questionable outcome. Like this one time, when Gilani was driving me through the Old Town...
Mid afternoon heat dozed-down city dwellers and they sat out in the shadow of trees, or under canopies of dukans and chaikhanas. In front of our car, slowly spinning pedals of a chinese-made bicycle went bobo (afghan elderly, male senior citizen). I'm not sure what happened to the guy; most likely he just fell asleep, but as soon as we caught up with bobo, he suddenly turned out a rudder of a bicycle toward the car and in a flash appeared sitting on a hood of our "Toyota". Completely disoriented he sat perplexed and gaped around. Instantly the crowd started gathering around. People noticed shuravi inside the cabin and begun angry hoot. I realized that leaving the car in such situation would be extremely unwise. In the crowd there could be a mujahadin who would love to stick a knife in my back. Without a blink, Gilani snatched out the metal pipe from under his seat and plunged right into the crowd. Nobody expected such force from him and mob posed in hesitation. Taking advantage of this confusion, Gilani jumped right back behind the wheel and revving the engine took off, nearly hitting two bachas (young male kids), prowling around a bicycle still lying on the road after bobo's baffle...
Constant interaction with Gilani gradually grew into something greater, than formal relationship of a subordinate and a chief. Knowing, that Gilani had three kids, I've tried to help the best I could. Every time, I've returned from the Brigade (reference to the headquarters of the 40th Soviet Army Brigade deployed in Kandahar), I brought back sweets, candy, and other groceries I bought in their internal store, realizing that Gilani will give those to his children. Benevolent bond between Gilani and me, sooner or later should have played a major role in the recruitment of one of the field commanders.
Incidentally, Gilani's older brother - Abdullah, was the head of the significant mujahadin group in the suburbs of Kandahar. Those who had misfortune to fight them did not easily forget the operations lead by this group in 1983-1985 near Kandahar and in provinces Helmand and Zabol.
The civil war that started right after the April's revolution split Afghanistan in two halves. Those that disagreed with new order automatically became dookhs (mujahadins); and those that accepted new government became "infidels", at least according to Muslim preachers.
The local population considered limited contingent of the Soviet armed forces entered Afghanistan on December, 25th, 1979, simply as invaders. Practically all provinces started mass resistance. Especially fierce counteraction to the Soviet forces by mujahadin took place on the south of the country, including Kandahar province. The Soviet war machine wasn't too liberal either. Afghanistan soil was covered with bomb pits. Numerous towns and kishlaks were reduced to dust on a daily basis.
Statistic is a relentless thing. Shuravi lost in the Afghan war around 15 thousand killed and another 56 thousand wounded. And who knows how many mental fatalities lost our Motherland out of those 500 thousand that survived and returned home. To this day nobody counted...
Afghanistan suffered even greater.
Besides the ruined economic infrastructure, which was wiped entirely, country lost over a million of its citizens. Considering the overall population of the country of about 15 millions (including nomadic tribes)! How many wounded, no one will ever know.
However mujahadins, with all their combat experience, suffered least of all. By far, most lives were lost among peaceful population. But then again, it was extremely hard to distinguish ones from the others. Peacefully grazing the flock of sheep during the day, friendly shepherd turned into a ruthless killer at night...
People became mujahadin for different reasons. Some picked-up weapons out of revenge; tried to settle scores with the shuravi and the government for their lost relatives or vanished property. Others, fell victims of some complicated life situations and had to become gang members to "make a buck". No wonder, by selling a stolen or taken as a trophy in a fight Kalashnikov (soviet automatic assault-rifles), one could easily afford to pay a kalim (a required payment to the woman's father or older brother before taking her as a wife) for another wife or to payoff an old loan.
There were all kinds of people in gangs, from insulted underachievers, up to dreadful criminals. Leaders of those gangs were just as diverse - former military, major landowners, teachers (mooalems), religious leaders (mullahs) and other authoritative people placed by the tribal elders (Jirga).
The Afghan war showed that the most brutal gangs were those comprised by mostly illiterate shepherds and dekkhans (villagers). Torn off from their farms, deprived of the last piece of bread, they perceived the enemy as the reason of their everyday trouble. Most of them had absolutely nothing to lose, their homes were ruined, relatives killed. Their hands got accustomed to killing and couldn't do anything else. The primitive psychology of an ordinary mujahadins easily came under influence from the more educated leaders. And of course if the leader of a gang was a mullah, cruelty had ideological underlying reason of Jihad (holly war against infidels, if killed in Jihad, mujahadin was guaranteed a place in heaven).
In the Kandahar province, maybe only voiceless donkeys didn't know field commander Mullah Malang. Simple mention of this bandit's name would freeze blood in people's veins. He was hated not only by shuravi, but even by Afghans themselves. Twenty-nine years old, short chum, one of those we call in Russia "one meter tall, if you measure with the hat", kept entire neighborhoods in fear. His sadistic diversions were legendary and had plenty of material evidence. Mullah Malang drove around Kandahar on his speedy "Toyota" that could take aboard a dozen of mujahadins. In the pick-up of his truck Malang always kept a wide wooden board. He used it as an altar for executions. Anybody could fall on that board, even a member of his gang suspected in treason. Malang even came up with a special ritual consisted of an entire bouquet of "refined" tortures with eventual quartering of a human body. Victims died in an unthinkable agony. Both Afghan and Soviet special forces persistently hunted Malang for years. Rewards were offered for his head. But he was untraceable. In 1985 Afghan agents finally identified a location of his gang and spetsnazGRU (special-ops commandos of the Soviet military intelligence - elite forces) conducted a daring operation. During a fierce battle, gang was wiped out. But Malang and two of his bodyguards were able to flee.
Like a half-dead poisonous snake he crawled into Pakistan to lick his wounds. Three months later, he was right back in the province to continue his fight with "infidels".
Many years later, browsing the news on the web, I've noticed a short news brief that claimed Mullah Malang was appointed governor of the Ghazni province for the great accomplishments before Taliban, and once again showed his "unique talents". But as they say, sooner or later the end will come... Something that shuravi had started American commandos finished. In fall of 2002, during a special operation in Kandahar, Malang along with several his supporters, was captured in one of the mosques. Dookhs defended themselves fiercely and majority was killed, but wounded Malang was captured and after short treatment was transported to the Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba. Where, quite possibly, he will spend the rest of his life, or so I can only hope...
In mid 1985, mujahadins started to go through an amusing metamorphosis. Finally realizing that there are no viable economical rewards from an active resistance and playing along with wishes of the official government, which tried to implement the so called "national reconciliation", gangs in bunches started to switch sides and join the Afghan armed forces. The new term "contractual gangs" started to circulate. There was a certain rationale behind all that. Territories controlled by "contractual gangs" were no longer shelled or attacked by Afghan or Soviet forces. It was a single most important condition that was agreed upon.
The most influential field commanders were appointed as government officials and their subordinates got steady jobs, which often were not much different from what they were doing as gang-members before. Now robbery and extortion had an official backing and gangs simply setup all sorts of checkpoints wherever they felt like; then just sit and collect "tolls" from anyone passing.
In 1985, one of the biggest gangs, with over two thousand members, switched sides and joined the government. Leader of the gang was the field commander Muslim Ismat. Soviet media made a huge deal out of it. Photographs of Muslim Ismat were on covers of magazines along with heroic stories about the commander. For the longest time before this however, the gang simply robbed anyone traveling through the road from Kandahar to Pakistani city Quetta.
Due to the fact that the gang went under the patronage of the Ministry of the State Security (MGB) of Afghanistan, in just a few months Ismat was promoted to the general of Afghan army.
"Ismats", members of the gang, all dressed in black, wrapped in machine-gun tapes; with grenade launchers in their hands drove their valiant "Semurg" and "Toyota" pick-up trucks through the roads of Kandahar province, seeding horror among fellow tribesmen.
Their clashes with government forces took place almost daily, but nobody had guts to subside the "contractual gang". Because everyone knew, nothing good would come out of it.
On one occasion, the contingent of the eastern checkpoint leading into the city, merely 500 feet from our Compound, stopped the car with "ismats" inside and tried to perform a routine ID check. It fired up an argument, one thing lead to another and argument slowly turned into an open confrontation. Shots were fired. During a short gunfight one solder and two "ismats" were killed, several were wounded. Leader of the "ismats" called in reinforcements and in less then five minutes the checkpoint was surrounded by up to a hundred gang members. They offered soldiers a complete surrender or be killed on the spot. Soldiers also tried to call for reinforcements, but nobody would come to help, so they had to submit. "Ismats" immediately seized all soldiers, loaded them like sacks in trunks and took off to their headquarters, which incidentally was just about 300 feet away from the head office of the Second Army Corps of Afghanistan.
After that the ordeal continued under the direct control of the general Ismat himself. He personally interrogated captives and sentenced them to death. The only captured officer happened to be a local kandaharian, so Ismat ordered to bring his entire family to the "trial". Almost ten people were brought back, among them - wife of an officer with four kids, his parents and few close relatives. They all had to kneel and witness the execution. Ismat personally cut throat of the misfortunate officer. And after that, as if it was not enough, he threw the knife on the ground and waved his hand toward the relatives. In a few seconds one of the "ismats" picked up the knife and finished entire family, without any remorse. Even one-year-old kid was slaughtered.
The blood feud in Afghanistan requires an entire family of the offender to be killed...
The costs of civil war or spy games
Unlike other war-split Afghan families, Gilani and Abdullah continued to maintain their family relationships, without any hatred toward each other. KHAD(or KhAD is an abbreviation for Khedamat-e Etelea'at-e Dawlati - secret police) and their advisors kept informing me about blood relations between Gilani and Abdullah and kept forcing me to switch the driver to a "more reliable" one. And every time I was pushing back, asking not to intervene into the special department's affairs.
I was waiting for the right moment to meet Abdullah from the very first days in Kandahar. It was not some silly curiosity on my part, to meet a field commander who fought government forces and soviet 40th Army troops. In order to understand the mind of the man who once was at the very beginning of the April's (aka - Saur) revolution and then turned back and became one of its most fanatical opponents, I was ready for anything, even a private un-official contact with Abdullah.
These sorts of contacts certainly were not approved and pretty much prohibited by our leaders of MVD (soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs, e.g. police) establishment in Kabul; primarily due to the inability to provide personal protection for soviet advisors. No wonder, how would anyone guarantee a security for such utterly tЙte-Ю-tЙte meetings that customary took place on the territory uncontrolled by neither Afghan nor Soviet forces...
At the same time, security services advisors when coaching their Afghan colleagues in methods of work with secret agents, very often had to actually do the work themselves. Our methods of exertion and of our Afghan's counterparts were significantly different; I undoubtedly had more chances to positively interact with potential secret agent.
Officers of Afghan intelligence services, while recruiting agents, tried to find a passive role for them in gangs. Agents had to simply collect all sorts of information including location, count of members, tribal and political allegiance and other intel on the gang. First of all it was attributed to the fact that agents were the gang-members themselves, and were in war with the government to begin with. Now this very government recruited them. Centuries-old tribal and blood relationships topped with existing religious dogmas frequently required serious revisions to the ordinary secret-service work. For example, from the agent, that happened to be a member of the pashtu tribe - Achkizai, the operative would never receive worthy "compromising evidence" on fellow tribesmen. Regardless of any money or promises offered. However, if you ask the very same guy about representatives of the opposing tribe - Nurzai, with high confidence you could just take the pen and start writing everything he says - most likely it'll be a very long and productive conversation.
Such behavior was caused by the centuries-old enmity existed between these two pashtun tribes. Practically all gangs in addition to the political focus had tribal motivations behind their actions. For instance gang, lead by Achkizai could have members of whichever tribe, but under no circumstances from Nurzai tribe.
Afghan secret-service operatives knew very well about this ludicrousness and successfully used it in their active operations against guerrilla movement, destroying it from inside. But then again, in those types of activities, their inside people were not very proactive and rarely participated. It was mostly the result of uncertainty if moles are not double agents (and frequently they were). For the right money and with the great pleasure they would just as well sell the information on artful plans of "state authority against own people". For this "valuable", to a certain extent, information American and Pakistani reporters gladly paid decent money.
Successfully utilizing traditional middle-eastern methods of reconnaissance behind enemy lines in combination with modern techniques and technology of James Bond, advisers carried out very complex, multi-step operations, pitting gang leaders against one another and leading them up to a complete frenzy when they would forget about shuravi and start "flushing each other in the toilet" (Russian criminal slang idiom for - killing the enemy). Well, war is war and all methods are appropriate as long as they bring positive results...
Unfortunately I can't get into details of some of those methods we used back then simply because they are still very successfully employed by our secret service in defense against Chechen terrorist gangs.
It was sometime, in the middle of the hot summer of 1987. Traveling through Kandahar, Gilani all of a sudden offered me to stop by his house. Spending a few moments reflecting on all possible consequences of such visit for me personally, I nevertheless agreed. Some sixth sense affirmed me that Gilani wouldn't betray me and simply hand over sir moshaver (adviser) to mujahadins.
It so happened that I repeatedly broke security instructions existed back then, visiting homes of not only my Afghan colleagues, but also gang members and their commanders. Like back in fall of 1986, when a large-scale army operation took place in Kandahar. As a result, in one of the apartment buildings, located in southern suburb Dekhodzhi, on a female half of the apartment, in a small niche in the wall, which was covered by the mirror, one of the leaders of the Islamic Party of Afghanistan was found and detained. Later on, he was convicted to 25 years in prison, but got out in just a few months in exchanged for two soviet high-ranking officers, that were captured by mujahadins...
Visual contacts with gang members happened almost daily, as they freely roamed the city, armed to the teeth, in a broad daylight. Once in a while they would have enough nerve to approach and offer to spend a "weekend" in any of the nearest kishlaks with them. Advisers, reinforcing their words by showing hand grenades, "politely" rejected these "tempting" offers...
What I saw, when Gilani stopped the car, hardly could qualify as a house. It was practically collapsed structure encircled by a mud-built wall, which formed a small dusty courtyard with kiariz (water well) in the center. In the depth of the courtyard the small canopy with the wooden plank beds, clumsy made of boards and something reminding of a woolen blanket on top.
In the middle of the yard right near kiariz, three children played in dust. As soon as they've noticed the stranger, they all ran under the canopy and continued observation from there.
Gilani loudly called someone, and skinny woman appeared from somewhere. I couldn't make out her face because it was wrapped in a big glittering scarf. Her hands were very dark, and fingers are covered with wrinkles and cracks. Gilani exchanged a few phrases with her and she returned into the house leaving the door open. The way Gilani talked to her, I understood she was his wife.
In a minute I've noticed a dark silhouette of a man in the doorway. Just like Gilani, the man was dressed in Afghan national clothes. The individual's face was covered with plenty of "vegetation". His black, like resin, hair were shoulders long. Lively brown eyes gleamed from under dark unibrows. In his right hand man held a thorny wood stick on which he leaned heavily. He had visible difficulty standing on one leg and bending knee of the other, wrapped in a dirty cloth.
Gilani ran up to the stranger and embraced him as if someone he hasn't seen in years. To tell the truth, Afghans always greet each other in such dramatic manner and it's usually equivalent to the simple Russian "Hi".
"Sir moshaver, please meet my brother, Abdullah!" - said Gilani. "He can't fight because of the wound, so he's living with me for a while".
Abdullah smiled wide, showing his bright white teeth and stretched forward his left open hand. I've made a few steps forward, thinking it'll take him a while to limp over toward me on one leg. We've executed a full ceremony of Afghan greeting with touching of cheeks and constant repeating of "Cheturasti!Khoobasti!", which literally means "How are you?" and "I'm doing good!".
Closely looking into my eyes, Abdulla asked something and Gilani started quickly walking around me and furiously gesticulating, began chattering some guttural phrases into brother's face. From everything he said I roughly understood that he was giving a lowdown on "sir moshaver". Abdulla has made an apologetic gesture and moved under the canopy where he sat down on the bed extending his wounded leg. Gilani and I sat next to him. For a while there, nobody said a word until Gilani yelled a few words toward the house, then turned to me and said - "Now we'll drink some tea..."
Abdullah and his brother started talking about something, only this time they were talking in Pashtu, so I had no clue what they were talking about. "Pashtu no famedi" -I've said jokingly - "I don't understand Pashtu". Abdullah showed his wide smile and white teeth again and asked me in flawless Russian - "How about Russian?.."
Hearing that from Abdullah, I almost fell in shock! I knew that many Afghans speak modest Russian, but still was not prepared for something like this. Both Abdullah and Gilani burst out laughing. Probably, the look on shuravi's face was so stupid that it couldn't cause anything but laughter. Watching them laugh I've started laughing too.
While the three of us had fun, Gilani's wife came back. In one hand she bore the teapot, and in the other a pile of cups. She put the teapot and cups down and once again disappeared into the house, but in an instant returned. This time she brought a pair of flat breads atop of which she beautifully laid out some greens and a few little fried marinkas (small fish found in rivers of Afghanistan). Separately, in a plastic cup, she put cleared fig kernels. Once she put everything down, she left.
Kids that were hiding under the canopy all this time started to pick out more often. The youngest three-year-old girl nestled near Gilani and without blinking stared at real-live shuravi. As soon as I've lowered my eyes on her, she hid behind father's back. The boy was a bit older. Dirty from the dust and sweat he was practically bare-naked. Torn shorts hardly covered his thin body. He looked almost like a victim of a fascist concentration camp. His huge dark eyes were the only unique feature on his bald head. Meanwhile, he shoved a dirty finger in his nose, and stuck out forward his rachitic looking stomach, with all his posture letting everyone know that it's all parvanis (don't care, doesn't matter) to him. I gestured him, inviting to come closer, instead he darted off into the house. The oldest girl, about eight years of age, sat quietly, hiding behind the bed. I could only see the top of her head with dusty, un-combed hair.
Since my first days in Afghanistan, I have taken a habit of carrying a few things in the pocket of my service jacket, among them a syringe-tube with Promedol (strong anesthetic drug used by soviet military to subdue pain of heavily wounded) and a few little caramel candies. Tea drinking in Afghanistan was a frequent affair and my "candy ration" was always welcomed. Quickly searching in my pocket I took out all candies I had. There were exactly three left. Even in Afghanistan, kids are kids. The youngest girl immediately grabbed all candies and ran away into the house. The older sister rushed off after her. I've heard some fuss in the house, children's screams and shouts. I've thought to myself - "Must be fighting?" Sure enough! We've heard someone crying and youngest came out covering her face with hands. In the next instant, Gilani's wife dragged daughter back in the twilight of the hut. Gilani quietly observed all this with a smile.
In a few minutes all three children, indifferently, marched out of the house. This time the younger girl approached, stretched her hand toward me and quickly begun chattering something. I didn't have any more bakshish (presents) left and I've expressively slapped my hand on the pocket.
"Nist", - I've said - "Nothing left". After these words the girl nestled near the father, and other children quickly losing interest in me, returned to their play.
Gilani poured tea into cups and gestured inviting Abdulla and me to the improvised dining table. Green tea was very appropriate on this hot day and I was savoring this fine beverage, drinking very slowly.
Meantime, Abdulla continued his serious conversation. In general, Afghans getting together for the cup of tea are very fond of gossiping about "high matters" and, especially, about the politics. In this regard, Abdullah was not very original and talked about developing political situation in the country and what will happen with Afghanistan in the vast future when intrusion of shuravi will end.
"In my group", he said, "People talk about all kinds of things". "Some insist on continuation of the war until complete annihilation of shuravi and their scroungers among local militia (reference to the "contractual gangs", Afghan mujahadins that supported administration) and government officials. Others are ready to go home, but afraid they will get killed one by one as soon as they will put down the weapon. My nafars (associates) are often arguing with each other, and some times these disputes end up in a fistfight. Nowadays it's becoming increasingly difficult to constrain and calm them down..."
After another sip of tea, I've answered Abdulla with a question, "And what do you think about all you've just talked about?" But Abdulla pretended he didn't hear me and thoughtfully looked somewhere aside.
"Did you know, moshaver, that I was in fact a member of PDPA (The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan) once? It was so long ago, that I think I'm starting to forget about everything that ever connected me to this party or Saur revolution. Some times I even think it never happened. Before the revolution I was in the king Zakhir-Shakh's guard and after that served Daud. I made sergeant. I was young and zealous. I didn't like a lot of things in that life and like many of my colleagues I was in favor of the new progressive development of my country. That's the reason, why I became a PDPA member. But even back then, I couldn't grasp, why is that officers that joined PDPA, created their own wing. Called themselves Parcham (flag, banner) and ordinary solders like us couldn't be together with them. We were like the second grade, but there were more of us then them. Maybe that's why we created our own faction called Khalq (people,masses)..."
Abdullah made another sip, putting his thought together.
"After revolution, all key positions of power in Kabul were taken by parcham, even thought leader of PDPA was a khalq - Taraki. Even back then, they did everything they could to get rid of khalq members, sending them away from Kabul any way possible. That's what happened to me. I had to get back to my native Kandahar, to lead a PDPA cell in Arghandabad suburb. One year later, Taraki was killed and his place took his former vice - Amin. Even though this guy was a khalq, I didn't like his methods of leadership any better. Reforms he tried to implement looked like genocide against his own people. Once, I had imprudence publicly doubt the expediency of "a general line" of the comrade Amin and was instantly fired from my post. I was not excluded from the party, but from then on everyone looked at me with undisguised suspicion..."
"Amin has brought a lot of anguish to our people. But Allah Akbar (here -Thank God!) not for long and before we knew it, Afghanistan was undertaken by parcham - Babrak Karmal. Who again arranged a blood bath for all khalq. The KHAD stuff, which consisted of exclusively parcham members, was especially heinous. In a single night, only in Kandahar province, over a thousand khalq were arrested and put in jail. Just by pure luck I was able to escape the arrest. The day before, I brought my sick daughter to my parents' house in remote kishlak. KHAD operatives that came to arrest me turned my home up side down. They beat-up my wife, but she never told them where I was. Before they left irritated, they grabbed my three-month old son and thrashed him on the wall. He died instantly..."
Abdullah stopped. There were no tears, but his eyes filled with grief. After a short pause he continued with a firm voice. "Babrak Karmal gave the secret order to KHAD to take the most severe measures against enemies of revolution. He considered as enemies all khalq members that sat in prisons all across Afghanistan. Babrak could not forgive Amin and get over the fact how he finished many of Babrak's parcham friends. Removed them all from key posts in government and destroyed physically. He's just like Amin, decided to get rid of all possible opposition in one stroke and destroy as much khalq as possible. While the Soviet army seized Kabul, Herat and Kunduz, other provinces continued its own massacre. All khalq members, detained in Kandahar prison, were executed in three days. Some were shot right in their prison cells, others in groups of 10-15 in the prison back yard. They even returned the bodies to the relatives to bury, only after all prison expenses, incurred during short imprisonment, were paid to administration. Everything without a trial. All were liquidated according to the records of the revolutionary tribunal, and those records simply destroyed afterwards..."
"I had a former helicopter pilot in my group, who served as a pilot on the Maidan (name of theKandahar airport). He was parcham and that's probably why, KHAD trusted him. So he told me that back in those terrifying days, he was ordered to make quite a few flights over mountain ridges near Kandahar. Helicopter was loaded with prisoners, right in the prison yard. After hours of torture, many of those prisoners couldn't walk or even stand on their own, because of the broken limbs. Then helicopter flew over the ridges behind Argandab River and prisoners were simply pushed from the aircraft and smashed on the rocks beneath. Jackals from all around were feasting in that place for a long time. After that, the helicopter pilot definitely lost a few nuts from his head, but it has not prevented him to become a good mujahadin..."
Abdullah stopped and concentrated on his tea. Gilani was quiet too. And what possibly could he say, when he served the very state which his brother Abdullah fought so hard...
"Tell me Abdullah, how you ended up in the..." - I almost said "gang", but clogged. "How did you ended up in the "greenery" and became commander?"
"And what do you, moshaver, exactly mean by this "greenery"? For shuravi the entire Afghanistan is nothing but "greenery", because you can't distinguish an enemy from innocent farmers with their families, wives and kids, who has nothing to do with this war! What did they ever do to Allah and those who started this fratricidal war?"
Abdullah said it with such rage, that I started to doubt if I'm going to get out of this one.
"So you're interested in how I became a commander? Well, and what would you do in my place? I didn't want this war and especially didn't want to fight my own people. But after what happened in my home, I had to disappear. I even managed to take my wife from the city. It was painful to even look at her. She became reserved, stopped talking to anyone. She used to cry every night, trying to hide it from me. And a few months later, on the eve of the anniversary of the Saur revolution, she was killed, together with my older daughter..."
"Kandahar city officials, ordered to set land mines around the city, so that no one can pass through unnoticed. Only four entrances were left open, where they've set up checkpoints and took fee for entering. On top of that, only women with small children were permitted."
"The winter that year was very cold, we were starving and even Navruz (Muslim New Year celebration) was not much of a holiday. My wife found out that there will be free flour and rice distribution in the city for poor families and she decided to go. I bagged her not to go, because I knew she wouldn't get anything. But she was not listening, plus she thought that if she would take our daughter she can get more food for two of them. She didn't have any official IDs and would be arrested on any checkpoint, so she decided to go through Chavnai (neighborhood to the west of Kandahar). Oh, stupid woman! What was she thinking! She was an outlaw; nobody cares about those, especially state! While passing through an old garden, she ended up on a minefield. Explosion torn off her right leg knee-deep. The shrapnel killed our daughter instantly, but my wife cried for help for two hours, bleeding to death. I found that out from an old man, who lived near by. He heard everything, but couldn't help her because would end up dead right next to her if he tried."
"She died in agony. I learned the details of heir and daughter's death only a few days later. On that terrible night and morning after several more people have died on minefields near Kandahar. Their decaying, half-eaten by jackals bodies were taken to KHAD headquarters and were returned to relatives. For the corpses of men, administration charged three thousands afghani (Afghan currency). That was a lot of money back then. Corpses of women and children were free of charge..."
"I couldn't show up in the city, so I begged some women that lived near by to go and pick up my wife and daughter. On the graveyard in Nagakhan (kishlak near Kandahar), along with my family, I buried all hopes for the future. On their tomb I've sworn to myself, that I shall struggle with injustice and government which has come on my land and has brought so much tragedy to my family..."
"At first, I was pretty indifferent to the shuravi even thought regarded them as occupants. But a few months later I changed my mind. Local officials in a pursuit of absolute power over all kishlaks, tried to establish government structures everywhere. In turn, locals, fed up with empty promises boycotted their revolutionary decisions, in every possible way. The new authority could not overcome public resistance and at that stage of the conflict involved shuravi."
"Peaceful opposition could not continue for long, and it has ended with the very first killed Soviet soldier. And then, all hell broke loose! Houses that sheltered shuravi shooters were bombed. Tanks blasted apartment buildings in the center of Kandahar! Peaceful, innocent people were killed! Many of them trying to flee certain death ran to Pakistan. And blossoming, eternally green Kandahar was turned to ruins."
"I had no place to run and was not about to remain silent. So I joined Islamic Party of Afghanistan and one of its paramilitary groups. That group was based in Kogak. It was an old kishlak, with a huge mosque in the center. Later we had to change our base and move out of there, because blue dome of the mosque was a perfect target for soviet planes and Jirga didn't want the mosque to be tarnished."
"Three years ago, commander of the group Mullah Akim and two of his inzibods (bodyguards) tried to infiltrate Pandgvine district, but were ambushed and killed. Their corpses were left on the ground, were they died and brother of commander Akim - Mirza, decided to retrieve them after dark. But he underestimated shuravi and as a result died himself. Corpses where booby-trapped, and as soon as Mirza touched them, huge explosion torn him apart. What's left of him afterwards didn't even require a burial, so we decided not to push our luck retrieving him..."
"In the group I was the only one who finished school before revolution, plus I was in the army and had real military experience. That's probably why I was chosen as a commander after Akim's death. At that time the group only had 18 warriors, but in just two years the number increased to almost a hundred."
"It became harder and harder to remain hidden with a larger group of armed mujahadins. As a result, our failures risen. My subordinates died and living blamed me for their deaths. So the group split in half and now two groups acted as totally independent from each other. About 30 fighters, mostly from the original group, stayed with me. But even they constantly brawl, because they do not see any encouraging prospects from this war..."
"Maybe it's better to just quit this fighting and start doing what your fathers and their fathers used to do?", I asked.
"Ahh, moshaver, what do you know about our fathers and what they did?! And what do you really know about Afghanistan, our history, culture, and customs?"
Good question, I thought, but before departure from the Union, I went through the special training program in Tashkent, in the educational center of the Higher School of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and generally knew all historical marks of development of Afghanistan. To better understand Muslim customs I've independently studied their holy scriptures - the Koran. I must say, the knowledge of the Koran did help me a lot with dialogue with the locals. Afghans, especially seniors, were amused by the fact that sir moshaver from Russia knows many stories about Hodja Nasreddin (famous middle-eastern folk hero) and tells them with a great pleasure.
But I didn't answer to Abdullah. If necessary, Gilani could do that for me and explain to his brother.
"Shuravi were in Kandahar way before Saur revolution", continued Abdullah. "They just like Americans and Germans build roads, factories, airport, tunnel. King Zahir-Shakh ratified a slew of laws that guaranteed safety and security for all foreigners. Laws were so strict that all outsiders became impervious, including shuravi. Even worse kandaharian outlaws were afraid to touch them. If for example some soviet had a bit too much to drink and fell asleep right on the lawn, nobody would even come close. And if some one would, it's only to bring them home safely. By the way Kandahar even back then had plenty of criminals on its streets. In the broad day light someone could approach you and ask for paisa (money) or charz (narcotics) and if you didn't have neither, the offender could cut your ears saying -"Remember! You always must have charz and paisa on you..."
"Generally, Afghanistan has unique features of historical development. Only in Kandahar, Jelalabad, Herat and a few other valleys there are tolerable conditions for survival as there is both water, and the fertile soil which makes it possible to grow fruit and vegetables. The rest of the country is lifeless rock and sand. From ancient times Afghans and first of all pashtun tribes, lived on robberies and mugging of the rich caravans that gone from India and China to the Europe on the Great Silk Way."
While listening to the Abdullah, I was inadvertently making parallels with Kavkaz region in Russia, where locals exploited the very same trade.
"Since early childhood, first and foremost kids were taught marshal arts", continued Abdullah, "and only after that anything else. At first bow and arrows, then rifle were considered a family treasure and was passed from grandfather to grandson. Weapon was always a measure of wealth. Rich Afghans, even those that didn't fight, had to have an expensive rifle at home. Your Brezhnev (Secretary General of the Communist Party of Soviet Union, leader of USSR, who made a decision to move soviet ground troops into Afghanistan) probably forgot what happened to Alexander the Great, and then English generals that also tried to conquer Afghanistan..."
Even though I had no doubts in sincerity of his words, I had little remorse or guilt. Nevertheless I had the direct impact on what was happening in his country. This conversation with Abdullah was used later on for the analysis and review of other sources of information. End result of it was a plain air strike or artillery assault of mujahadins' positions. Who knows, maybe as a result of those offensives, Abdullah's people were hurt. But as any war, this was no different; the opponent remains the opponent until he wages war against you and your friends. Pity at war is inappropriate, especially to the opponent who is ruthless and artful in killing...
Meanwhile, our tea party took a bit longer then I anticipated it was time to get back to the Compound. The Soviet military motorcades support was already removed from all roads and returned to the place of the disposition in Puli Tarnak. From this hour, the city belonged to mujahadins. I've hinted Gilani that it is time to go. Clever Gilani in a few minutes has put the end to the conversation, apologized to the brother and said he needed to fill-up the tank with gas in Tsarandoi.
Our "goodbyes" with Abdulla turnout to be even warmer then a meeting; I left if not as relative, but as an old friend for sure. We've agreed to meet once again in the near future. Gilani has safely delivered me to the Compund, and Abdulla has remained in the house of the brother. This casual meeting with Abdulla, nevertheless, has not passed fruitless. All fibers of my soul of an operative told me that Abdulla and his people can be very useful for the accomplishment of tactical objectives which were given to me.
About a month later, something happened. Something, that has served as the catalyst of the "promotion" of our relations with Abdulla to such degree, that much later I would thank Gilani many times. And here's what happened.
There was this guy, who worked in the special department. About 30 years old, shy, hardly noticeable, by the name of Djumakhan. His job was, basically "do nothing". What can I say he was a nafar. He was though responsible for simple tasks, such as make a tea for the boss, pick up groceries from the market when it was needed, and clean up the building. The most important task assigned to him was to accompany the head of special department on his trips through the city. A few times Djumakhan even visited our Compound, while with his boss.
Once, driving through the city, I've noticed Djumakhan talking to some guys and I was 100% sure they were mujahadins. I've mentioned that incident to the head of the special department - Amannulah.
"Look, he could've been talking to whomever! In the city, every other guy has a beard, doesn't mean they all gang-members...", Amanullah clearly didn't want to listen to me and was not about to take sir moshaver seriously.
Much later I found out, from our secret-service advisors that Djumakhan's brother had a gang in suburbs of Kandahar and Amanullah knew about it all the time. But he had his own reasons to keep Djumakhan around.
Through Djumakhan, he had useful information about some other gangs in the area that were close to his brother's. By the way, the brother knew that Djumakhan is working for special department and initiated a lot of these intel-exchange sessions himself, selling away other gangs. Kandaharian mujahadins, while fighting shuravi, made their money on small arms and narcotics trafficking. And nobody likes a competition, even if it's your own mujahadin brothers in arms, just a pure commercial logic of war.
At first, I argued for hours with Amanullah, accusing him of political shortsightedness and spinelessness toward Djumakhan. But then, once and for all, I realized that everything not as it seems in this country, especially after my meeting with Abdullah. And that's when the tragedy hit.
Approximately at two o'clock in the morning, mujahadins got close to a mud-built wall that fenced the court yard of the special department, fired two shots from a grenade launcher and punctured a huge hole. About 30, armed to the teeth, mujahadins rushed through the gap into the special department's yard and started a bloody massacre.
That night, five officers and equal number of solders were present on the territory of the special department. Some were on duty and some just stayed overnight after working late, didn't want to take the risk of going home after dark. The day before, Gilani, spend all day in the Tsarandoi's garage, fixing his "Toyota". By the time he finished it was well after dark, but going home through the special department, he met an officer on duty - Sardar. The officer talked him into staying overnight and offered a hot plov (traditional oriental dish from cooked rice, meat and spices).
Mujahadins were betting on the suddenness of attack and undoubtedly succeeded, because in just a few minutes of the battle they killed two officers and three privates. Right out of beds, people that were resting after the work day, jumped into the hall, not quite realizing what was happening and were killed in the cross fire. The rest of the personnel took cover in offices and took defensive positions.
Gilani was one of them. He didn't have a weapon, but has could shoot from Kalashnikov like any soldier. He picked up a gun from a killed officer and started shooting back at attackers.
Forces were not equal. On top of that, defenders ran out of ammunition in just a few minutes. But shots were heard in the provincial Tsarandoi's headquarters, located just about 300 feet away from special department, and group of the operative battalion on duty rushed to help. However mujahadins expected that and setup an ambush outside of the special department's complex, which stopped helpers on their tracks...
Overall, the fight continued for about half an hour. In that time mujahadins broke off defense and arranged the uttermost carnage. Inflamed by the fight and drugged by charz, mujahadins wanted the big blood. They dragged out bodies of wounded and killed men in a courtyard, and there continued to torment them. The slashed throats are not the most terrible thing that stood before my eyes the next day.
Retreating mujahadins set the entire complex on fire and tried to open a safe-box with top-secret documentation and agent files. But they couldn't open it, so they just shot the safe with RPG. All documentation turned into dust instantly.
Gilani shot back until he ran out of bullets. He stayed in the blocked office with a small, fenced window leading to the street, without any chances to get out alive. He threw the gun at the killed officer and tried to come up with some plan to survive.
Bright flash, ring of the broken glass and the heavy weight that pushed hard on the body all happened in an instant! Gilani lost conciseness for a few moments. When he woke up again, he realized that got buried alive under the rubbles of the fallen wall that was collapsed by the mujahadins' grenade. Would this wall be made of bricks, Gilani would be dead by now, but it was mud-built wall and it fell on the desk and a few chairs that were in the room. Gilani was under the desk at the moment when the wall collapsed, and it saved him from being smashed. But pinned down to the grown, he couldn't even move. He barely could breathe, because each inhale ended up in more and more pressure on his ribs. Gilani tried to breathe with his stomach and that helped a bit. But in a few moments sharp pain went through his body and he almost yelled. The wall that was lying on top of him started moving and he couldn't inhale any more. In the cracks through the rubble he saw a silhouette of a man with a rifle. Unknown walked into the room and stopped near the officer's dead body. Then he shot once, making sure the officer is dead and picked up a gun that Gilani threw on the ground a few minutes ago.
"There's one more in here", the armed man yelled back to his friends on the street.
"There should be exactly ten of them", answered voice from outside.
Gilani couldn't quite make out this voice, but he thought it was familiar. He tried to remember, but pain wouldn't let him concentrate.
Somebody from outside started counting aloud and when counted to nine he yelled back to the mujahadin in the Gilani's room, "Yours number ten, we finished them all! Drag his corpses here!.."
The mujahadin, who was standing on the broken wall, went back down in the room grabbed the killed officer by the leg and dragged him in the courtyard. Gilani couldn't see what happened next, but from what he heard, they did what they enjoyed the most, using their sick imagination and sharp knives. Others were looking for any trophies.
Another gang-member walked into the room over the wall on top of Gilani and started looking at every corner.
"There's nothing in there! It's an interrogation room", familiar voice sounded once again from the outside. And then Gilani realized! He almost forgot about the pain. Djumakhan! How could he not remember! Of course it was Djumakhan!
Gilani was not an atheist, but didn't consider himself extremely religious either because was not too serious about Muslim religious tradition. But that moment, he remembered Allah and vigorously prayed for his life. He wanted to survive so he can bring the traitor to justice!
In about fifteen minutes, gang retreated. From pieces of their conversations, Gilani realized that they had wounded and killed as well and now they had to carry them back. But mujahadins disappeared just as quickly as they came, through the breached back wall. Gilani was left lying quietly under the collapsed wall, without any signs of life. He knew that gangs very often would leave an ambush behind to let the main group get out of the area, so his appearance might have cost him life. And he waited.
...The eternity passed before he heard someone's voices. Those were soldiers from the Tsarandoi's special battalion. After a few unsuccessful attempts to free himself from under the wall, he started screaming for help. Soldiers heard him, but couldn't pinpoint the location walked up and down the wall above Gilani. In frustration and pain inflicted by his own comrades, he started swearing. Only after that, soldiers begun removing rubbles and found him. From the senior officer of division Gilani has learned that Tsarandoi and the army are already at full alert and extra help was send to the aid of posts of the First Belt of Defense of city with orders to block all exits.
But no mujahadins were found that night. Like invisible men they disappeared in the narrow labyrinth of Kandahar streets.
Gilani didn't fully realize yet, how lucky he was this night, how he escaped a definite death. He was looking at the still smoking pile of something in the middle of the yard starting to realize those were body parts of his fellow special department employees that were alive merely an hour ago. Gilani tried to take a deep breath and realized that the pain in his rib cage has not passed. Blood was dripping from the bruise on the head, and right hand in the elbow started to swell and turned blue.
Meanwhile, court yard flooded with all kinds of important people - Tsarandoi officers, detectives, operative group on duty, crime scene investigator. The investigator was walking around and taking a lot of pictures of everything. Some officer tried to interrogate Gilani and asked questions about what happened, but Gilani said he needed medical help and refused to answer. Working in the special department, Gilani like no one else knew that mujahadin spies were everywhere even among high-ranking officers of Tsarandoi. The unnecessary statement made to the wrong person could cost a life.
Nurse checked Gilani and confirmed that he had several broken ribs and a contusion. With that kind of diagnosis, a month of "vacation" in the hospital bed was guaranteed and Gilani was loaded into the Tsarandoi's ambulance and sent to a hospital.
In the morning the entire leadership of provincial Tsarandoi, KHAD and provincial committee of PDPA all were in the special department's court yard.
The commander of Tsarandoi - Mir Akai, ordered the special department's chief Amanullah, go to the hospital and talk to Gilani, making sure he has all the details of the last night's tragedy. Remaining bodies of killed soldiers were placed in one row for the KHAD's forensic examination. The picture was horrifying and Mir Akai ordered to cover bodies with something.
After a while regular employees and soldiers began to gather in special department. Djumakhan showed up just like everybody else, pretending he didn't know anything. He walked to the group of associates, standing near dead bodies.
"When did it happen?" - He asked captain Akhmadi.
"At two in the morning..."
"I could have been killed too if I've stayed late. Allah was kind to me! Allah Akbar!.." - Djumakhan dramatically raised his hands and said a prayer, but realizing that nobody is interested in talking to him, stepped aside.
"But where is Amanullah?", he asked Akhmadi again, "This horrible thing happened and the boss is not here on duty. Maby something happened to him too?"
"No, nothing happened to him. Went to the hospital to visit Gilani" was the answer.
"What happened to Gilani? He got sick or something?!"
"No, not just sick, he must praise Allah for letting him live after what happened to him here last night", and Akhmadi told the story of Gilani as far as he knew about it. As he was telling the story, Djumakhan's face became darker and darker. He realized that Gilani a single survivor of this attack and could have noticed Djumakhan among mujahadins. Gilani became his death warrant! Djumakhan must run, now!
Djumakhan waited until nobody is looking and slid through the hall in the wall to the street and quickly disappeared. In half an hour Amanullah returned and asked everyone if they saw Djumakhan today. As soon as people found out about the traitor, they rushed to find him. But it was too late! Amanullah, took a few armed men and visited Djumakhan's home, but didn't fine anyone there. He left an ambush, just in case, explaining soldiers what to do if Djumakhan returns and got back to special department. But since then, no one saw Djumakhan in the city.
After a week, one of the informers passed the information, that Djumakhan was seen among mujahadins of his brother's gang, which was located in and around kishlak Regi. Amanullah and his subordinates asked all secret agents to search for any information regarding Djumakhan. But gang moved around a lot and pinpointing the exact location was not a simple task.
The unexpected visitor
The help came from the least expected person. One afternoon, at about a time of regular "scheduled" mujahadin shelling of our Compound, the soldier on duty from our checkpoint rushed into our quarters.
"There is some limp legged babai (generally any Afghan guy, dude, in Russia any oriental or aisian) on the bicycle is asking for you"
"What does he want?"
But soldier couldn't explain anything, not used to get involved into other's business.
These babais were coming and going to our checkpoint all the time. The elderly would come to ask for "the most important boss", who can allow them to clean-up ariks (irrigation canals) near Compound and guarantee that artillery or tanks wouldn't shoot. Or some mystery men on scooters, without ever showing their faces, asking for officers of GRU - that meant GRU's agents stopped by. Or some "businessman" on a pick-up truck - burbukhaika (a nick name for any car, pick-up, SUV or a van) starts selling his goods. But mostly they were selling dope to our privates who couldn't resist...
Even though soldiers and officers were prohibited from contacts with local Afghans, nobody followed those instructions. I had many locals as visitors and no one ever asked for any IDs. If one decided to bring a stranger on our territory, he had to take a full responsibility for that stranger. Once in a while, our Afghan colleagues would even visit us for "a shot of tea" (Russian slang idiom for a get together for a drink of something stronger then tea, usually vodka, a variation on a common phrase - "a cup of tea"). After that quite often they would simply unable to return home and would stay overnight with hospitable shuravi...
When I got to the checkpoint I saw smiling Abdullah, sitting on the curb of the road. As soon as he noticed me he got up and came forward with his usual "embracing hellos".
"Sir moshaver, we need to talk", he said mysteriously, "I know everything about Djumakhan"
This was enough to intrigue me and I allowed Abdullah to pass through the gate, and brought him to my quarters. Bicycle had to be left on check point. That was the rule, no extraneous transportation allowed on our territory. The only exception was the donkey used by elderly Afghan who took out garbage from the Compound.
By the rules of hospitality, I offered Abdullah to eat. He refused at first, but when found out that we had plov with lamb, couldn't resist. While he was munching, I've made the tea.
I was extremely interested in what told me Abdullah, because the he talked about the traitor. Since Abdullah was not as versed in Russian topology terms, I had to call for my translator Oleg.
Abdulla mentioned that he found out about the attack on special department the next day it happened, when he visited authoritative field commander Khadzi Latiff. Another commander - Turan Abdulkhai, was on the same meeting and told everybody how his people conducted bold operation in maksuz (special department of Tsarandoi) last night and killed all people there.
Khadzi Latiff managed money that came from Pakistan, from party bosses and influential Kandahar landowners who lost their estates to government expropriation. Practically all commanders, which acted in ulusvali Daman, feed off Khadzi Latiff's hands. And he was not giving away money for nothing, because he had to answer to his bosses.
So, Turan Abdulkhai, also former officer of the Afghan army, told Abdullah that the success of the operation was brought by a single fortunate circumstance.
One of the ordinary associates of the special department, by the name of Djumakhan, was already deeply connected to mujahadins. His brother was a commander of a small group, which was not really fighting suravi, but controlled some drug trafficking operations. Nafars of that group very often entered someone else's territory and got their ass kicked for that.
Djumakhan along with his brother, also liked to steal from fellow "mujahadin brothers", but it was usually let go, because Djumakhan had the most up to date information about latest Tsarandoi operations. Once, completely wasted after smoking charz, Djumakhan was walking through the streets of kishlak, where his brother used to live. He walked into someone's house and raped a ten years old boy that was home alone at the time. Kid's parents found out and complained personally to Turan Abdulkhai, who caught the perpetrator. Child molester had to be tried by the Islam court and without a doubt would have a lethal outcome. But Turan decided to cheat. He promised to close his eyes on the crime if offender would help organize an ambush on special department. Djumakhan agreed to a deal...
On the day of an ambush, Djumakhan left work early. After dark, he led mujahadins through the narrow streets of Kandahar's Second district to the wall of the complex. What happened next is well known.
"Do you realize that your brother almost got killed that night?", I asked Abdullah. He nodded.
"Well, then why did you come to me?"
"Sir moshaver, I have a way to vindicate my brother. I know where Djumakhan is hiding right now. But he will be hard to capture, because his brother's goons are guarding him. So, I have a proposition. Today, toward the evening, mujahadins will be shooting at the Army Brigade with RPGs. The shells will be flying over your positions, but your artillery without a doubt will open fire. So ask them to also hit the eastern side of the kishlak Loi Karezak. Meantime I will kidnap Djumakhan and tomorrow he'll be yours."
"And how are you planning to do it under the artillery fire?" I asked.
"Oh, that's my problem. I know all underground routes through kiariz network in that area, so we'll be able to do everything without a hitch."
"Allrighty then! I'll do what you've asked" I said and shook his hand, "How much time left until the shelling starts?"
Abdullah briskly looked at his "Seiko" and showed three fingers.
"Three hours?" - I wanted to make sure.
Abdullah nodded his head confirming.
"Would you be able to get to your people in time?"
"My people already are near kishlak. And on the bicycle I'll get there in less then an hour. Most important thing, make as much noise as possible, then we'll be able to snatch Djumahan"
"And how are you planning to explain this whole thing to your nafars?"
"I already told them that Djumahan is a spy and I must finish him. That should be enough. It's not in our custom to question field commander about an objective. It's their job, if they're told, they must do it"
"All right, let me show you out", I got up, showing him that the conversation is over.
We got outside and went toward the checkpoint. Abdullah was slightly limping.
"How's your leg, didn't heal yet?"
"It almost doesn't heart anymore" he answered and tried to walk straight. But after a few strides, returned to limping. Near the check point I stopped Abdullah's and said:
"I'll do what you've asked. But keep in mind - missile doesn't care whose friend, whose foe. Be careful, watch yourself..."
Abdullah didn't find his bicycle near checkpoint where he left it. He was standing confused looking around. I looked at the private on duty and he correctly read my look, pointed his finger somewhere to the side. Commander of the artillery battery, young lieutenant Sergey, wearing only his underpants was riding the bicycle all around the complex. I've threatened him with a fist and in a minute he returned the machine to the owner.
"Man, I didn't ride the bike for ages!" said Sergey getting off the bicycle. His face was glowing with happiness.
In a few moments, after Abdullah left the checkpoint, I told Sergey - "We need to talk".
In the room, or to be correct in the dugout, made of empty artillery missile boxes filled with soil, where was located the artillery strike command center, I explained Sergey the nature of the plan. He quietly wrote down target coordinates in his work notebook.
"So how many "cucumbers" would you like to send our friends?" - He asked grinning.
"As much as your kindness allows! I'll tell you what, fire from a single gun for ten-fifteen minutes. I'd say that should be plenty. But please, start shooting after they've started shelling us first. Otherwise you'll ruin the whole show!"
"Oh, such a big deal for just a couple of dozens of missiles" boyishly wrinkling his nose said Sergey.
"Do as I said, sonny!" - I answered in a joking-mentoring tone patting him on the back and getting up to leave.
"Anatoliy!" - He called me, "Don't you think we should drink a few drops to the success of this "hopeless" scheme?" and he expressively showed to the glasses.
"No-o! Your cheap "kishmishevka" (an alcoholic home brewed beverage from virtually any fruit and sugar or any other sweets) should be used exclusively as a pest repellant or chemical weapon against dookhs. I'll tell you what, after the strike, come to my quarters. I'll treat you to a real, moshaver made, moonshine - Donna!"
He, like nobody else knew that Tsaranoi's advisers had the best moonshine in the complex. Brewed on special herbs our spirit could heal any illness, even exotic afghan viruses, and to consume this "Nectar of Gods" was a pure pleasure.
...That evening, before the final namaz, dookhs did shell our complex and all subsequent events unfolded like a written script, thought out by Abdullah and me.
A few days passed. No news was heard about Abdullah. I even started to question if Abdullah and his people were able to bring our operation to the logical end. But I worried for nothing. One day I came to work and noticed unusual excitement in the special department. I've tried to ask around about what's happening. But at that moment Amanullah, came out of his office and asked me to follow him to the court yard.
"Last night, somebody left bakshish in our yard. Good bakshish! Moshaver will be pleased ..."
I didn't understand what he was referring to, but look on his face implied that there's definitely a surprise waiting. Near the door to the small shed, where we stored miscellaneous stuff confiscated from dookhs, I've noticed a jute bag. Lower part of the bag was wet, and it took me a second to realize that it was blood. Amanullah asked the soldier - sarboz, who was standing near by to open the bag. In a single dexterous movement he's untied a cord and has shaken out the contents. The stained with blood head has dropped out of a bag!
I was expecting to see whatever, but not this! Certainly a surprise. After closer look, I realized its Djumahan's head lying near my feet. "Ah, Abdullah, Abdullah" - I thought -"A dooshman-killer, was and always will be."
I've played as if it the scene didn't touch me, and said:
"Well, Dzhuma found his end..."
I didn't feel any satisfaction from the revenge for all that was done by the traitor. Everything happened so ordinary, like it was meant to be this way.
In a few more days, Gilani returned to work. After a hospital, and a short vacation at his in-laws in Loshkargakh (center of the Gilmend province), he gained some weight and his red moustaches looked even more grand.
Our reunion was very exciting. We spend a few hours chatting and him and his brother Abdullah.