NATO troops watch Olympics with weapons at hand

PTI Kabul | Updated on March 12, 2018

After 30 years of war, the London Olympics are a distant dreamworld for most Afghans — and even the 130,000 NATO-led troops from 50 countries watch the television broadcasts with weapons close at hand.

Afghanistan does have six athletes at the Games — four of them representing the fighting arts: boxing, taekwondo and judo.

One of the others, a sprinter, is a woman, but the government television station in this conservative Islamic country is not showing any women’s events, the head of its sports section Nooragha Parwani said.

In any case, the Games do not dominate the news — the war against Taliban insurgents does.

At a NATO base in Kabul, Camp Warehouse, soldiers relax in front of the television in the bar “Le Montmartre”, drink in hand and rifle at foot.

The heavily fortified capital is mostly calm, but can turn into a city under siege in an instant.

On April 15, Camp Warehouse came under fire along with several other targets as three Taliban suicide squads launched a series of coordinated attacks. Seventeen hours of fighting left 51 dead, including 36 attackers.

“We are really used to having (our rifles) with us always. It is when you return to France you might think: ’Haven’t I forgotten something?” said Sergeant Pierre, 25, as he watched the Games this week.

The Olympics can provide “an escape”, says his comrade Sergeant Sebastien. For security reasons, the French army insists that the surnames of soldiers, excluding officers, are not used.

“There’s not much to do here, apart from the Internet and phoning the family,” he says.

Published on August 02, 2012

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